In this Insights22 blog, Mark Stanley, Deputy Director and Head of Digital Probation writes about one of his recent HMPPS Insights22 experiences, a day doing Community Payback (a.k.a. Unpaid Work).
I don’t mean to imply you haven’t attended such events, but if like me you had no idea what HMPPS Insights events were and weren’t sure if you could make the time to attend, I hope to persuade you otherwise. So this is directed at people who might wonder next time what HMPPS Insights are about and whether it’s worth their time to attend one.
For me nothing beats going back to the front line, meeting people who use the services we build and who are asked to follow the policies we create. Even more, nothing beats meeting people in prison or on probation. I’m lucky to work with teams that have user researchers, so I get to see, nearly first-hand, how people respond to the digital services and technology we’re delivering. On these occasions I’m observing silently in the background, usually on a MS Teams call. Getting to physically work alongside people is exponentially better and more engaging.
Having signed up for the experience, I was sent a letter mandating my attendance, just like a person on probation would receive, and I pitched up at a large park in Highbury, London, to do Community Payback. I had to supply my shoe size (10 – average UK male) as we’d be working outdoors in steel toe-capped boots, and the supervisors are there to ensure safe working. I was also kitted out with a high vis vest- turned inside out to conceal ‘COMMUNITY PAYBACK’- the supervisor wanting to differentiate others of us from those sentenced to perform unpaid hours. I was also given a hoe.
I cleared weeds, I picked up litter, I planted plants, but while all very healthy and outdoorsy my reason for being there was to meet and speak to people. Especially to understand the needs of those my teams and I are working for. I met the person who has the interesting and complex job of identifying suitable opportunities for Community Payback. Of all the suggestions communities send in, only a few are suitable to occupy a large team of people, or have essential facilities like toilets, or areas to shelter if it pours.
I also spoke to the area delivery manager, who assesses who can do a given form of work- you can’t just assign anyone to work in a public space like the park we were in. And I met the supervisor, who must ensure people turn up on time to begin their ‘hours’, formally log these, and ensure everyone is working effectively, not endangering themselves or others.
It was great to understand the processes, and the digital (or not) tools these front line staff use. The highlight for me though was speaking with people on supervision - those carrying out the work. I was amazed at how most responded to being in the open air, tidying the park and putting in plants. It wasn’t a surprise to hear how they gained from the experience, not just the residents of a prettier park; after all it was quite something to be outside in warm weather, in as green and natural an environment as London could muster.
Here's an image of the lovely high vis get-up we had on and the cheery supervisor in front of the well-equipped tool shed.
Mike Prouten is a Senior Administration Officer in the East and West Lincolnshire Probation Service. In this blog he tells us of the fascinating day he had in the Insights22 event, ‘Join the Metropolitan Police for a Ride-Along’.
Browsing through the Insights22 website, I spotted something that looked right up my street – a ride-along with the Metropolitan Police at Croydon Police Station. I signed up for the draw but didn’t expect to hear anything further, so when an email appeared saying ‘Congratulations Insights22 Winner!’ I actually thought it was spam!
Shortly after, I received back a document from the Metropolitan Police via the Insights Team explaining what the process and rules of a ride-along were. There were some pages that I needed to complete relating to emergency contact details, which I did expect to do if I was going to get the chance to sit in a Police car.
I did become concerned when the document stated that I might need to ‘consider the adequacy of your own accident, life or health insurance cover’ – what was I letting myself in for…?
The day of the ride-along arrived and I got up early, ensuring I had plenty of time to get there for the 1pm shift (I live in Lincolnshire so Croydon isn’t exactly around the corner).
I arrived at the station in plenty of time and sat in the waiting area.
A female officer from the ‘Fugitive and Manhunt Unit’ opened the door, so I followed her and was introduced to her Sergeant. He went to make me a cup of tea (always welcome!) whilst the female officer explained what they do – searching for people wanted on bail, recalls, suspects, that type of thing. I watched as they deciphered multiple sources of information to try and track down the different fugitives that were wanted, and the morning shift arrived back from a ‘visit’.
After sitting there for a while, the Sergeant called me over and told me that they might not be going out on a visit for a good few hours, so it would just be me sitting there watching, which wouldn’t be very interesting. He had spoken with the Inspector of the Safer Transport Team (STT), who are a group of officers tasked with keeping people safe on the transport network and dealing with traffic offenders, and she said I could join them on a joint operation with the British Transport Police (BTP) at the Croydon rail stations; stopping and searching those they suspected of carrying knives or drugs.
I got fitted with a stab vest - which is surprisingly comfy but very heavy – and boarded the Police minibus with 5 officers, the Inspector and a Sergeant, and off we rode down to East Croydon.
After struggling to get out of the minibus (because of the stab vest) I stood with the team at the entrance to the station, the back entrance being blocked to funnel all the travellers into one place.
There was an arrest – to the expected cries of disapproval from some younger members of the public - until one of the officers shouted “knife!”, which changed their minds somewhat as they realised what the officers were trying to achieve.
There was also another young man who was pinned down to the floor by officers right next to me, which is a lot scarier in real life compared to when you see it on the TV! Turned out he was going equipped to steal – why else would you have a balaclava and gloves in the sunshine?
The Police presence also seemed to make some regular fare-jumpers see the error of their ways and cough up the money to pay for their travel.
Overall, the majority of the public I spoke to were very much for what the Police and BTP were doing. I had a very enjoyable time with the Met; they work under difficult pressures in a very challenging environment, yet they do so with pride, camaraderie, enthusiasm, positivity and a great sense of humour.
In this blog, Justin Tracey a Business Development Executive from Nacro retells his amazing day at Twickenham, hosted by the 3Pillars Project during Insights22.
The 3Pillars Project uses rugby, a bio-psychosocial intervention, to rehabilitate young offenders. At the event I learnt that, counterintuitively, visceral contact sports like rugby, unlike football, actually reduces aggression and anti-social behaviour, not encourages it.
Using trust-based relationships, the project nurtures the young person’s pro-social identity: they learn self-control, emotional modulation, boundary and goal setting, self-discipline, empathy and the importance of collaboration and teamwork.
The project can support the young person on their whole journey from prison into the community: after completing an 8-week rugby apprenticeship in custody, they can receive one-to-one mentoring through the gate and support into employment. This can be supplemented with sport qualifications, placements and a leadership programme.
Leon, a charismatic ex-apprentice, who now works for the St. Giles Trust as a mentor for children excluded from mainstream education, gave us an inspiring talk on the 3Pillars Project.
We all have our own personal super-heroes that we love and aspire to, luckily for many of us, they are family and friends. The 3Pillars Project through sport provides super-heroes for the many young people in the criminal justice system who sadly do not have one. Even more amazing 3Pillars Project takes young people like Leon and help them become the inspirational super-heroes and role-models of tomorrow.
Jennifer Mustoe-Castle, Chief Operating Officer at 3Pillars Project commented, ‘Not often do we have the opportunity to welcome staff from across the MOJ to discuss sport and rehabilitation so it was such a joy to hear the passion from everyone in attendance. After brilliant feedback, we are already planning a return to Twickenham for 2023 for the next Insights event!’
For further information on this fantastic organisation please visit
In this guest blog Gill Hunter from the Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research (ICJPR) & Suzanne Smith from the Centre for Justice Innovation highlight how best to support both people in the Criminal Justice System who speak English as a second or additional language and the practitioners on the frontline assisting them.
Language barriers can have a substantial impact on individuals’ interactions with the criminal justice system. However, there is limited research on this issue and a lack of practical guidance to support practitioners working with individuals who speak English as a second or additional language (ESL). A new wide-ranging research and practice series, Language barriers in the criminal justice system, from the Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research, Birkbeck, Victim Support, and the Centre for Justice Innovation, funded by The Bell Foundation, has explored this topic to gain a greater understanding of the impact of speaking ESL on individuals’ experiences of the justice system, whether as victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, or people in prison/under supervusion. This work also highlights the challenges posed for criminal justice practitioners when working with individuals who speak ESL. Here, we summarise some key research findings, and provide an overview of the good practice guidance for practitioners working through interpreters.
This was a small-scale, exploratory project. We reviewed legal rights and entitlements to language support (mainly access to professional interpretation and translation). We interviewed 63 practitioners working in statutory and voluntary sector criminal justice agencies, largely in two geographic areas in England, and we interviewed and received written feedback from 26 individuals about the lived experience of ESL speakers in the criminal justice system.
In brief, the findings were:
In response to research findings, a guidance tool was developed to support practitioners to communicate more effectively with individuals who speak ESL. This focuses on good practice when using an interpreter to work with individuals who speak ESL. The guidance was developed in consultation with probation practitioners and interpreters and aims to provide guidance to probation officers for working with interpreters, both in court and in community settings.
Working with individuals resettling in the community
The guidance includes pointers for practitioners to support effective communication from the initial point of contact with people resettling in the community through to supervision appointments using an interpreter. These include recommending that questions about their preferred verbal and written languages are incorporated into initial assessments to help identify language support needs at an early stage. If staff are unsure whether an interpreter is required, they should always check with the indivdual. Some may present as proficient speakers of English, but they may find it difficult to understand the complex language and legal jargon commonly used in the criminal justice system and in documents such as court orders and licence conditions.
Although it is recommended that all efforts be made to ensure that an interpreter is present for most, if not all, communications between probation and people resettling in the community with identified language support needs, this is not always possible as not all contact is pre-planned. Therefore, the guidance includes advice on effective communication when an interpreter is not present, including the importance of using plain English without colloquialisms, using translated materials and pictorial resources where possible, and checking understanding regularly. Practitioners are advised to avoid using friends or family members of a person being resettled to support with interpretation as there is no guarantee that the information will be translated correctly or treated sensitively and confidentially.
Where an interpreter is present, the document offers tips for aiding effective communication between the practitioner, the individual and the interpreter before, during and at the end of a probation appointment. Some examples of good practice outlined in the guidance include preparing the interpreter ahead of the meeting for discussions about sensitive and distressing topics, using clear and concise language and providing full explanations of any complex terminology used, and using short answers, yes/no or closed questions to regularly check understanding. Finally, the guidance outlines how gathering feedback on the session from the individual and interpreter can help to develop relationships and improve the effectiveness of future appointments. The guidance also includes a help-sheet, which can be translated and given to the person or read by the interpreter at the start of the meeting, and provides the individual with some information about how the appointment will run and what to expect of the interpreter, to help the session to run smoothly.
These are just a few examples of the advice provided in the guidance, which aims to support practitioners who want to better address the needs of people with English as a second or additional language . For more information and to view the whole series, please go to https://www.bell-foundation.org.uk/criminal-justice-programme/language-change-programme/
If you would like to discuss the research in more detail, please contact Gill at email@example.com, or if you have suggestions for how we can further improve practice for working with individuals who speak English as a second or additional language, please get in touch with Suzanne at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gill Hunter is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research, Birkbeck. ICPR undertakes academically-grounded, policy-orientated research on justice. The research is informed by concerns with justice and fairness and a commitment to bringing about improvements in justice policy and practice. Gill’s research interests focus on lay experiences and understandings of the criminal justice system and perceptions about access to justice across the court and tribunals system.
Suzanne's role as Innovative Practice Officer at the Centre for Justice Innovation involves working directly with frontline practitioners and supporting them to develop and implement new and improved ways of working, as well as identifying and sharing best practice. This includes bringing practitioners together at multi-agency workshops and providing a range of practical tools to assist with the implementation of new initiatives. Previously, Suzanne worked as a frontline practitioner having worked in both the male and female prison estates and in youth justice, working with children involved in or at risk of involvement in the criminal justice system
HMPPS Young Adult Awareness Week takes place 7th - 13th February, in this blog Clare and Jemma explain the work that has been progressed to improve how young adults transition between youth and adult custody, and between youth offending and adult probation services.
The transition from the youth to adult justice system is a challenging time for young adults. By blowing out the candles on the birthday cake at 18, individuals are suddenly perceived and treated as adults, with the child-friendly ethos and services available to them as adolescents, often abruptly coming to an end.
The unification of Probation Services created an opportunity to improve young adults’ experience of the transition between Youth Offending Services (YOS) and adult Probation Services. In response, the Probation Reform Programme has been exploring how we can better address the particular needs of those who move between the two services.
In September 2021, London Probation region won The Butler Trust’s Kathy Biggar trophy for its locally developed ‘Transition Programme’ as an example of excellent local innovation. With the support of the Probation Reform Programme, it has now been developed for national roll out, and is being treated to a design refresh to align it with other resources that support Probation Practitioners in their work.
The programme will be renamed ‘Next Steps’ and will be used by secondees in the YOS and receiving probation practitioners to ensure that young adults understand and engage with transition, alongside the support of families, carers and other key professionals. Delivered through a series of modules, it demystifies probation supervision for the young adult and ensures that timely information is exchanged between the two services so that the sentence plan is delivered uninterrupted. It encourages practitioners to move away from treating transition as a purely procedural task and provides practical exercises that support relationship-building and engagement.
The transition of a young person from the Youth Custody Service (YCS) into the adult prison estate can be a critical period in the young person’s journey through custody. It is imperative that this is carefully planned, is focused on the young person, meets their needs and takes place in a collaborative and multi-disciplinary way with the young person at the centre of it.
Through enhanced partnership work, a centrally managed model has been developed to improve the process for placing children into the adult estate with a person-centred and consistently applied approach, to ensure that the specific needs of the individuals are met.
The new process will improve the sharing of information between the youth and adult estate to ensure more streamlined and comprehensive sentence and care planning, thereby providing a more smooth transition.
It aims to improve the experience of all young people who will be in custody beyond the age of 18 and create a consistent and transparent process that will meet the specific needs required for each individual. The new process will include the views of the child and their family/support person in decisions that are made about their future and increase awareness for staff involved in all stages of transition, of the specific needs of this age group.
The transitions guidance along with the National Probation Service Management of Young Adults Policy Framework will be available from 7th February 2022.
As Head of Volunteer Engagement for Sing Inside, Kate Apley works to build relationships with volunteers in new parts of the country, while ensuring that current volunteers continue to feel included and valued. Alongside Sing Inside, Kate combines training to be a music therapist with work as a music teacher and musical workshop leader. In this article, Kate talks about how they have adapted their approach during the pandemic to keep people singing!
One of our primary aims at Sing Inside is to create meaningful, humanising connection between people. We believe that group singing has a unique power to facilitate this: it can break down social barriers, and encourage creativity, confidence and self-worth. But with the pandemic meaning our last in-person prison visit took place 17 months ago, facilitating humanising musical connection has been much more of a challenge. Sing Inside has therefore been developing sets of remote learning resources for prison communities, trying to find ways to offer musical connection without being able to sing together.
Our packs offer a number of different things. Firstly, musical education: the packs cover learning to sing several songs, some background to those songs, working through physical and vocal warm-ups, and an introduction to reading and writing music. The paper pack has the option of an accompanying CD, making the information sections more accessible and making the musical sections more engaging. In our most recent pack, we added a learning section about classical composers of colour whose work has often not been granted the recognition it deserves.
Additionally, we have brought a wellbeing focus to the packs. We know that sitting alone in a cell singing is not for everyone, so our warm-ups have focused on breathing, mindfulness and feeling connected to our bodies and voices. Taking a good breath in and making any kind of sound can be such a powerful release of energy and tension, and we can only imagine how much that is needed in prisons at the moment.
But what about connection? This has been the hardest to cultivate, and we have improved across each of the 5 packs we have sent out, trying to show people in prison that they are still part of the Sing Inside community. In our latest pack, 7 different members of the Sing Inside team recorded parts of the accompanying CD, each adding their own personal touch to their section, giving a sense of the range of people involved with the Sing Inside community.
We have also been producing a virtual volunteer choir for increasing numbers of the songs on the CD: volunteers record themselves singing along to our backing track, and we edit all of the volunteer voices together into one group of singers. The hope is that when people in prison listen to these tracks and sing along, it will create a similar atmosphere to our in-person workshops and our community of singers will remotely connect.
Before our latest set of resources, I ran a virtual Zoom workshop for volunteers where we learnt one of the songs featured in the pack together – Summertime, by George Gershwin – before asking them to record themselves for the virtual volunteer choir. I then recorded myself teaching this song for the accompanying CD in the same way as I taught at the workshop – both strange experiences not being able to hear any feedback, but hoping to give volunteers and people in prison the same experience of a workshop.
Remote learning resources will never create as much connection between people as in-person group singing, but we are doing our best to remind volunteers and people in prison alike that Sing Inside is still here, still cares and will be back as soon as possible for some live singing!
The recording below is from a workshop completed in partnership with staff and people in prison at HMP Stafford, I hope you enjoy it.
Please find this link to our website if you would like to learn more about our organisation (www.singinside.org). If you would like to engage with us please contact Maisie Hulbert at email@example.com in the first instance.
Please Note: The National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance have an evidence library with numerous evaluations of arts-based work in criminal justice setting.
Photograph courtesy of MBP Creative Media Solutions.