After months of speculation and rumour, the coalition finally published its punitive plans for privatising probation through outsourcing on January 9.
Essentially, up to 70 per cent of probation's core work will be put out to competitive tender.
The companies likely to bid for the work would include Serco, Sodexo and maybe even G4S.
The voluntary sector has also been asked to play a part in the sale, but because schemes are likely to be based on payment by results, the vast majority are unlikely to be able to compete because they have no spare capital to risk on these schemes.
These arrangements therefore are grossly biased towards the private sector.
The government has said that the public probation service will retain work with high-risk offenders, approximately 50,000 of them, and also retain responsibility for giving information in reports to the courts.
It is silent, however, on how this rump of probation work will be organised either nationally, regionally or locally.
It is uncertain who will be responsible for recalling individuals to prison or for breaching probation orders.
The timing of the announcement is truly amazing.
In 2011 the probation service in England and Wales was awarded the gold medal of the British Quality Foundation.
In giving the award it said: "They are on the right path to achieving and sustaining excellence and essentially to being the best providers of these essential services."
Last year the probation service met or exceeded all of its Ministry of Justice-set targets.
The figures for all probation trusts show that victim feedback in 2011-12 was positive in 98 per cent of cases, that 49 per cent of offenders were in employment at the termination of their orders, that 89 per cent had accommodation and that 82 per cent of orders or licences were successfully completed during the period.
Completion targets were also met or exceeded on the vast majority of probation programmes.
The service was set a target of 90 per cent in terms of court reports timeliness and was successful in 99 per cent of cases.
In terms of reoffending, the actual rate was better than the predicted rate nationally and in all but five probation areas three-quarters of orders or licences were successfully completed.
The true motivation behind the announcement is to drive down costs and the government's ideological commitment to the private sector and its antipathy towards the public sector.
In 2012 community service - or unpaid work as it is now known - was privatised to Serco in the London area.
So far staff cuts since the transfer are exceeding 20 per cent. That is how the government will make its savings and the companies their profit.
During the course of the last few weeks the government has claimed that reoffending rates of people on probation are far too high and cites the example of short-term prisoners who continually reoffend and find themselves back in prison.
Last year 70,000 prisoners received custodial sentences of 12 months or less and two-thirds were back in trouble and in custody within weeks of their release.
Yet ironically the probation service has no statutory responsibility for this group, nor does anybody else for that matter.
It is therefore obscene to accuse probation of not working by referring to these particular statistics.
What probation does do is supervise those sentenced to a year or more in custody and individuals given a community penalty by the courts. Currently the caseload is in excess of 230,000.
The reoffending rates are actually quite good - 50 per cent for a standard probation order falling to 35 per cent if the person completes an accredited programme.
Given that offenders are complex beings and are 10 times more likely than the general population to have been excluded from school or taken into care, have on average two or more mental illnesses and the majority are addicted to drugs or alcohol and have literacy problems, it is not surprising that reoffending rates are significant.
The government's plans outlined last week are, however, extraordinary thin on detail and the timetable for delivery is far too hurried and invites errors and mistakes.
To date there seems to be no mechanism for determining what happens if an offender moves from being low or medium to high risk.
There is no mechanism to resolve any disputes about risk assessment between the private and public sector.
The government is silent on what will happen to the public-sector pension deficit and has said nothing about what training operatives from Serco or G4S will have in offender management or offending behaviour.
If this plan goes ahead the provision of probation services will be fragmented. There will be multiple providers.
There will be problems of communication between agencies and escalation of risk will be missed by the private companies.
It is difficult to see how the private sector will be able to negotiate protocols on sensitive data with police and public protection compromises seem inevitable.
The supervision of offenders is complex work. Reducing the number of probation areas and introducing privatisation is equally complicated.
The government, however, is presenting its solutions as simplistic and is not taking into account the difficult nature of the work or the need for local structures and local liaison with local agencies.
It is masking its real agenda, which is the destruction of publicly run services and its replacement with profits for its friends in the City.
Fragmentation will create silos - silos will lead to mistakes and all in all put the public at risk.
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