News

PERU’s review of technology in probation supervision published by HM Inspectorate of Probation.

Wednesday 13 March 2019

PERU has completed a review of technology in probation supervision that is published today by HM Inspectorate of Probation. The full report is now available and the accompanying news release by the Inspectorate is reproduced in full below.

--------------------------

More evidence needed to prove technology leads to better probation supervision

The growing use of technology to supervise individuals on probation offers no conclusive benefits, according to new research.

More than 250,000 people are under probation supervision across England and Wales. Typically, probation officers supervise individuals through regular face-to-face meetings. Some Community Rehabilitation Companies – who are responsible for supervising low and medium-risk offenders – have turned to technology instead.

Some individuals are limited to telephone contact only and call their probation officer every six weeks or so. Others use electronic kiosks to check in at an office and do not see a probation officer during their visit.

Research published by HM Inspectorate of Probation did not find evidence to suggest remote supervision leads to better outcomes.

Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said: “We have long expressed concerns about telephone-only contact. This research shows there is a lack of high-quality evidence to prove remote supervision helps to rehabilitate individuals or improve public protection.

“Despite strong evidence showing the critical role of the relationship between the individual and the probation officer, it is not protected within the current model of probation service delivery. CRCs have been able to implement operating models that allow telephone-only contact with up to 40 per cent of individuals under supervision.

“In October, HM Prison and Probation Service introduced a new contractual requirement so CRCs have to offer face-to-face meetings at least once a month. While welcome, this change does not guarantee an effective relationship or ensure that risks to the public are adequately considered. The evidence base shows that successful probation delivery is linked to the quality of the relationship, and the frequency of meeting depends on the work that needs to be done.

“We take the simple view that you need to see people in order to support them to change their lives. It is difficult for a probation officer to build a trusting and challenging relationship with an individual under supervision if they only communicate by telephone.”

The research, which was conducted by academics at Manchester Metropolitan University, looked at more than 22,000 research articles published since 2007.

Dame Glenys said: “We are not against the use of technology in probation delivery. However, it should complement face-to-face meetings, rather than be a substitute for it. For example, a probation officer might find it helpful to have a catch-up telephone call with an individual between meetings or to check how a course is going.

“Contact solely by telephone or other forms of technology does not offer anywhere near the level of supervision that we want to see.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

- HM Inspectorate of Probation is the independent inspector of youth offending and probation services in England and Wales.
- There are 258,157 people under probation supervision across England and Wales (July to September 2018).
- A Rapid Evidence Assessment on the effectiveness of remote supervision and new technologies in managing probation service users is available at www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation on 13 March 2019 00:01.
- The Rapid Evidence Assessment focused on the use of technologies in the context of a supervisory relationship, rather than for other more specific uses such as surveillance or delivering interventions. The full methodology is in Annex A of the bulletin.
- This research was prepared for HM Inspectorate of Probation by Professor Chris Fox, Jordan Harrison and Andrew Smith from the Policy, Evaluation and Research Unit at Manchester Metropolitan University (www.mmuperu.co.uk).
- This is part of a series of Research & Analysis Bulletins, which are aimed at all those with an interest in the quality of youth offending and probation services. HM Inspectorate of Probation uses findings from the bulletins and other research publications to develop our inspection programmes, guidance and position statements.
- For further information please contact Head of Communications Catherine Chan on 07889 405930 or media@hmiprobation.gov.uk

Back to news