It's always good to have your prejudices reinforced or beliefs confirmed, but it never ceases to draw a wry smile through gritted teeth when academics come up with what just seems to be the bloody obvious. Apparently, according to issue 16 of the NOMS Offender Engagement Research Bulletin, clients respond better to good probation officers than crap ones. Yes I know that might take a bit of thinking about, but in a survey of seven male probationers (no expense spared on this piece of research), all of whom had a long history of offending and a large range of offences:-
"The results suggested that certain characteristics (acceptance, respect, support, empathy and belief) were associated with supervisors 'who worked' and produced a positive climate for change. Conversely, an absence of these characteristics (rejection, a lack of respect, no support, a lack of empathy and a lack of belief) were linked to those supervisors 'who didn't work'."
It goes on:-
"In respect of challenging offender behaviour, the probationers argued that they valued an effective supervisor who was 'straight, direct and honest', a skill that was called ' pro-social push'. The probationers suggested that in order for pro-social push to be possible, a positive climate for change is essential. If the building blocks of acceptance, respect, support, empathy and belief are absent, the probationers stated, challenges by a supervisor were largely ignored and perceived as an 'abuse of power' as well as promoting a 'them and us' culture."
So there we have it in a nutshell folks. The secret after all lies in having a good probation officer. It seems from this evidence that crap officers not only don't work too well, their piss poor practice can be positively dangerous too. Look what one probationer had to say:-
"I finished my meetings with her and went straight to the pub, got drunk and went home to argue."
Another commented:- "I left the session and was so angry I went to the pub, got drunk and went out offending."
I know I shouldn't mock Sarah Lewis of Portsmouth University because she's only doing her job, but this kind of stuff really does make officers of a certain age just a tad irritable. So, on the basis of the bombshell contained here, I think I'll just sign off and reflect on my own practice.