Devolved probation powers and a ‘stronger evidence-based approach’ could improve community safety and social justice

court resized

A group of academics from Welsh universities, along with current and former probation officers, have published ideas on the future of the Probation Service in Wales. This comes after the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales published its report in recent weeks recommending the devolution of probation to Wales.

The Probation Development Group, part of the Welsh Centre for Crime and Social Justice (WCCSJ) which includes academics from the University of South Wales, Bangor University, Abertyswyth University, and Swansea University, has set out evidence and ways of working for developing a devolved probation service in Wales.

The publication includes thinking on a new independent probation service centred on the supervisory relationship between the probation officer and the probationer, better use of evidenced-based interventions, local resources, and strong partnerships.

The group also highlights the important role of the community and community sentences, to promote effective rehabilitation and victim safety.

Probation delivered effectively, the group say, can lead to less costly imprisonment, reductions in offending, and safer communities with fewer victims of crime.

Swansea University Criminology lecturer and former senior probation officer, Ella Rabaiotti, who convenes the Probation Development Group, said: “Whilst we recognise that more disruption within probation is far from ideal, we do think there needs to be to a stronger evidenced-based approach to probation work to help address the real disparities in Welsh criminal justice outcomes.

“It will be for policymakers to decide on the shape of a Welsh Probation Service in proper consultation with the appropriate stakeholders, but there is significant learning offered in our publication to potentially improve community safety and social justice for all communities in Wales.”

In putting forward their proposals to the Welsh Government, the independent expert group has drawn from decades of research and experience in probation practice and governance. Their work aims to contribute to the Welsh Government's justice policy plans, following the conclusions of the Thomas Commission which found that the current criminal justice system is not serving the people of Wales. They say this has now been further reinforced by the new report from the Independent Commission.

The Welsh group’s views follow concerns by the outgoing Chief Inspector of Probation, Justin Russell who stated that probation standards have ‘worsened’ in the last two years. And the latest findings from the Wales Governance Centre state that the Welsh imprisonment rate continues to exceed any other part of the UK.

The Probation Development Group plan to use their publications to assist conversations on devolving probation in Wales, as well as promoting further opportunities for research and understanding into effective probation services.

More information about the work of the Probation Development Group and the Welsh Centre for Crime and Social Justice can be found at https://wccsj.ac.uk/en/probation.

A full copy of the report can be viewed here