Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘privatisation of justice services’

“Women’s Jail Here Shuts Doors, Refusing to Accept Prisoners,” Montreal Gazette. July 3, 1948. Page 03.

The Fullum Street Women’s Jail closed its doors last night, and, for perhaps the first time in its history, refused to accept prisoners.

The unprecendented move by both the Catholic and Protestant authorities of the institution came about when 10 female prisoners from the cells of the Montreal Police Department were refused transfer to the jail, quashing a custom practiced for many years.

Cessation of a contract with the Provincial Government and failure of new negotiations to materialize were the reasons unofficially cited as the cause of the ‘closed door’ reception.

The jail is divided into two sections. One is operated by sisters of a Catholic order, the other by Protestant organizations. Although the jail is a provincial jail, it is apparently operated through contracts which provide for salaries, overhead and other administration items.

Asst. Dir. J. A. Belanger, of the Montreal police department, said that the move came as a surprise to the department and that they were forced to re-accommodate the 10 prisoners in police cells.

The police official said that authorities of the jail had declared that their contract with the Provincial Government had expired and that they would not accept any more prisoners.

There were rumors last night that authorities of the jail had set July 1 as an ultimatum in new negotiations with the province and that failure of the government to meet the new commitments resulted in the action taken.

The closing of the jail presents a serious problem to local police departments which are neither accommodated nor authorized by law to hold prisoners in their own cells following either a jail sentence or in between court appearances.

Last night, the Prisoner’s Department of the city police transported 12 women to the women’s jail. Only two, who had been released from the institution to police custody for court appearance, were re-admitted The other 10 were refused entrance.

An official of the jail contaced by The Gazette last night said that the institution was not overcrowded. She admitted that there was ‘some mix-up’ but would say nothing as to whether the trouble stemmed from negotiations with the government.

Among the 10 prisoners rejected by the jail, one had been sentenced in court to two months in jail, according to Dir. Belanger. This prisoner was returned, to police cells, with the others. Although lodged in cells her sentence will not be purged, however, since time in police cells is not subtracted from the sentence.

Read Full Post »

“The probation service was founded in 1907. Its history can crudely be divided into three: Christian-infused charity at the start; welfare-oriented alternatives to custody in the middle of the last century; and a hard swing to managerialism and public protection since the 1990s. Any remaining social work roots had been fully severed by 2000 when the Home Office defined it as a ‘law-enforcement agency’. Ever since it has been subject to restructure after restructure. The most recent was the most radical – 70 per cent of the service was privatised in 2014, against all advice, and the public barely noticed. The Justice Committee is now conducting an inquiry into these changes. The chief inspector of probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, published a highly critical report in December.

Against this backdrop, the graft continues. Probation staff work with people on community orders (sentences that don’t involve custody); they work with people in prison and after; they write parole reports and guide sentencing in court; they support victims; they run approved premises (hostels) for people just out of prison; and they play a central role in the multi-agency public protection arrangements that surround those who provoke the most fear. All important work, but not uncontentious. For one thing, it adopts a model of crime that places individual (as opposed to social) pathology front and centre. For another, it combines an offer of care with surveillance and correction. This leads to such confused organisational straplines as ‘Preventing Victims, Changing Lives’.

Anecdotally, a lot of probation officers say that they’re in the job because they think it matters and, that what matters most are the relationships they try to build with the people on their books. It may sound sentimental; it isn’t. Probation officers also say that the systems they’re working in compromise their ability to offer the most basic elements of these relationships: consistency and availability. Caseloads are enormous and bureaucracy is fetishised.

The 2014 changes split the service according to risk assessment. People judged to be low or medium risk are now supervised by private ‘community rehabilitation companies’. There are 21 of these, covering different areas of the country, and they are struggling to cope. Some probation officers have as many 200 cases on their books, and are reduced to talking with people over the phone or in an open office. People who are assessed to pose a high risk of serious harm to others – around 30,000 a year – are supervised by what remains of the state probation service. Beyond the alarming implications of privatising an arm of the criminal justice system, the most obvious flaw in the model is the idea that people can be put into low, medium or high-risk categories, and stay there. As Stacey said on the Today programme recently, people aren’t like that. David Ramsbotham, a former chief inspector of prisons, once suggested that the phrase ‘people are not things’ be ‘emblazoned on the hearts and desks of every minister and official with any responsibility for probation’.

Our approach to justice is caught between demands for care and a focus on endemic injustices, on one side, and, on the other, reminders of the harm caused by crime and a desire to punish and control the guilty. Probation officers know that both sides are on to something: the pain someone is capable of inflicting is bound up with their need for help. The task is to negotiate this tension, not imagine it can be removed. It makes for difficult work under any circumstances. As it is, the service has been divided, officers are going without adequate supervision, and we’ve just got our fifth justice secretary in three years.”

– Eleanor Fellowes, “On Probation.” London Review of Books blog, February 1, 2018.

Read Full Post »