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Posted on 19 September 2013 at 17:25 GMT

Stop privatisation of Probation Service

On 19 September Chris Grayling put the Probation Service up for sale in the European Journal. The trade union Napo called widespread lunchtime protests. Hopefully, industrial action will follow. We need public protection, not private profit.

The government plans to privatise 70% of the probation service's work to private companies such as G4S, Serco and Sodexo and is pushing through this ideological idiocy at breakneck speed to have us sold off by the 2015 election.

The plan is that the private sector will supervise most medium risk offenders. Supervising offenders in the community is a highly skilled job and medium risk offenders are predominantly men convicted of violence, sexual offences, burglary, robbery and domestic violence.

80% of serious offences are committed by low and medium risk offenders. These people would be supervised by the likes of G4S who have recently been accused of fraud against the taxpayer on a massive scale.

The private sector has no experience of assessing risk and no incentive to upgrade the offender's risk if money follows the offender. Justice and public protection should not be about profit.

Public safety

These plans will undermine the good work the service is doing. The government's own risk assessment (which they won't publish) shows that the changes pose a real threat to public safety.

The government says it wants to cut re-offending, but its own figures show there has been an actual decrease in re-offending rates of 5.6% over the last eight years.

Probation's strength comes from local partnerships but the government's plans to parcel up probation work into 16 big regional contracts will destroy this.

Trained and qualified staff work to protect the public, reduce re-offending and prevent further victims and we do this with high success rates.

Fighting privatisation

As a probation officer of 15 years, I am fighting these privatisation plans with Napo. While the existence of the Probation Service is threatened and staff become more and more demoralised, in my work I have never encountered suffering and want on the current scale.

Clients have had their benefits stopped, and two have ended up serving sentences for theft, though prison costs massively more than providing benefits.

Prior to the sanctions, neither had re-offended for a significant time. People who offend often come from disadvantaged backgrounds and common issues for our clients include mental illness, childhood abuse and neglect, domestic abuse, poverty and substance abuse.

Aside from being stigmatised by government ideology, the long-term consequences of these savage cuts will be personally devastating for these vulnerable citizens, as well as economically iniquitous and socially damaging.

We can be sure that the government has not considered the consequences of this privatisation upon either the public, victims of crime or the offenders, who are those affected most. The only people who will benefit are the private profiteers.

A probation officer

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