A brief history of Probation Services in the UK

Probabaion service A brief history of Probation Services in the UK

Probation officer jobs are quite competitive in the UK today. Demanding high qualifications, experience, and very specific skill sets. This has not always been the case, to see why we will look at probation services from over a hundred years ago, up to modern day and show how it has developed and grown in that time.

If we go back as far back as 1867, we find cases of people within London and the surrounding area, being concerned for those who find themselves being released from prison and their reintegration into society. Over the next few years charities are set up. These use missionaries to help those released from prison in vocational training, finding appropriate accommodation and other such areas of help.

Fast Forward to 1907, an official probation acts are passed by the government. This is the foundations of the probation period offenders go through after jail that we recognise today. This involved being released early from prison, if they agreed to be under a ‘probation order’ for one to three years.

Up until 1918, probation officers were doing their role by it being funded through philanthropy. In 1918 though, due to rising juvenile crime during the first world war, the state realised that direct governmental action on the subject was needed. This was achieved by 1927 and by 1938 probation came under the realm of the home office. This helped modernizing reforms be brought into the practice of probation.

The criminal justice acts of 1948 to many will be remembered for more punitive measures, such as the introduction of detention centres. However it also upheld the importance of probation and its values being: “advise, assist and befriend.”

Skipping to the 1970s and 80s we see the next biggest change. This involved the government partnering with NGOs to help bring about alternatives to custody, reduced sentences for certain nonviolent crimes, and overall a heavier emphasis being placed on the importance of probation and the officers involved.

Finally, in 2004, the government published ‘Reducing crimes- changing lives.’ This showed aims in which the government wanted to change the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. This put a special emphasis on correctional facilities and what can be done to help prisoners reform. Not just once their sentence was finished, but during their time in prison as well. Which is where a probation officer’s role expanded into an offender’s time before and during prison, alongside the support given after their sentence is over.

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