Jersey Probation and After Care Service team
Every probation organisation in Europe is different from the other, although most of them have a lot of similarities. But there are some that are different from all the others. I’m talking about the smallest member organisations of the CEP. In this special series of articles, you can read about what makes them special, how they function, about the positives of working in a small organisation and about the difficulties that are sometimes faced. The first organisation to kickoff the series is: the Jersey Probation and After Care Service. Chief Probation Officer Brian Heath tells us about his organisation.
On the beautiful island Jersey, 37 officers work in both criminal and family court divisions, there work seven volunteers, 400 people under statutory or voluntary supervision at any one time with about 300 of them being in the community. Every probation officer in Jersey has his own task: “For example we have one probation officer who works predominantly with clients of Portuguese heritage, a restorative justice officer and a substance misuse specialist”
Working in such a small team comes with positives and disadvantages. To Brian Heath one of the positives is that the lines of communication in the organisation are short. “As the chief I work from the operational office, so I still have occasional client contact and cover duties from time to time, which helps combat any urges towards managerialism. I know all my staff and they all know me and do not hesitate to talk to me about concerns or successes.”
It is not always easier, it also has its disadvantages. “We lack the depth of resources of a larger organisation. One person can hold a number of roles, each of which might form a team in a larger place.” The responsibility that comes with the job of probation officer is more important on a small island like Jersey, where many people know each other. “The higher profile of individual staff members can be both a good and a bad thing. It is hard to be “off duty”. Even in free time people will identify you and your behaviour with the Service. One serious failing could damage the reputation of the Service for a long period.”
Small islands like Jersey have to deal with different kind of crimes than bigger countries in Europe are facing right now. Radicalisation is one of the main issues probation services in Europe come across at the moment, but not on Jersey “Radicalisation is not an issue for us. We have had one case only to date.” Something you might not expect, is that foreign nationals are an important part of the work of a Jersey probation officer. “Most of our non-local clients are from the other British jurisdictions, but we also have clients from Portugal, Poland and other European and non-European countries. We work hard to provide the same options to both local and non-local clients.”
Inevitably on an island, that in 2014 counted only 100.080 inhabitants, friends or family of staff members can become clients of the Jersey Probation and After Care Service. “We have to ensure they receive a fair and equal service from us. We have arrangements in place so that friendships and relationships can continue without the staff member concerned being compromised.”
The final message Brian Heath has to all the larger probation organisations is: “If something is possible to achieve on a small organisation with limited resources it should also be possible to achieve it in a team or division of a much larger organisation”.