The Independent on Sunday has revealed a catalogue of evidence demonstrating the scale of the crisis in the Probation Service in the wake of recent reforms. This includes huge backlogs of emails and overstretched staff. Labour have called for an inquiry into whether these issues led to the murder of a woman just seven days after her suspected killer was put on probation for domestic violence. Former Justice Secretary Crispin Blunt said the reforms were introduced too quickly and Probation Trust Chief Executive Joanna Hughes recently resigned, citing the consequences of privatisation as the reason.
Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Salford, Ian Cummins, links these reforms to the shift over the last 30 years to an increasingly punitive criminal justice system. He goes on to explain that the privatisation of probation will lead to a relentless drive for efficiency that will give larger caseloads to fewer probation officers. These two processes combined will inevitably erode the ability of probation services to rehabilitate offenders. In his words, ‘punishment has won out over welfare.’