Probation service to be re-nationalised

Statement / comment
16 May 2019

Professor Pamela Taylor, Chair of the Forensic Psychiatry Faculty said,

"We welcome the Ministry of Justice announcement that the Probation Service will once more become a national public service. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has consistently expressed concerns about the escalating rate of suicide and self-harm in prison, and called for more use of community supervision and treatment. We shouldn't forget that similar rates of mental illness exist in probation as prison.

"It's imperative that supervision and treatment is led by skilled professionals, which isn't always the case under the privatisation schemes we've seen over the past few years. Assessment and management of the wide range of risks posed by offenders to themselves and to others requires staff who are familiar with evidence on what works. Those in contact with the criminal justice system who have a mental disorder - often, in fact, two or three disorders - pose particular difficulties, but these can almost always be solved with appropriate skills.

"Having a skilled workforce is even more important considering the government's plans to scrap short prison sentences, which RCPsych is pleased to see after years of campaigning. Probation services are going to be put through extreme pressures, with an exponentially increased workload.

"It is expensive to train probation officers and to employ enough officers to plan and oversee community supervision. The alternative, however, is a false economy when the harms of not getting it right are so costly. A strong probation system with effective mental health provision is in everyone's interest. We want to work with ministers and others to ensure that mental health provision is sufficiently prioritised in any reorganisation."

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