Probation – life after prison on the Integrated Offender Management scheme
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Taking drugs, gambling, drinking and stealing are just a few of the many temptations some offenders grapple with after leaving prison.
As part of a week-long focus on the Integrated Offender Management (IOM) scheme – a national project which involves the police and other partner agencies working with former inmates to help rehabilitate them – we are looking at the role of Probation today (17/02).
Mel Soane is the Probation Service Officer for Swindon. It’s her job to help offenders integrate back into society, and she sees the police’s role as essential in helping her do that.
Mel said: “The police carry a lot of weight in the community. They are trusted and so open doors to help me and my colleagues engage with the probationary clients.
“Many of these people – primarily men – look up to the officers; and these are men of all ages, from 18-year olds upwards – there is no upper age limit.
“From my point of view, everyone likes working with the police, and those offenders we work with are made to feel like they are part of the IOM team – a valued member. It’s not an us and them situation, we are all in it together.”
Mark Wilkinson, from Wiltshire Police, who helps run the IOM programme in the county, said: “The IOM cohort is primarily made up of offenders who are at high risk of reoffending, rather than those who are at high risk of causing serious harm. As a result, it’s essential that we work with partners like Probation to break that habitual pattern of offenders breaking the law.”
We always consider the impact on the victim
Mel cites a particular success: “One man was a habitual burglar due to a gambling addiction. He was getting some help but was also struggling.
“On one occasion he stole a watch but refused to admit it – despite there being proof. Several days later he returned the timepiece having realised the impact of all his past crimes and wanting to make amends.
“I remember saying to him that it was nice he had returned the watch - which it was but we then had more work to do, including the discussion around victim empathy and the consequences of his actions.”
Martin Parker, who leads on preventing reoffending from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Rehabilitation and punishment must go hand in hand to ensure offenders have the necessary support package in place and don’t go on to commit further offences.
“As part of the Integrated Offender Management (IOM) scheme we work alongside the police and probation services to help break the cycle of offending and where necessary fund specialist services to prevent further crime, such as support for drug and alcohol addiction.
“In addition, and in partnership with the probation service, we fund specialist behavioural change services that provide specific support to domestic abuse perpetrators, no longer is the onus on victims to keep themselves safe.
“These approaches are proven to reduce reoffending and by working together we are reducing the number of victims of crime and ultimately, making Wiltshire safer.”
Mel admits that the IOM programme has helped the Probation Service be more in touch with the other agencies on the scheme like Housing and the Department for Work and Pensions.
“It’s all about building their (clients) confidence and helping hone their skills so they can get a job and start their lives again.”