CEP organised a conference on the theme “Probation meets Prevention”, to coincide with the German Congress on Crime Prevention and the International Forum of the 13th German Prevention Day in Leipzig on 1-3 June 2008. Gerry McNally, Assistant Director of Operations in the Probation Service in Ireland and workshop leader of the conference, reports.

The involvement of probation services in crime prevention measures has been given special attention in the description of the aims of some national probation organisations. The CEP conference proposed to consider the engagement of Probation with Prevention through a series of presentations and group discussion sessions.

Dwarfed by the much larger International Forum, with a very small and disparate attendance and a most eclectic programme, the workshop had considerable difficulty establishing an effective forum for discussion, sharing or learning. A similar situation has occurred in other workshops; however, there were some workshops in which a lively discussion did develop, resulting in declaration. In any case, the absence of the Saxony Probation Service was particularly puzzling and disappointing.

My colleague, Suzanne Vella, CEP Board member, and I led a group discussion on effective community engagement based on the experience of the Probation Service in Ireland.

Participation in community partnerships, funding and support of community based projects working to reduce offending, and the provision of Community Service work for the benefit of neighbourhoods and communities have been identified as positive and valued Probation Service actions in engaging with communities and enhancing the work of the Service in Ireland.

The Probation Service has a tradition of working in partnership and engaging with communities. The Government prioritisation of ‘joined up government’ includes the close and co-operative working of statutory, community and voluntary bodies.

With a staff of 500 and offices in over 40 locations across Ireland, the Probation Service works in communities and seeks to involve them in the work of the Service to reduce re-offending and to enhance community safety.

Participation by The Service in local and regional community partnerships and initiatives contributes knowledge and expertise, enhances good relations, improves access to support and resources and reduces marginalisation of offenders.

Through financial and resource support for voluntary, community and neighbourhood projects and initiatives working with offenders, the Probation Service has developed valuable and important local links and resources.

In 2007 the Probation Service invested almost 40% of its budget in funding to community and voluntary projects providing education and training, employment placement, accommodation, restorative justice interventions and other services for offenders, adding value to the work of the Service and benefit to their communities.

The group discussed examples of good practice and effectiveness in working with non-government organisations, local community groups and single task community based initiatives. There was also discussion of challenges, including governance in the non-profit sector, measurement of outputs and outcomes and coping with mission drift, informality and diverging interests.

Community Service is an important and increasing resource providing unpaid work on local projects by offenders, work which would not otherwise be done, for the benefit of the community. In 2007 Community Service provided more than 180,000 hours of unpaid work to communities.

The Probation Service consults with local communities to identify projects and tasks. Community Service projects include maintenance of community centres and facilities, graffiti removal and site rehabilitation, development of facilities for communities such as school gardens, community landscaping, environmental initiatives etc.

Communities are valued and important partners in the work of the Probation Service to the benefit of each. It is a relationship built on co-operation, trust and respect.

Gerry NcNally

For the presentation on the Probation Service in Ireland (in English), you can click here.

If you wish or further information on its content please e-mail gpmcnally@probation.ie

Click here for the report of the CEP workshop “Prevention meets Probation”, held at the 13th Deutsche Praeventionstag on the 1st till the 3rd of June 2008 in Leipzig, Germany.

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