Risk of serious harm to others and female offenders
Publication Date: 07 June 2007 (2007)
NIACRO's response to two policy documents from the Probation Board NI.
NIACRO'S RESPONSE TO PBNI POLICY CONSULTATIONS
1. Risk of Serious Harm to Others
2. Female Offenders
NIACRO, the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, is a voluntary organisation, working for 35 years to reduce crime and its impact on people and communities. NIACRO provides services under the headings of: promoting safer communities; working with children and young people who offend; providing services to families and children of offenders; supporting offenders and ex-prisoners in the community; working with prisoners.
NIACRO works in partnership with all the main criminal justice agencies in Northern Ireland.
We welcome the opportunity to respond to two PBNI policy consultation documents entitled Risk of Serious Harm to Others and Female Offenders.
The points raised in this document are given from an evidence based model of service delivery. As such NIACRO will focus its response on issues that are most relevant to user based services.
2.1 RISK OF SERIOUS HARM
In light of the range of confusing and inaccurate messages given by the media it is imperative that a clear and unambiguous definition is agreed and adopted in the context of risk management. NIACRO welcomes the clarity this policy brings to the definition of “serious risk” and the consequent need to target resources appropriately to ensure public protection and safety. As such NIACRO presents little objection or disagreement to the proposed policy.
However NIACRO would seek clarification with regard to some of the key principles on which this policy is based (p4) with particular reference to:
1.The practice of information sharing across a range of external agencies – NIACRO has recent experience of one individual referred into an employability programme where the referral was made by two statutory agencies (PBNI/YJA) and risk assessment differed between both. In order for organisations such as NIACRO to be effective in service delivery it is imperative that a shared protocol for information sharing and agreement on definition on “serious harm” is established.
2.The appropriateness of referring such high risk individuals to organisations such as NIACRO. Given the lack of community based provision it is our experience that the statutory criminal justice agencies are eager to ensure that organisations within the voluntary and community sector provide support services to such individuals. However this is often requested and accommodated without agreement on boundaries of the service; guidance on risk management; adequate resourcing, including shared training for staff. NIACRO would therefore welcome the principle as set out for PBNI staff (p4) to be extended to include all third parties providing support services.
2.2 FEMALE OFFENDERS
NIACRO has contributed to previous consultations regarding female prisoners and has publicly stated that there needs to be differentiation in approach from male offender population. Therefore NIACRO welcomes this stated policy on female offenders and the increased focus on diversionary interventions to address the increasing numbers of women sent to custody.
However the following are key points NIACRO believes still need to be addressed;
1.The document does not make any reference to foreign national women. We believe that this grouping needs to be recognised and incorporated within the policy document.
2.Given that a significant number of female prisoners are in custody for serious crimes including murder it is not clear how the proposed actions (5-7) could be implemented alongside less serious offenders. Does the proposed model present issues regarding the management of different levels of risk?
3.Given the size of the female offender population the proposal to develop a “one centre” facility possibly in a particular geographical location may raise equality issues in terms of access. This requires further clarification.
4.The policy does not determine how the continued needs within the home are to be addressed. NIACRO would recommend that the new proposals should not completely take the place of home based work.
5.NIACRO accepts that the programmes listed under proposed action 7 (&8) are important interventions in addressing offending behaviour. However NIACRO would also strongly advocate that the menu provided should be based on a more lateral approach to “what works” and incorporate more general approaches such as coping skills, raising levels of self confidence/self esteem as well as training/employment opportunities. Ultimately it is important that the policy should recognise the balance in importance between developing programmes addressing specific criminogenic needs and the development of the individual.
NIACRO welcomes the opportunity to respond to both PBNI consultation documents. Whilst NIACRO support the documents in the main it is hoped that the points raised will be a useful contribution to PBNI considerations and we would welcome further discussion on such matters.