15 December 20091
1075 Meeting, 20 January 2010
10 Legal questions
10.3 European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) –
d. Draft Recommendation CM/Rec (2010) …of the Committee of
Ministers to member states on the Council of Europe probation rules
Item to be prepared by the GR-J on 14 January 2010
In accordance with its ad hoc terms of reference
adopted by the European Committee for Crime Problems (CDPC), the Council for
Penological Co-operation (PC-CP)2
addressed the structure, the role and the place of probation agencies in the
European justice systems. The PC-CP was of the opinion that in order to
encompass the large variety of agencies which implement community sanctions and
measures, as defined in Recommendation n° R(92) 16 on the European Rules on
community sanctions and measures and whose tasks may also involve other
functions and responsibilities, the term “probation” should be defined as
broadly as possible. The PC-CP was also of the opinion that as long as in many
Council of Europe member states interventions with juvenile offenders are
carried out by special agencies and that in addition Recommendation Rec(2008)11
on the European Rules for juvenile offenders subject to sanctions and measures
addresses the special needs of these, the latter should be excluded from the
scope of the present Recommendation.
At the CDPC plenary meeting (12-16 October 2009), which
approved the draft recommendation and forwarded it to the Committee of Ministers
for adoption, some national delegations expressed concerns regarding the use of
"shall" in its text rather than “should”. These delegations considered that in
case “shall” is used, certain rules would be mandatory requirements which would
be unrealistic on many occasions. They were of the opinion that these rules
should encourage rather than impose standards of best practice as this would be
more reasonable and practical in view of the differing probation practices which
exist in Europe.
It should be noted in this respect that a number of other
Committee of Ministers recommendations in the field such as Recommendation No. R
(92) 16 on the European Rules on community sanctions and measures,
Recommendation Rec(2006)2 on the European Prison Rules, Recommendation
Rec(2006)13 on the use of remand in custody, the conditions in which it takes
place and the provision of safeguards against abuse and Recommendation
Rec(2008)11 on the European Rules for juvenile offenders subject to sanctions or
measures use “shall” instead of “should”. The practice of defining a set of
rules in an appendix to a recommendation, which is the case in the above
mentioned texts, does in no way modify its legal nature. It is meant to send a
strong political message to the national authorities as regards their policy and
practice in the field.
It was therefore agreed to follow this established
practice also in the case of the present Recommendation, which builds upon and
is to be read together with Recommendation No. R(92)16, in order to urge member
states to bring their national legislation and practice in line with the
European standards in the area.
Part I: Scope, application, definitions and basic
Scope and application
While probation is not easy to define simply or
precisely, it is a familiar term understood widely and internationally to refer
to arrangements for the supervision of offenders in the community and to the
organisations (probation agencies, probation services) responsible for this
work. In many countries, the statutory supervision of offenders in the community
is the main characteristic of probation. Probation also denotes
conditionality: if people offend again or fail to comply with specified
conditions, they may be taken back to court and be liable for punishment. The
definition adopted in these rules emphasises especially the statutory
basis of probation in the implementation of sanctions and measures in response
to criminal offences; supervision, which involves guidance and support as
well as control in appropriate cases; and the purpose of its work, which
is to enhance both the social inclusion of offenders and community safety.
The rules adopt the broad term probation to encompass the diverse
range of work undertaken by probation agencies across Europe, taking account of
different probation traditions, institutions and practices across the continent,
not only in those countries where probation is well-established, but also where
new services are emerging and being developed.
The term “Probation agencies” includes probation services
and criminal justice social work services, whether organised at national,
regional or local level. These rules apply to other organisations in their
performance of the tasks covered in these rules, including other state
organisations, non-governmental and commercial organisations.
Probation agencies are here defined with reference
to their responsibilities and the tasks they undertake. Across Europe, probation
agencies perform a wide and diverse range of tasks, reflecting the various
origins and developments of probation practice in different countries, as well
as legal, social and cultural differences. The definition refers explicitly to
the most common ‘core’ tasks. These and other tasks are discussed in more detail
later in the rules and commentary. While most probation agencies were originally
established to work with offenders, in many countries the responsibility to work
with victims as well has been assigned to these agencies. The general duties of
states to victims of crime are set out in Recommendation Rec(2006)8 of the
Committee of Ministers to member states on assistance to crime victims and in
many countries probation agencies make an important contribution to fulfilling
Probation agencies work as part of a system of criminal
justice. They implement the decisions of the court and other authorities and
work with other agencies to try to reduce crime. Probation agencies are
distinguished by their emphasis on assistance, guidance and persuasion in
working with offenders. Personal relationships are central to this. There is
authoritative research evidence to show that strong professional relationships
are effective in bringing about change in offenders’ attitudes and behaviour.
There is also evidence to suggest that relationships are more influential than
any single specific method or technique.
The term supervision includes control in
appropriate cases. Probation agencies do all they can to reduce reoffending and,
where interventions providing help and support are insufficient to protect the
public or are rejected by the offender, measures of control may also be
necessary and are applied. At the same time, probation agencies never just
deliver monitoring and control, even in circumstances where these may be a
necessary part of supervision. In the belief that people can change, probation
aims to achieve rehabilitation through working with offenders to help them and
to encourage them to lead law-abiding lives. This includes creating
opportunities for offenders, helping them acquire the skills they need to make
good use of these opportunities and motivating them to do so. Social inclusion
is a requirement of justice and is a key objective of probation practice.
Probation’s commitment to promoting social inclusion can contribute to reducing
Probation staff must always have regard to the human
rights of offenders. A principle of minimum intervention should apply
such that any curtailment of offenders’ rights must be no more than is required
by the seriousness of the offence and / or the risks posed. If an offender poses
significant risks which are not directly related to the seriousness of the
original offence or sentence, these should be addressed using other procedures
relevant to their situation such as mental health procedures. Their human rights
should not be jeopardised simply because of their offending behaviour. In the
attempt to reduce the risks of reoffending and in particular any risk of serious
harm, offenders’ rights may sometimes have to be constrained. In particular,
there are circumstances in which the right of freedom of movement may be
limited and the right to privacy may also have to be curtailed. This rule
accepts that offenders’ rights may be limited in this way, but insists that
respect for their rights is always a necessary consideration. Rights should be
restricted no further than is required by a legitimate penal purpose. Respect
for the rights of offenders is also a precondition for their social inclusion
and supports their rehabilitation.
In some jurisdictions, probation agencies offer services
directly to victims of crime. Elsewhere, they often work in co-operation with
other organisations or individuals who offer support to the victim. This rule
requires probation agencies to protect the human rights of actual and potential
victims and to have regard to their interests in all their work. The
responsibilities of probation agencies towards victims are set out in Part VI of
This well-established principle of non-discrimination
recognises that the services of probation are often designed and delivered to
meet the circumstances of the majority of service users. It may not be assumed,
however, that the same services are appropriate to everyone. For example,
supervision arrangements that are thought to be suitable for men may not always
be suitable for women. Unfair discrimination may also be based on other
considerations, including sex, race, colour, disability, language, religion,
sexual orientation, political or other opinion, nationality, social origin,
association with a national minority, property, birth or other status. Since
discrimination can often be indirect or even unwitting, agencies should be
active in undertaking periodic reviews of their own policies and practices to
make sure they do not have discriminatory consequences. Any new policy or
practice should routinely be subject to some such ‘equality assessment’. It is
also unacceptable and unjust to exaggerate difference and to suppose that (for
example) all minority ethnic groups have the same needs and are necessarily
different from the majority. Since everyone has her / his sex, race,
colour, language, etc., dealing with people on the basis of their membership of
a group can often lead to unfair discrimination. To ensure that everyone is
dealt with appropriately and equitably, services must take full account of
individual circumstances and needs.
This is a particular application of basic principle No. 2.
The judicial decision should determine the restriction of rights appropriate in
particular cases (the term judicial here includes the prosecuting
authority who, in some jurisdictions, determines the nature and level of
probation involvement, especially when such involvement takes the form of a
measure rather than a sanction).
Rights may be restricted as punishment for offences and /
or to protect the public. Where rights are restricted in order to protect the
public from future offending, this must be guided by a proper and rigorous
assessment of the risks that offenders pose, by making use of the best available
methods of assessment (see Rule 66 and Commentary on that Rule). In giving
effect to a judicial decision, the probation agency shall not restrict the
rights of offenders beyond the necessary consequences and implications of the
lawfully imposed sanctions or measures.
In some countries decisions may be taken by other
authorities as well, for example the prison authorities. There should be
provision to appeal to a court such administrative decisions.
Wherever the offender’s formal consent to probation
involvement is required, probation staff must ensure that offenders understand
their rights and the full implications of granting (or withholding) consent.
This must be explained clearly to offenders and care must be taken to make sure
that they understand. Even where consent is not formally required, probation
staff shall do all they can to secure the offender’s understanding of and, so
far as possible, consent to any decisions that affect them. While the duty of
probation staff to prevent offending will sometimes require them to take action
against the offenders’ wishes, this must be explained to offenders and the
attempt made to gain their acceptance of the legitimacy of the decision. As well
as being an ethical principle, this approach enhances the likelihood of
Although probation’s involvement before guilt has been
established is limited in some jurisdictions, in other jurisdictions the
judicial authorities may instruct the probation agency to become involved
before or instead of prosecution and trial. This principle states
that defendants must be presumed innocent and therefore any probation
intervention in such circumstances must depend upon their informed consent.
Giving consent in this way must not be taken to be an admission of guilt. In
this Rule, ‘intervention’ does not include providing information to
judicial authorities – for example, by the preparation of a report.
Probation agencies have many duties and, in particular,
are involved in implementing judicial decisions, in public protection and in the
supervision of offenders. Most, if not all, of their work therefore has
significant implications for human rights. The agencies’ responsibilities and
tasks must accordingly be founded on a sound legal basis to establish their
authority and their accountability.
In some jurisdictions probation tasks are delivered by
other agencies, including other public authorities, independent, charitable or
non-governmental organisations. Commercial companies also sometimes participate
in such work. This principle affirms that, independent of how services are
delivered, the government or public authority retains the responsibility for
ensuring that this is undertaken appropriately and in accordance with these
Rules. Public authorities, therefore, may commission work to other organisations
and individuals, but there must be robust and adequate systems of scrutiny and
accountability to enable the public authorities to meet their responsibility to
assure quality and standards.
This principle affirms that probation work should be
recognised as a key element in a just and humane criminal justice system. Such
work requires considerable knowledge and skills and must be accorded a status
that recognises its value and the expertise of practitioners. It is also clear
that agencies must be adequately resourced to meet their responsibilities. Just
as prisons are overcrowded in many countries, putting the rights of prisoners at
risk and limiting the possibility of constructive work, probation too can be
“overcrowded” in this way and this constrains its potential to protect the
public and to work to rehabilitate offenders successfully.
The deciding authorities should recognise and value the
knowledge and skills of probation staff which can help them take just and
effective decisions. Probation staff can offer information and opinion about the
reasons for offending, the risks of re-offending, the risk of harm, the possible
interventions that can reduce these risks and, in general, the specific
consequences of different decisions in particular cases. In particular,
probation staff can advise on an offender’s suitability for and likely
compliance with community supervision. While Rule 11 requests the deciding
authorities to respect the expertise and experience of probation agencies and to
consider attentively the advice they offer, the Rule should in no way be
interpreted as recommending interference with the independence of the judicial
authorities which alone will decide whether and to what extent to use this
In many jurisdictions probation staff can also report back
to the competent authorities on the progress of their work and may, in some
circumstances, seek further guidance or instruction from these authorities.
Rule 1 affirms social inclusion as a guiding principle of
probation practice. This Rule recognises that if the social inclusion of
offenders is to be achieved, probation must work in close co-operation with a
wide range of other agencies. Organisations may need the advice of probation to
help them make sure that their services are readily and fairly accessible to
The complex needs of many offenders also call for
co-ordinated and complementary inter-disciplinary work. The different skills and
perspectives of a range of professions are an indispensable part of working with
offenders in the community and promoting public safety.
Probation agencies should appraise their work against the
principles and standards set out in their national law. This can also be seen as
an aspect of social inclusion – a way of ensuring that offenders’ rights are
retained to the fullest extent consistent with the punishment and with community
safety. The international community, through the Council of Europe, sets
standards, grounded in human rights, which enables countries to compare their
own practices with those of other countries and to use this as a check against
disproportionate or otherwise unethical intervention. Recommendation No. R (97)
12 on staff concerned with the implementation of sanctions and measures
in its Appendix II sets out many of these ethical standards.
This can be seen as another aspect of accountability.
Probation agencies must be accountable not only to the public authorities, but
also to those who use their services. It is essential for the legitimacy of the
agency that it should be responsive in this way to people who have been affected
by its decisions and practices. Service users should be informed about how to
complain and straightforward and impartial procedures should be made available.
This is considered more fully in Part VII of these rules.
This is a corollary of Rules 8 and 9. Since probation
practice must be guided by law, there must be adequate systems of inspection and
monitoring to ensure proper accountability. In this way, the authorities and the
public can have confidence that probation work is being practised as it should
be. This Rule also refers to independent monitoring, as, in addition to the
routine inspection that managers should undertake as part of their duties,
agencies must be open to question and scrutiny through independent inquiry.
Transparent inspection by government agencies, as well as independent monitoring
by an Ombudsman or human rights defendants are among the ways in which this may
It is also important that probation agencies can, as
appropriate, give account to the competent authorities about the way in which
the agency is implementing decisions in particular cases. This may include, for
example, ‘progress reports’ on individuals under supervision.
The best probation practice should be evidence-led. In
particular, practices should be researched to determine their effectiveness in
achieving their stated objectives. Research should also investigate other
consequences of policies and practices, some of which may be unintended.
Research should be rigorous and impartial and the participation of universities
and other centres of research can ensure impartiality and give authority to such
inquiries. The findings of research should be made public as it is essential
that research findings are used to guide the development of policy and practice.
It is quite common to find that, in a number of countries,
the public has little understanding of what probation agencies do. Probation
rarely attracts public attention, for example, in the same way that prison does.
This principle urges the responsible authorities and the probation agencies
themselves to ‘champion’ probation – to work with the media to explain what
probation tries to do, what it achieves and why it is important. Authorities
should be imaginative and creative in the way in which they set about this task
in order to enhance public understanding of and confidence in probation work.
Part II: Organisation and staff
Part II recognises the importance of organisation,
staffing, management and resources in realising the principles of probation.
Without this infrastructure, probation is unlikely to achieve its purposes or
demonstrate its worth. Rule 18 affirms that a well-ordered and adequately
resourced organisation is required if the importance and value of probation are
to be recognised.
Service delivery is managed in different ways in different
countries. Whatever the arrangements and administration, policy and practice
must be founded on clear rules and guidance, which should be regularly reviewed
and updated as necessary. The status of such instructions should be made clear –
for example, there are differences among laws and orders to be followed,
guidance to be interpreted and applied and advice to be heeded. This should not
preclude but rather encourage staff to use as appropriate their professional
judgement in implementing these instructions.
While many probation agencies are part of the public
sector, this Rule recognises that there are private agencies (non-governmental,
charitable and commercial) involved in the administration and delivery of
probation tasks and services in many countries. Wherever services are
commissioned in this way, the public authorities must ensure that they are
undertaken by a proper organisation. Commissioning should inquire into the
soundness and probity of the organisation concerned and procedures must be set
in place to ensure adequate scrutiny and accountability. Standards of service
delivery must be – and must be seen to be – equally high both in the private /
independent sector and in the public sector.
This Rule urges that probation staff should have a status
and respect that reflects the value of their work, their skill and their
knowledge. Just as the work of the probation agencies in general (see comment on
Rule 10) is poorly understood, other professionals and members of the public
often have an insufficient understanding of the distinctive expertise of
probation staff. Sound management, adequate resourcing, rigorous staff selection
procedures, high standards of professional education and training and a
remuneration that reflects the skills and standing of staff are all necessary to
make sure that probation agencies and their staff command appropriate levels of
status, confidence, and respect.
It is to be noted that modern probation services often
employ a very wide range of staff – including those responsible for different
forms of service delivery, managers, support workers and administrators – and
these rules apply to them all.
Recruitment and selection shall be fair and rigorous and
in all other ways respect the principles of good employment practice. Probation
agencies should be as clear as possible about what qualities and characteristics
are required and it is these that should be tested in the selection process. As
well as intellectual abilities and appropriate educational level selection
procedures should test for personal qualities including honesty, personal
integrity, humanity, patience and tolerance. Procedures should test for
candidates’ potential to benefit from the initial training and knowledge to do
the work required of them.
Recruitment and selection should respect the best
principles of equality of opportunity. Equality of opportunity should go beyond
the setting of quotas. Wherever certain groups are found to be under-represented
in the workforce, agencies should try to find out why this is the case and take
steps to remove any disincentives to application or obstacles to appointment so
that all groups have a fair chance to gain employment. This implies some
monitoring of applications and appointments as well as a review of the reasons
in case staff leave the agency. The workforce should reflect the character of
the community that it serves, contributing to the agency’s legitimacy. Agencies
should recognise the values and strength of a diverse staff group.
Since the defining values of probation include a belief in
the possibility of personal change and the importance of social inclusion of
former offenders, having a previous conviction or criminal record should not
automatically bar applicants from appointment. Indeed ex-offenders can make a
unique contribution to probation work because of their own experiences of
offending, desistance (stopping offending and staying stopped) and the processes
of criminal justice. In taking a decision about appointment, account shall be
taken of (a) the nature and seriousness of the offence(s); (b) the length of
time since the offence(s) took place; and (c) the applicant’s attitude to their
Different staff has different roles to play in probation
and therefore different levels of education and training would be required.
Access to education and training at different stages of their career should be
made available to all staff in order to ensure the best quality of service
provided. It should be linked to their tasks and responsibilities and useful for
their professional development.
The initial training curriculum shall be based on a clear
understanding of the skills, knowledge and values required to do the work. Since
there are different roles and different areas of expertise needed within the
agency, all staff must have educational and training opportunities appropriate
to their role. Attendance at training events or ‘on the job’ training, while
often of value, are not enough: staff must be assessed to determine that they
have achieved the standards required. It is also important that staff have
access to qualifications that confirm the level of competence achieved. Since
probation staff aspire to proper professional standing, these qualifications
should be subject to processes of independent, external verification as a
guarantee of their quality and should be recognised beyond the probation sector.
Initial training should prepare staff to work reliably in
their new professional role. In-service training should also be available to all
staff. This is needed to take account of new legislation, policy, practices and
other relevant developments. At the same time, there should be training to
enable staff to move into new roles as the agency may require and to develop
their own continuous professional development.
Probation work involves making judgements and taking
decisions. While the actions of staff are circumscribed by law and by agency
policy, staff shall be trained and encouraged to exercise their professional
judgement to take valid decisions whilst recognising the need for
This Rule deals with the particular case of offenders who
tend to commit particular kinds of offences (for example, sexual offences,
violent offences) and / or whose offending behaviour is associated with
persistent difficulties (for example, drug or alcohol misuse, offenders with
mental health problems). Agencies may assign specialist roles to staff working
with such specific cases. Specialist roles of this kind require particular
skills and knowledge and agencies must ensure that staff are appropriately
The extent to which work is devolved to specialised
sections of the agency will vary from country to country. Even where specialist
units exist, all staff should know enough about the needs of particular
offenders to enable them to assess offenders, make referrals and liaise with
these specialist units effectively.
This Rule links closely with the basic principle contained
in Rule 4 and recognises that training must attend to diversity and
individualisation. Initial training should prepare all staff to work with
diverse offenders and to take account of the distinctive skills needed to work
with particular offenders or victims. For example, to work effectively with
young people may require rather different skills from those needed to work with
adults. Women may have particular needs as well. Research suggests, for example,
that women offenders, more often than men, have been victimised in the past.
They may also have a responsibility for the care of their children. Such
considerations - which may, of course, also apply to some men – are likely to
make a difference to the manner in which supervision is undertaken. Training
should raise staff awareness of such possibilities and the implications for
Similarly, victims react to the offences against them in
many different ways and, in its work with victims, probation staff must be
trained to take this fully into account and meet their responsibilities
The position of foreign nationals should especially be
mentioned since they are often denied services available to own nationals. In
some cases, for example, they are liable to deportation. Probation staff may
have to liaise with their country of origin and such work often calls for
particular, specialised knowledge and skill. This is discussed further at Rules
63-65 and the associated commentary.
In general, initial training should aim to increase the
awareness of all staff of the importance of respecting and valuing diversity and
adapting their work to meet the needs of service users.
An adequate staff complement is essential to the agency’s
effectiveness and efficiency. If staff workloads are too large, then the
probation agency will not be able to work as it should. Workloads should be
assessed in a holistic way with an assessment made of the demands of individual
cases and not simply on the number of cases or offenders under supervision. An
overall shortage of resources constrains an organisation’s potential and
excessive workloads will prevent individual members of staff from achieving
their best practice. This Rule appreciates that agencies may not have as many
resources as would be ideal. If the workload of an individual staff member
becomes excessive, then the importance of setting priorities becomes even more
pressing. The Rule states that management has a responsibility to devise
strategies to manage demand and to assign a reasonable and equitable workload to
members of staff. Where this cannot be achieved because of pressure on
resources, managers should be actively involved in advising staff about which
tasks must take priority over others.
It is essential that management staff provide leadership
and guidance. Regular meetings between individual members of staff and their
line managers should take place for supervision/ detailed case discussion. They
also allow the line manager to consider what the organisation needs to do to
support staff in what is often extremely demanding and complex work. This
includes encouragement, motivation, professional development and responsiveness
to staff concerns, including by way of team counselling and case conferences.
Staff can only perform to the expected standards when appropriately supported
and where the organisation is well-ordered and well-managed.
Just as the probation agency is accountable to public
authorities (Rules 8 and 15), individual members of staff must be in a position
to account to their managers for their practice. One important part of this is
keeping and updating records – a record of contact with the offender, of
significant communications and decisions relating to their case. This will be
retained on the case file and will be drawn upon as and when the agency reports
back on progress to the judicial authority. Case records must be accurate and
up-to-date and available for inspection by line managers. Case records will be
subject to monitoring and may be used as evidence in the investigation of
complaints. These matters are discussed more fully in Rules 88 – 92, in Part VII
and in the associated commentary.
This Rule states that, while all members of staff play a
part in inter-agency work, managers have a distinctive responsibility to
establish these working partnerships and to ensure that they are set on a sound
basis. Effective liaison with other agencies (see Rule 12) can only occur where
the management has developed clear and sound inter-agency protocols (e.g.
agreements about exchange of information, referral methods). Similarly, as Rule
17 states, agencies must seek to promote understanding and appreciation of their
work and while all staff contribute to this, managers must take a lead.
Some issues are appropriately dealt with in individual
meetings (see Rule 30 above), but consultation with the staff group is a
critical responsibility for managers. Professional associations, trade unions
and more informal arrangements may all have a contribution to make here in the
effective liaison between staff and their managers. As well as consultation
about conditions of work and employment, there must be opportunities for staff
to influence the agency’s policies in other respects as well: staff are uniquely
placed to inform policy makers about the results of putting policies into
practice and their experience is a large part of the evidence that should lead
policy and practice (Rule 16).
This Rule affirms that salary and conditions of service
should reflect the standing of the profession (Rule 21), the particular set of
tasks and responsibilities they are entrusted with and the expertise of managers
and practitioners. Apart from appropriately high recruitment and selection
standards, remuneration is also an important factor in retaining a good quality
staff. The high standards of education and training required by probation staff
will give them skills that make them suitable for employment in other
professions and probation agencies must ensure that salaries and conditions of
service , including pension schemes, are sufficient to retain the staff they
have recruited and trained.
This Rule applies to volunteers who work on behalf of
probation agencies and not to those who, independently or in other
organisations, work as volunteers with offenders. In many countries, probation
evolved from voluntary work and volunteers still make an invaluable contribution
to the work of the agency and to helping and supporting victims and offenders.
At its best, the involvement of volunteers represents the participation of civil
society in responding to crime, rather than handing over such work to
professionals. Like professionals, volunteers can help offenders change their
lives, can serve as a positive role model, and help offenders understand the
harm done by offending. They can also work as mentors and can befriend
offenders, offering a relationship that is valued all the more because it is
less formal than an offender’s relationship with a probation officer. Offenders
often especially appreciate the time and commitment of people who are giving
their support and advice without payment. Volunteers may assist probation staff
in a range of practical tasks by agreement with the agency. Volunteers can also
act as ‘champions’ of probation, helping society to better understand the aim of
Since volunteers are working on behalf of the probation
agency with offenders and / or victims to whom the agency owns a duty of care,
there must be a process to test their personal suitability to work in this
capacity. This must involve at least a personal interview with a member of staff
and a criminal record check. As with employees (see Rule 22), having a previous
criminal record should not prevent people from working in this role. The
experience of ex-offenders can enable them to make a distinctive and invaluable
contribution in their work with offenders and their appointment as volunteers
demonstrates the agency’s commitment to supporting desistance through successful
Volunteers must be adequately supported in their task.
Volunteers should not normally be asked to undertake work
which demands the skills of employed staff or solely as a means of conserving
the resources of the agency.
Volunteers, just like probation staff, have a duty to protect
the public and their relationship with offenders therefore may not be completely
confidential. (General principles of confidentiality and information exchange
are set out in Rules 41, 88 – 92 and explained in the associated commentary).
Offenders themselves, as well as staff and volunteers, must understand the
rights and responsibilities involved in the working relationships.
Accountability and relations with other agencies
Rule 35 refers to specific account to and liaison with the
judicial authorities in respect of particular cases. These authorities are
entitled to receive such information and only in this way will they be enabled
to have confidence in probation. Although this Rule refers to particular cases,
it also recognises the value of more general liaison, dialogue and discussion.
For example, probation staff are often well placed to inform the judicial or
prison authorities about the specific negative effects of custody, the way in
which community service is carried out or the value of particular programmes of
intervention. Equally, Courts and other authorities are encouraged to share
appropriate information and participate in active dialogue with probation
Probation agencies should produce regular reports
providing information on their work. These reports should be published and be
made available to judicial authorities, other authorities making decisions on
offenders and the general public. The scope of the information to be provided
should be defined by national law (see basic principle contained in Rule 8) in
accordance with regulations concerning professional confidentiality. The reports
should enable the competent authorities and the general public to make
judgements about the overall performance of the probation agencies in achieving
Offenders often have complex needs associated with their
offending. Rather than trying to create or deliver all services to meet these
needs, probation agencies should work in co-operation with other organisations
which have the relevant expertise and resources. This includes not only agencies
of criminal justice and law enforcement, but organisations of the wider civil
society. Enabling fair access to services is a key component of social
inclusion. This approach also allows probation agencies to concentrate their
resources on their principal tasks.
Where appropriate, therefore, probation agencies shall
work in co-operation with, for example, social services, victim support
agencies, health services, private companies, employers and employment services,
housing and training agencies, local communities, volunteers and religious and
Effective inter-agency work is especially important in
contributing to community safety. Some offenders pose significant risks to the
public and these risks can most effectively be managed by agencies using their
skills and knowledge in a complementary way. Examples of such co-operation
include coordinated inter-agency public protection arrangements and projects to
work with prolific and persistent offenders. Probation and police services often
take the lead in implementing these arrangements, but will need to call upon the
skills and resources of other agencies as well.
Information exchange is a central part of effective
partnership work. Within the boundaries of principles of privacy and
confidentiality, which in many countries are regulated by law, probation should
be willing to give and receive information in a spirit of partnership with other
agencies. Such information exchange is valuable both in specific cases and in
general, helping to influence policies and practice. (See also Rule 41.)
Probation agencies shall encourage and support community
agencies to undertake their inherent responsibilities regarding taking care of
offenders as members of society. This Rule should not be interpreted as imposing
an obligation on probation agencies to sponsor private associations, but rather
to help, advise and assist them in their work with offenders and, as
appropriate, with victims of crime.
These organisations have a responsibility to deliver their
services to all members of society, but they are not always sufficiently
accessible to offenders or aware of their distinctive needs. Probation agencies
can give expert advice about how these organisations can ensure that offenders
and ex-offenders receive the service to which they are entitled and encourage
them to make their services accessible and relevant. Probation agencies can act
as a ‘gateway’ to these services by referring offenders to the appropriate
In some countries, prison and probation form part of a
single organisation. Even where this is not the case, the work of probation
inevitably calls for close working relationships with the prison service.
Probation staff in some countries deals with prisoners while in prison and not
only for preparing their release. Probation is often responsible for supervision
after release and probation staff should be actively involved in preparing
prisoners for their release and in working towards their resettlement (see also
Rule 7, the European Prison Rules and Recommendation Rec(2003)22 on conditional
Partner agencies need a general framework to be set and
agreed in order to achieve an appropriately high standard of intervention with
It will usually be necessary to set out clearly in writing
the nature of the relationship between the probation agency and a partner
organisation. The agencies will then be able to work to such a protocol and know
what each party is entitled to expect, as well as what is expected of them.
Where probation is commissioning work to another organisation, it incurs a
responsibility to make sure that this organisation works effectively and justly.
Accountability for the results achieved and, if appropriate, for the money spent
is a minimum pre-requisite of such relations.
Rule 41 stipulates that inter-agency agreements should
include protocols about the exchange of information, based on the relevant
national data protection legislation. .
Principles of information exchange between probation
agencies and other organisations and individuals shall be transparent, so that
staff and service users understand the circumstances in which information must
be communicated. It will be especially important that organisations and service
users, including offenders, are clear about the circumstances in which
information will be exchanged between the police and the probation agency in the
interests of public protection or about the scope of medical or other
professional confidentiality. Again, private companies, for example those
involved in implementing electronic monitoring, will have to share information
and this should be explicit in any inter-agency agreement.
Depending on the national legal system, probation agencies
may be entrusted with one or more of the following tasks:
a ) tasks involving supervision and guidance to offenders:
- alternatives to pre-trial detention;
- conditional non-prosecution;
- probation as an
independent sanction imposed without the pronouncement of a sentence to
- full or partial
suspension of the enforcement of a sentence accompanied by conditions;
- forms of early
release from prison accompanied by supervision;
- conditional pardon;
- house arrest;
- supervised prison
- community service;
- probation orders
regarding education, employment, place of residence, leisure-time
activities; contacts and association with certain persons, avoiding certain
- probation orders
regarding administration of income and financial obligations;
programmes to be supervised by the probation service;
supervision of specific offenders (sex offenders, serious recidivists,
offenders presenting risk to society);
- restriction of
the freedom of movement (including the use of surveillance techniques)
accompanied with other forms of intervention by the probation service;
- management of
probation centres/hostels, halfway houses.
b) Tasks without supervisory element:
management and organisation of community sanctions and measures;
reports (recommending to the prosecuting or judicial authorities whether or
not to prosecute; what sanctions to chose; what measures and interventions
the probation service may offer in each individual case);
- advisory reports
(for parole boards, etc.);
- early help after
arrest and during police custody;
- work with detained
offenders to prepare their leaves, release, resettlement (in mental health
institutions, pre-trial, prison, etc.);
- aftercare to former
- work with the
- assistance to
victims (conflict resolution, compensation).
As set out above, probation agencies undertake a wide
range of tasks in different countries.
Reports to courts and to other deciding authorities are
covered by Rules 42-46.Community Service, known as unpaid work in some
countries, is covered in Rules 47-52. The community supervision of offenders
is covered in Rules 53-55. Treatment programmes is a term that covers a
wide range of planned and systematic interventions, e.g. based on the principles
of cognitive behavioural psychology, including: general offending programmes and
programmes designed for specific offences / offenders (for example aggressive or
violent offenders, substance abusers, perpetrators of domestic violence).
Intensive supervision is often deployed to manage and reduce the risk
presented by certain sex offenders, serious persistent offenders and others who
pose a serious risk of harm to society. Work with the offender’s family is
covered in Rule 56, probation work with foreign nationals and nationals
sanctioned abroad is covered in Rules63-65. Restriction of freedom of
movement can include the use of surveillance or monitoring techniques
(including electronic monitoring – see Rules 57-58) which may be in place to
support other forms of probation intervention. Rules 59-62 cover probation
agencies’ responsibilities for resettlement and after-care. Work with
victims is covered in Rules 93-96. Restorative justice practices are
covered by Rule 97.
Any work relating to the preparation and presentation of
pre-sentence reports must fully respect the procedural rights and safeguards
provided by Article 6 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which affirms the presumption of innocence.
The principal purpose of a pre-sentence report is to help
the court decide on the appropriate sentence (Similar reports are written in
some countries to assist the prosecuting authorities to take their decisions). A
pre-sentence report is neither a plea of mitigation nor part of the prosecution
case, but offers independent information and opinion. It should be fair and
impartial, in the sense that all relevant information shall be included whether
to the advantage of the offender or not.
This Rule also requires probation agencies to communicate
regularly with the judicial authorities about the circumstances in which reports
are to be prepared. A report is neither possible nor necessary in every case,
but clear criteria should be agreed between the deciding authorities and the
The policy is the responsibility of each jurisdiction, but
there are some general considerations to be taken into account. For example,
where a financial penalty or other less serious disposition is the likely
outcome, a report is probably unnecessary; where a community sentence is being
considered that would involve probation supervision, a report would comment on
the nature and purpose of supervision and the feasibility of the offender’s
co-operation and successful completion; where deprivation of liberty is being
considered, a report will help the court to see the true impact of this sentence
on the offender and on others. Where the court is likely to impose an immediate
custodial sentence, but is willing to consider alternatives, a report would be
of particular value.
The report shall be as up-to-date and accurate as
possible. Reports are written in respect of specific offences and old reports
that may have been retained on file should not normally be submitted again.
Although interview(s) with the offender are an important source of information,
report writers should use other sources as well to try to corroborate
information. Courts should be enabled to distinguish between parts of the report
merely presenting consistent information and data and parts where the author of
the report is offering a professional opinion. The report shall be written in
plain language; jargon and technical language should be avoided so far as
The offender’s involvement here means that the
purpose of the report, its significance and consequences must be fully explained
to the offender. There may be circumstances in which the offender is unwilling
to cooperate and this may have to be accepted. The member of staff responsible
for the report should make sure that the offender understands the consequences
of withholding co-operation and that this will be made clear to the court. The
offender should be given an opportunity to express an opinion about the content
of the report, although it is for the author of the report to decide on its
final content. Offenders or their legal representatives have a right to
challenge the content of the report in court.
While reports take many different formats, in accordance
with law and practice in different jurisdictions. a typical report will begin
with a statement about the sources of information on which the report is based
(interviews with the offender and, for example, their family, case records,
prosecution file, any other sources) and then may include:
a) personal and social information about the offender
which is relevant to an understanding of the offence or their previous
record or to the sentencing decision and an offence analysis (how and why
this offence took place; what the offender says about this and, for example,
expressions of remorse);
b) assessment of the likelihood of re-offending and risk
of harm to the public – how likely it is that further offences may take
place, how serious a risk this poses, what can be done about these risks and
underlying problems (like family and employment issues), what protective /
resilience factors and strengths are present that might reduce the risk;
c) the feasibility and likely consequences of the
different sanctions and measures that are under consideration – for example,
the consequences of a custodial sentence, the nature and intensity of
proposed interventions, the likelihood of the offender cooperating and
completing the order etc;
d) conclusion – in some cases, this may include a
proposal of a particular course of action, although in some countries this
is not seen as part of the author’s role.
It is to be noted that the report will usually include the
views of the offender: their attitude to the offence, their views about the
likelihood of further offending, their likely response to the sanctions and
measures that may be being considered. At the same time, it is important to
appreciate that the report is an independent representation and that the
offender’s perceptions may be questioned by the author.
In those jurisdictions where probation works with victims
and the author of the report has consulted the victim, the report may also
include comment on the consequences of the offence for the victim(s), their
present attitude to the offence and the scope for restorative interventions –
for example, meditation between offender and victim.
Other advisory reports
As well as pre-sentence reports, probation staff prepare
other reports, especially in connection with proposals for early release from
prison or other forms of detention. These reports will be based on a careful
assessment in each individual case. Their distinctive contribution here will be
to inform the authorities of the community context to which the prisoner will be
returning, the risks and protective factors to be taken into account and how
these will be managed, and the need to impose any particular conditions on the
terms of release. The probation officer, working in the community, has an
important contribution to make both in arranging and in verifying the proposed
release plan. This may include liaising with people about accommodation and
employment. It should be noted that these reports may be initial, follow-up or
progress reports and their characteristics are discussed in greater details in
Part V of the present rules.
The Commentary on pre-sentence reports (on Rules 42-45),
explaining the need for rigour and impartiality, applies here too. The report
shall be as up-to-date and accurate as possible. Reports are written in respect
of specific applications and old reports that may have been retained on file
should not normally be submitted again. Although interview(s) with the offender
are an important source of information, report writers should use other sources
as well to try to corroborate information.
Where there has been contact with the victim(s) of the
original offence, their views should be reflected in the report. When their
views are being sought, it is important that they should be made aware that
while their views may be one important consideration, they will not be decisive
(see Rule 95).
As before, the offender’s involvement here means that
the purpose of the report, its significance and consequences must be fully
explained to the offender.
There may be circumstances in which the offender is
unwilling to cooperate and this may have to be accepted. The member of staff
responsible for the report should make sure that the offender understands the
consequences of withholding co-operation and that this will be made clear to the
deciding authority. The offender should be given an opportunity to express an
opinion about the content of the report, although it is for the author of the
report to decide on its final content. Offenders or their legal representatives
have a right to challenge the content of the report.
Community service involves undertaking unpaid work for the
benefit of the community as a response to an offence. In some countries, this
sanction may only be imposed with the offender’s consent; while in other
countries it is for the court alone to decide upon this and the offender has to
follow the judicial decision.
Community service has a number of legitimate objectives:
to be proportionate to the offence(s), to aim at rehabilitation, reparation and
social inclusion. It is not always easy to combine or to reconcile these
objectives in a community service scheme. A guiding principle here is that
undertaking labour for the number of hours specified by the court constitutes
the punishment: work tasks are not in themselves intended to be punitive and
e.g. do not have to be physically laborious. Tasks shall be chosen for their
value to the community (as part of the reparation referred to in the Rule) and
for the potential direct benefit to the offender in terms of the acquisition of
new education/employment skills. There are research findings that suggest that
where offenders find worth and meaning in what they are ordered to do they are
more likely to complete the Order, to work well (to the advantage of the
beneficiary) and are, arguably, less likely to re-offend. The rehabilitative
aims of community service, then, are mainly achieved through the positive
effects of undertaking worthwhile tasks. In some countries, it is also possible
for offenders to be directed to participate in rehabilitative, treatment or
educational programmes which count towards the number of hours they are required
The manner of implementation of community service shall
support its positive aims. Tasks and the circumstances in which they are
undertaken must respect the inherent dignity of offenders, in accordance with
Rule 2 of these Rules, and avoid stigmatisation or exclusion. Uniforms that
identify community service workers as offenders at work are unlikely to support
reintegration. It is very commendable for community service schemes to publicise
the work that has been done including the use of notices on former sites of work
explaining the contribution that has been made by the offenders.
Since community service constitutes real and/or symbolic
reparation, work undertaken must be of genuine benefit to the community.
Agencies shall seek out tasks in the community and shall strive to ensure that
all community members have an opportunity to nominate appropriate tasks. In no
circumstances shall this work be used for the profit of agencies or individual
members of staff or for commercial profit. Although the position may vary in
different jurisdictions, so far as possible community service must not displace
people from gainful employment.
Community service workers shall be subject to risk
assessment like all others under probation supervision (see Rules 66-71 and
associated commentary). Minimising risk to the community will be paramount in
determining an appropriate work placement.
Probation agencies have a responsibility to safeguard the
health and safety of community service workers. General safety regulations
should be respected and public liability insurance schemes should be arranged to
indemnify offenders assigned to community work. Probation agencies and their
staff should also be adequately insured in order to be able to address
compensation claims in case of accident.
Community service tasks can take many forms and agencies
should be imaginative in identifying suitable work. Differences of ability and
of personal circumstances should be taken fully into account to make sure that
the scheme can accommodate anyone for whom this is considered to be an
appropriate sanction or measure. In some jurisdictions, community service may be
used as a direct alternative to custody and no one should be sent to prison
solely because appropriate work tasks have not been found.
Probation agencies should be active in identifying those
who might benefit from community service work and all communities should be able
to see that they are potential beneficiaries of the scheme. For example,
minority ethnic groups might be approached for their views about the type of
projects that they would find valuable.
As with other aspects of offender consultation, Rule 52
does not mean that offenders take the decision about the work they will
undertake. Community service is widely recognised by offenders, as well as by
the public, as a fair penalty and one aspect of this is that offenders should be
consulted about it.
Offenders should therefore be asked about their skills and
about any particular considerations (for example, employment and domestic
responsibilities, health, disability, availability on holy days) that the agency
should take into consideration. When the decision about placement is taken, the
reasons for it should be explained carefully to the offender and their views
must throughout be taken seriously. If people understand the value of their
work, they will undertake it more willingly and give and gain more from it.
Such consultation should continue throughout the period of
community service. Offenders should be asked about their experience of the work
they are undertaking and this should form part of the periodic assessment which
should be used to take decisions about how the remainder of the order is to be
Community supervision takes place in a number of different
circumstances. While there are differences in the legal basis of these modes of
supervision and, for example, in the consequences of non-compliance, the
following rules prescribe general standards of supervision.
The nature and intensity of the supervision (for example,
the frequency of required reporting to the supervising officer) should depend on
the individual offender and be subject to revision depending on changes in the
offender’s the personal circumstances and in progress towards the objectives of
Probation agencies shall do all they can to promote
compliance with the formal requirements of supervision. This includes taking
full account of personal circumstances that might make compliance more difficult
and working with the offender to see how such difficulties can be overcome. For
example, so far as possible, people should not be required to attend
appointments that may conflict with their responsibilities as carers (including,
but not only, parents of young children) or as employees. People who are
homeless or itinerant may also face particular challenges in complying with some
of the formal requirements.
This Rule recognises that probation should arrange for
relevant interventions to take place. These may be provided not only by
probation staff, but by other agencies and individuals as well. The Rule offers
some examples – educational or skills-related training and treatment, such as
may be provided for people who need psychiatric help or treatment for misuse of
alcohol or other drugs.
Control is a legitimate part of probation’s purpose and
offenders need to be seen regularly for probation to have an impact on the
offender and to retain credibility with judicial authorities and the wider
community. Control measures must at the same time:
· be proportionate to the
likelihood of re-offending and to the degree of harm anticipated;
· support the processes of
· be undertaken in a manner
that enhances the offender’s co-operation – this not only increases the
chances of control being successful, but also increases self-control.
Work with the offender’s family
Sanctions and measures affect not only offenders, but also
their families and dependents. This is especially likely where a custodial
sentence has been imposed, but also in the case of other sanctions or measures.
Where this is provided for in law, probation agencies should offer support,
information, advice and assistance to families affected by the offender’s crime
and punishment. This may include providing information about the sentence (for
example, where the sentence is to be served, visiting and contact arrangements,
likely date of release), advising about any welfare benefit entitlements
(especially where the family has been financially dependent upon the offender)
and, in general, helping to maintain family contacts. Such work is of value to
the family and to the offender, not least because family relationships are an
important contribution to rehabilitation and desistance.
While traditionally probation has worked through personal
relationships to bring about change, many jurisdictions in Europe are making
increasing use of newer technologies. Electronic surveillance - especially the
‘tagging’ that can monitor the presence of an individual at particular times and
places and the ‘tracking’ made possible through global positioning system
technology - has a strong political appeal. It seems to dispense with any need
for the offender's consent or active co-operation and suggests a possibility of
comprehensive and up-to-the-minute information.
Electronic monitoring, in certain circumstances, can
contribute to rehabilitation and support desistance by helping people to
establish changes in their habits and lifestyles, but this is usually achieved
by introducing some control and stability to allow rehabilitative programmes to
have their effect.
Where monitoring is used as part of supervision, then, it
should be in support of the work of rehabilitation. External control should be
used as a means to develop self-control. Technology should not lead or determine
the character of practice, but must be recruited to support the tasks of
probation. Probation agencies should also be aware that this is an expanding
(and lucrative) commercial ‘market’ and probation must ensure that it engages
with the market in a manner that sustains its own integrity.
Some methods of surveillance, including electronic
monitoring, have the potential to intrude significantly on people's rights of
privacy and perhaps other rights as well. Not only offenders, but in some
circumstances their families and friends may be affected as well. This Rule
insists on a level of surveillance and personal intrusion that is proportionate
to the seriousness of the offence(s) and to the need for community safety.
Basic principle 6 of the European Prison Rules
(Recommendation Rec(2006) 2 of the Committee of Ministers to the member states)
states “All detention shall be managed so as to facilitate the reintegration
into free society of persons who have been deprived of their liberty.” In many
countries, probation agencies are responsible for supervision of offenders after
release. This Rule requires agencies who will be undertaking this role to work
actively during the term of detention to prepare for release. This is likely to
involve contact with the offender, by letter, visits, video conferences; liaison
with the prison authorities; contact with friends or family to whom the offender
might be returning; and approaches to community agencies that may need to offer
services and support after release.
Successful resettlement work requires a case-management
approach to ensure that the contributions of all responsible agencies are
properly co-ordinated and managed. Positive changes and achievements made during
the term of imprisonment are at risk of getting lost at the time of release and
the need for continuity is paramount. Such continuity is most likely to be
achieved where probation agencies have been involved in sentence planning and
preparation for release. Probation agencies, in partnership with the prison
service and the organisations, public and private, of the wider civil society,
are well-placed to help ex-prisoners to meet the challenges of resettlement.
Resettlement work should not be confined to the assessment
and management of risks and offending-related needs. Research suggests that
desistance is often achieved by living a “good life”. Since everyone must make
their own decision about what is their conception of a good life, resettlement
work should attend to the individual’s own interests and aspirations, seek to
support them in achieving their legitimate objectives and build on their
strengths to help them to achieve their potential as law-abiding members of the
One key component of such a “good life”, for the majority
of people, is gainful employment. This brings a legitimate source of income,
law-abiding routines and social networks which support desistance and give
compelling incentives to respect the law. Unsurprisingly, research shows a
strong correlation between employment and desistance. In order to gain
employment, however, offenders must not only have the required skills and
motivation, but also opportunities to work. Ex-offenders, especially former
prisoners, typically find it hard to get a job and win the confidence of
employers. Probation agencies should therefore work actively to encourage
employers in all sectors to give fair and reasonable opportunities of employment
In many circumstances, release is subject to one or more
formal conditions and the supervising agency, often probation, has a
responsibility to ensure that the offender complies with these conditions.
General considerations about enforcement and compliance are set out in Rules
86-88 and the associated commentary. The time of release often brings particular
difficulties for offenders and probation agencies should do as much as they can
to help offenders anticipate and deal with these problems in order to avoid
relapse into offending. In some cases, too, offenders may pose a significant
risk of causing harm and probation agencies must then work closely with other
agencies to manage this risk. See also the commentary to Rule 37.
As already stated in the commentary to Rule 59 above
consistent finding of research in many countries shows that constructive work
undertaken in prison is often lost on release. For example, learning from
treatment programmes is not followed up and any benefits soon disappear. In
general, the transition from prison to the community – “through the prison
gates” – is often not well managed and communication between the prison
authorities and those responsible for community supervision is typically a
significant problem. If the probation agency has been actively involved before
release (Rule 59), there is a much greater chance of this transition being
managed more effectively. This Rule encourages probation staff to do all they
can to build upon any constructive learning that has taken place during the
period of detention. This is more likely to succeed where good case management
systems are in place (see Rule 80).
Desistance from offending has been described as a
process rather than as an event and offenders may need continuing support
and encouragement long after release. This Rule recognises that, once the formal
period of post-release supervision has ended, the offender has no formal
obligation to keep in touch with the probation agency. At the same time, where
national law provides for this and where resources permit, probation agencies
should offer support for as long as they can so that no one commits an offence
because they feel they have nowhere to go for help. Provision should also be
made where possible for the very large number of prisoners who are released from
prison without any formal resettlement obligations, but who are often likely to
need advice, assistance and encouragement.
Probation work with offenders who are foreign nationals
and with nationals sanctioned abroad
For a number of social, economic and political reasons,
there has been an increase in the movement of people across the European
continent. People arriving in other countries may be ‘in crisis’, having few
resources and few or no contacts when they arrive in the country. Probation
agencies have a strong ethical obligation to make sure that such vulnerable
people are dealt with fairly and well. In some countries, however, non-nationals
lack many of the legal rights of nationals and find themselves excluded from the
services they need. This is a prominent challenge for many countries.
This Rule encourages probation agencies to provide
accessible services to offenders who are foreign nationals in accordance with
their national law. The type and extent to which such services are to be
provided will depend on the national legal systems and on the individual
situation of such offenders but the principle of equal treatment and
non-discrimination should guide the probation agencies in this respect.
Non-nationals typically have quite different needs and probation agencies must
consider these carefully and strive to meet them properly. Probation’s main
objectives – for example, community integration, social inclusion, resettlement
– have a quite different significance to people who have few or no connections
within the country and, indeed, may be required to leave it because of their
offence(s). There may also be language difficulties and agencies must make sure
that there are adequate interpreting services in place. Probation agencies must
ensure that their services are accessible and relevant to this vulnerable group.
For member states of the EU, a Framework Decision has been
adopted that allows for the transfer, in certain circumstances, of probation
supervision from one jurisdiction to another – typically where offenders
convicted in another country are returned to their own country for supervision.
(Council Framework Decision on the application, between Member States of the
European Union, of the principle of mutual recognition to decisions on
supervision measures as an alternative to provisional detention). For the
Framework Decision to work as intended, there must be clear and effective
communication between countries, both to establish systems of co-operation and
to apply these to particular cases. The “issuing state” (the country where the
sanction or measure is ordered) and the “executing state” (the country where the
sanction or measure will be put into effect – normally the country of which the
offender is national) must work together,
in accordance with their national law and to the
extent allowed by their resources, to make sure that the sanction or measure is
implemented as intended by the judicial authority and that the offender receives
the supervision required.
Although the Framework Decision is the principal means for
effecting transfer within the EU, there are be other specific agreements between
member states of the Council of Europe (like the 1964 European Convention on the
supervision of conditionally sentenced or conditionally released offenders, ETS
No. 051) and this Rule applies here too.
This Rule addresses the same state of affairs as Rules 63
and 64, but from the point of view of the state to which offenders are to
return. Offenders and ex-offenders returning to their country of origin are also
likely to be poorly supported and vulnerable and agencies must ensure that their
needs are met.
Process of supervision
The following section sets out a particular framework for
understanding the process of supervision. It is important to state at the
outset, however, that there are many different conceptions of this process. Some
focus on the risks posed by the offender, the needs associated with those risks
(criminogenic needs) and the importance of ensuring that the intervention is
suitable for the individual concerned (“responsivity”). Other ways of
approaching supervision may have a different focus. For example, they may place
emphasis on helping and supporting offenders. One approach insists that there
must be attention to the strengths and positive characteristics of people under
supervision, not just their risks and needs. Those who have offended have
legitimate aspirations and ambitions like everyone else and desistance is often
achieved when an individual lives the “good life” they choose for themselves.
The significance of Rule 1 in the Basic Principles
is very relevant here. The possibility of supervision rests on a sound
professional relationship and the probation officer’s priority must be to
develop such a relationship, gaining the confidence of the person under
supervision. Unless this can be achieved, the objectives of supervision are very
much less likely to be met.
The process of supervision can best be shown in a diagram.
It is shown as a cycle because once the cycle is complete, the process often
begins again – and will continue for the whole period of supervision.
This Rule does not interfere with the criteria provided by
national law related to judging the need of carrying out assessments of
offenders at different stages of the criminal procedure. It is there to
guide the probation services themselves in their everyday work with offenders.
The efficiency of the implementation of community sanctions and measures is
greatly enhanced by prior assessment of each individual case. The Rule brings to
the attention of the probation agencies some important principles in carrying
out good assessment.
Assessment involves attention to:
- resources – including the offender’s own personal
Risk of further offending and the risk of harm, posed to
the public and to staff employed by probation must be assessed. In addition
other risks – for example, risk of self-harm and other aspects of vulnerability
– must also be assessed. Needs or factors linked to offending (‘criminogenic
needs’) must be assessed, while other needs – less directly related to offending
but nevertheless important to the offender’s chances of desistance – must be
considered as well. Different people respond best to different modes of
intervention and one requirement of assessment is to determine what intervention
will be most accessible and relevant to that individual. The idea that all
interventions and activities are run in a way which is accessible to offenders,
encourages their full participation and takes account of their individuality is
known as the principle of responsiveness. Assessment must also include a
review of the resources that might be available to tackle the identified
problems. The first resource here is the offender’s own strengths and skills: a
focus on personal strengths and those factors that make offending less
likely is often a positive and valuable approach, although it must be balanced
with a realistic appraisal of problems.
In forming an assessment, probation staff should draw on a
diverse range of sources of information. This includes court reports, agency
records and, in appropriate cases, information gained from other agencies or
people who know the offender.
The process of assessment – how it is undertaken
– is as important as the outcome. The member of staff may have a very clear
idea of the offender’s problems, but offenders must be enabled to make the
discovery for themselves. There are skills – for example, motivational
interviewing – that may be used to help offenders recognise some of their
difficulties. But supervision will not be successful unless there is sufficient
agreement between the supervisor and the offender.
There is emerging research to suggest that desistance
typically takes place in the context of achieving good lives. Assessment should
therefore include attention to the individual’s legitimate aspirations and
identify and develop personal strengths. Assessment that attends only to risks
and needs can overlook this. The idea of self-efficacy – individuals
taking charge of their own lives – recognises offenders’ responsibilities and
their need to determine their own future behaviour.
Assessment should be the product of discussion and
exploration between staff and the offender. Where there is disagreement between
them, this should be noted and may in itself be a focus of work, as we have seen
in the commentary to Rule 67.
Assessment should be undertaken periodically to check
progress and to ensure its continuing accuracy and relevance. There are some key
times during a period of supervision when this is especially required.
Supervisors also need to be alert to the possibility of changes in offenders’
lives that make a difference.
Since community safety is a priority for probation
agencies, changes in the level and nature of risk should particularly be
emphasised here. Once an assessment has been undertaken, it is easy to think
that the level of risk has been established and fixed. This would be a mistake,
however: risks and protective factors change – for example drug use,
change in employment status or significant changes in personal relationships.
Significant changes in the offender’s life are obviously a
time when assessment may need to be reviewed and revised, such as when an
offender commits a further offence or there have been major changes in his or
her personal circumstances. There are also some important ‘milestones’ during
supervision when assessment needs to be reviewed in this way. These are
specified in this Rule and include occasions when an offender is (for example)
being considered for transfer to an open prison, for semi detention, electronic
monitoring or conditional release or for home detention. In the same way, if the
level of supervision is to be changed, formal conditions amended or an
application made for early conclusion of the period of supervision these
decisions must be taken in the light of an up-to-date assessment.
Modes of risk assessment are usually distinguished as
either ‘clinical’ (individual, person-by-person) assessment or ‘actuarial’
assessment, based on statistical techniques for assessing probability, where a
probability ‘score’ (of re-offending, or of the risk of harm) is usually
produced. Actuarial techniques, using ‘static’ factors (e.g. age, type of
offence, criminal record, which cannot be changed) are said to be more reliable,
but these are based on aggregates and have limitations in predicting the
risk-levels of individuals. Actuarial techniques are also not always able to
incorporate ‘dynamic’ factors (e.g. employment, substance abuse, which can be
worked on and are amenable to change). For this reason, many jurisdictions have
introduced assessment tools or instruments which try to assess both static and
dynamic factors. These tools ensure that assessment is undertaken consistently
with all offenders and require supervisors to focus on risks and needs that are
known to be associated with re-offending. Where such instruments are used, it is
essential that practitioners understand their significance and their
limitations. Since actuarial methods can only generate statistical probabilities
and can be seriously misleading if used uncritically, they must be used with
As has already been emphasised (see the beginning of Part
V), it is important to take account of strengths as well as risks. A rounded
assessment must recognise the individual’s abilities and potential and not be
preoccupied only with their offending behaviour.
Supervision should be put into effect in a planned way.
Once assessment has taken place, the supervisor, in discussion with the
offender, must decide how the identified problems are to be tackled. Objectives
must be agreed and set. Objectives should be specific and measurable
(so that progress can be monitored). They must also be achievable:
especially if a long period of supervision is anticipated and / or a number of
problems are identified, the plan should be broken down into smaller number of
‘steps’ with realistic, short-term objectives. Offenders often have many complex
problems that cannot sensibly be tackled all at once and may become disheartened
if the work plan is over-ambitious. It is also a useful discipline to set a
specific time by which these objectives should have been achieved.
Progress can be reviewed at that point and either an achievement can be recorded
(and celebrated) or supervisor and offender can explore the reasons why the
objective has not yet been met.
As with assessment, a work plan that the offender does not
understand or ( does not understand sufficiently well) agree with is unlikely to
be implemented. Offenders may have misgivings about some of the plans proposed
and this should be acknowledged and considered. (Perhaps the offender is not yet
ready to make some of the changes required. In that case, further motivational
work may be necessary.) The process of planning should in any case be negotiated
as far as possible and explained in a way that the offender can understand.
There must be a strong and natural connection between the
assessment and the plan, as the commentary on Rule 72 explains. The plan sets
out what is to be done about the problems identified and this includes setting
out the specific interventions that will follow.
Rules 69 and 70 emphasise the importance of regular reviews
of assessment. In the same way, work plans must be adapted to any change in the
Interventions are structured and planned pieces of work
with offenders aimed at their rehabilitation and their desistance from
offending. The nature of the interventions by probation agencies shall depend on
and be limited by the sanction or measure and the conditions imposed by the
deciding authority. Interventions thus will often aim at social and family
support through employment schemes, educational programmes, vocational training,
budget management training and regular contact with probation staff, or will
include offending behaviour programmes, often based on the principles of
cognitive behavioural psychology. These latter
are designed to reduce re-offending by helping
offenders learn new skills that improve the way in which they think and solve
problems. They help them cope with pressure, consider the consequences of their
actions, see things from the perspective of others and act less impulsively.
Programmes may be general (i.e. covering all kinds of offending behaviour) or
specific to a particular type of offence or criminogenic characteristic (e.g.
programmes for violent offenders or sex offenders; programmes for offenders who
Typically interventions require offenders to give up their
time and make other appropriate demands upon them - requiring them, for example,
to reflect on their behaviour and to learn how they might make the necessary
changes in their lives. This Rule holds, however, that participation in these
interventions and compliance with the order of the judicial authority
constitutes the punishment and the intervention itself should be
constructive in character and intention rather than punitive. It is for the
judicial authority to determine the appropriate amount of punishment in
proportion to the offence committed and, in accordance with Rule 5, probation
agencies should not make the experience more punitive than is necessary to
implement the sanction or measure as ordered.
Research shows that the most effective interventions are
multi-modal, i.e. they use a range of different types of method calling
for a corresponding range of professional skills and expertise. Some of these
skills are provided by organisations and individuals with whom probation
agencies work in partnership. Other skills will be deployed by probation staff
themselves and Rule 27 refers to the specialised training that some staff will
Much probation work is undertaken with individual
offenders. Many jurisdictions, however, make use of group work. The experience
of learning alongside people in a similar situation can be very effective. Not
all offenders are suitable for group work, however. Working with offenders in
groups can also be an efficient use of resources, but it is the treatment needs
of the offender that must be the paramount consideration in deciding on the
appropriateness of their participation in a group work programme.
In setting up groups, probation staff should be aware of
the possibility that groups can sometimes create opportunities for negative
associations and influences. Due regard must be taken of the position of those
who find themselves in a minority in a group. For example, the position of a
woman on her own in an otherwise male group or of a person from an identifiable
ethnic minority shall be considered and steps taken to ensure that they are in
no way disadvantaged. Rule 5 in the Basic Principles insists that the manner of
implementation should not impose any burden or restriction of rights greater
than provided by the judicial or administrative decision and this principle
should be kept in mind always when interventions are chosen and implemented. It
is also necessary for probation agencies to ensure that their interventions
should do no harm.
Offenders must be prepared by their supervising staff
member for the interventions in which they are to participate. Sometimes
offenders will be unsure or even unwilling to attend and the supervisor will
need to work hard to enhance their motivation. An offender who understands the
reason for the intervention is very much more likely to attend and to gain from
This is a corollary of Rules 37 and 77. Engaging services
based in the community promotes social inclusion and also allows offenders to
benefit from a broad range of expertise.
This is an important principle of working with offenders.
An inter-agency and multi-modal approach is most effective, but the involvement
of different agencies – and often several staff within the same agency – can
lead to confusion of roles. This Rule commends that there should be a single
responsible member of staff who undertakes assessment, decides on the work plan
and coordinates the interventions. Research has shown that the offender’s
experience of involvement with probation should be characterised by continuity,
consistency, providing opportunities for consolidation and staff commitment.
Without such coordination, the experience of supervision can be fragmented,
disorganised and confusing for everyone – especially the offender. This case
manager or offender manager, as the role is often called, will also be
responsible for ensuring that the terms of the sanction or measure are fulfilled
and for taking action in response to non-compliance.
Evaluation of the progress by the individual offender is a
continuing process throughout the period of supervision. The supervisor’s and
the offender’s view of the period of supervision should be summarised, recorded
and retained on the records of the agency. In some countries, reporting to the
deciding authority on this progress must be done periodically, in others
probation agencies only report at the end of the supervision or in case of a
breach of conditions
This Rule refers to the need for legal possibilities for
staff to apply to the judicial authority to change the conditions of
supervision. Where good progress has been made, where a condition no longer
seems relevant or has proved impracticable, or where assessment indicates that a
lower level of supervision may be used, the probation agency should be able to
make application for the conditions to be amended or for the order to be ended
early. This is partly a question of resources – resources should be focused on
those offenders most in need of supervision – but it is also important to
recognise and acknowledge formally that offenders have often made significant
achievements during their supervision.
The offender’s experience of the value of the service
received should be an important part of the (periodic and final) evaluation.
Probation agencies should consider collating information from these evaluations
to see if any general themes emerge, suggesting the agency’s particular
strengths and ways in which they might improve the quality of their services.
Supervision shall be concluded properly with a full review
and evaluation of what has been achieved, what has been less successfully
managed and what might have been done differently, whether by supervisors or
offenders, to have enhanced the value of the period of supervision. Very useful
in this respect are the so-called exit interviews with offenders conducted by a
person different from the case manager to gather independent evidence on the
impact of supervision and the quality of service provision.
Enforcement and compliance
This Rule recognises that probation agencies have a
responsibility to give effect to the sanctions and measures ordered by the
judicial or other deciding
authorities. This shall be done as far as possible by
persuading offenders of the value of co-operation and by treating them in a
manner that gain their consent. There are research findings that show that
people are much more likely to cooperate when they feel they are being dealt
with fairly. A sense of unfairness can lead to resentment and a refusal to
cooperate. It is true that for some offenders in some circumstances, the
consequences of non-compliance will be very serious and may lead to a custodial
sentence. Offenders must be made aware of this, but this must not be put to them
as the only reason why they should comply. An explanation of the advantages of
co-operation and other motivational skills can be used in these circumstances.
Any obstacles to compliance should be identified and discussed and strategies
put in place to enable offenders to do what is required of them.
The nature of the sanction or measure must be fully
explained to offenders: they must know what is expected of them. Consequences of
non-compliance must be carefully explained. These typically include the
possibility of a return to court to be sentenced or, in the case of early
release from custody, recall to prison. Probation staff must ensure that those
under supervision are aware of these possible consequences, although (as Rule 86
specifies) supervisors should not rely solely on threat of further sanction to
The Rule also refers to the duties and responsibilities of
staff. Some probation agencies have made use of the idea of a contract or some
less formal agreement between the agency and the offender – which should be
explicit and may be in writing – which sets out not only what is required of
offenders, but also what they are entitled to expect in return.
There are occasions when supervisors will offer advice to
offenders – which they may or may not choose to accept. It is therefore
important that probation staff should distinguish clearly between any legally
required instructions they may give and any informal advice or guidance they may
offer and make sure that the offender understands this distinction.
Non-compliance must always be taken seriously and
professional judgement exercised within the standards set by national law.
Whenever an offender fails to do what is required, the probation agency must
respond assertively and promptly. If an offender fails to report as instructed,
the agency should get in contact as a matter of priority. At the same time, the
supervisor shall inquire about the reasons for non-compliance – not all
instances of non-compliance are a wilful disregard of the sanction or measure.
Indeed there are many reasons why offenders may fail to comply, including
confusion about what is required of them, a disorganised personal life (leading
to missed appointments), and despair about the possibility of change. On the
clear understanding that non-compliance is unacceptable, the supervisor shall
discuss with the offender what shall be done to bring about compliance in the
future. Non-compliance and the reasons for it must be recorded in the record.
In some circumstances, a failure to comply may be a sign
of increasing levels of risk and, where this could lead to serious harm, the
agency must give priority to responding to this non-compliance as a matter of
urgency. In some circumstances, this may involve arranging (for example) for an
offender to appear in court as soon as possible or to be recalled to prison.
Probation hopes to encourage and enable changes in
people’s lives. Some changes – notably obtaining regular employment – are likely
to make a significant difference to the individual’s future behaviour. At the
same time, such changes can create challenges for compliance. For example, an
offender who is at work all day may find it difficult to report to the probation
officer. Probation staff should be alert to these possibilities and must be
willing to make application to the judicial authorities to amend the
requirements of the community sanction or measure where this seems appropriate.
Rule 10 of Recommendation No. R (92) 16 of the Committee of
Ministers to the member states on the European rules on community sanctions and
measures states “No provision shall be made in law for the automatic conversion
to imprisonment of a community sanction or measure in case of failure to follow
any condition or obligation attached to such a sanction or measure.” Rule 87 in
the present Rules requires probation staff to consider all the circumstances
where non-compliance has taken place and not automatically to propose a
custodial term or a recall to prison. On the contrary, probation staff should be
imaginative in trying to suggest community sanctions and measures that might be
more appropriate and with which the offender is more likely to comply.
Although there are differences between countries, the
supervising officer may have to initiate breach proceedings – i.e. to take
action which will lead to an offender’s appearance in court because of a failure
to comply with a sanction or measure. This process can put the probation officer
in a prosecutorial (or quasi-prosecutorial) role, perhaps having to prove the
non-compliance. Depending on the precise arrangements under national law, there
may be some tension between this role and the more usual role of a probation
officer. In some jurisdictions, the process has two stages: first,
non-compliance (breach) is established; second, the judicial authority decides
which sanction should now be imposed. In such cases, it may sometimes be
difficult for an officer who has initiated proceedings and contributed to the
case for the prosecution in the first stage to undertake the detached and
independent role of author of a report for the court at the second stage. One
way of managing this would be to ask another member of staff to write the
report, but care must in any case be taken to make sure that the procedure is
fair – and recognised as fair by the offender.
Recording, Information and confidentiality
Keeping case records is a significant part of the work of
probation agencies. Accurate, complete and up-to-date records - showing when,
how and why certain events or activities occurred and decisions were made - are
a pre-condition of effective accountability. Case records convey information
within the organisation: in the absence of the supervising staff, for example, a
sound and up-to-date case record is an indispensable resource to anyone else
working with the offender. Records also communicate information between the
agencies and authorities to whom they must give account (See Part VII). The
record also ensures that work remains purposeful: setting out the basis of the
assessment, supervision plans, interventions and an evaluation of their effect.
Records typically include personal information - name,
date of birth, address, education, employment; a record of assessment and
planning, reviewed regularly, setting out objectives and evaluating the effect
of the work undertaken; a record of contact, recording attendance (or
non-attendance) at the office, home visits and other significant activities. The
file also retains information about an offender's previous convictions and
earlier experiences of supervision or imprisonment.
There are circumstances, usually allowed for in national
law, when principles of confidentiality must give way to the need to share
information among responsible agencies, particularly where there is a high risk
of serious harm. The basis of information exchange must be clear and
confidentiality must be respected as far as this is consistent with the need to
ensure community safety.
Records should be scrutinised by line managers to provide
management information, including monitoring of adherence to law and policy.
They are also an important source of information to independent inspectors or
Rule 35 refers to the responsibility of the probation
agency to give account to judicial and other deciding authorities in particular
cases. This Rule states that full and up-to-date case records are a reliable
means of making sure that that the agency can meet that responsibility.
Offenders have a right of access to their records. In some
circumstances, however, the record may contain information that, if disclosed to
the offender, might compromise the safety or well-being of another person. Such
information may be withheld in accordance with national law. If the offender
disputes the accuracy of the record, there shall be a process in place to
respond to their concerns.
Other work of probation agencies
Work with victims
In many countries, victims of crime often report that they
not feel well supported by the agencies of criminal justice, which typically
give priority to detection and prosecution and, in general, focus their work on
the offender rather than the victim. Indeed some victims say that their
experience of the criminal justice system is so distressing that it is almost
like being a victim again.
Probation agencies, in many (not all) countries, have for
most of their history worked only with offenders and paid little or no attention
to victims. For several reasons, attempts are now being made in many countries
to improve this state of affairs. Some probation agencies are involved directly
in offering support to victims; others work closely with other agencies (often
NGOs) that provide this support; others again keep in contact with the victims
of crime and provide information (see Rule 95).
Principles of non-discrimination and individualisation
(see Rule 4) apply as much to victims as to offenders. Victims differ from one
another in many ways and probation agencies must be sure to provide services to
respond to this diversity. It is also to be emphasised that victims have a range
of reactions to the crimes they have experienced, depending, for example, on the
nature of the offence, their own psychological resilience, their personal
circumstances and the level of support available to them (for instance from
family or friends). Probation agencies must always take account of these
In some countries, agencies, often NGOs, have been
established to offer support to victims. This may take the form of counselling,
practical support and other measures of assistance to help them deal with the
consequences of the crime. Where national law provides, probation agencies shall
do all they can to support this work and respond positively and cooperatively to
approaches from victim support organisations. Probation agencies are often aware
of sources of information and support and may be able to offer guidance, both in
general and in particular cases.
In some jurisdictions, probation agencies contact victims
of serious crimes and keep them informed about the circumstances of the
offender. Typically this will include informing them about the real effect of
the sanction imposed – for example, how long a period the offender will serve in
prison, the date of release, any particular conditions of release that might
affect them (perhaps a condition not to contact the victim). There is certainly
information that victims need to know and sometimes it is the probation agency
that has the responsibility to make sure that they receive it. At the same time,
probation staff must be aware of the offender’s right to confidentiality and
recognise that some information need not and should not be divulged. For
example, a victim should not be told the offender’s home address after release.
As well as giving information, probation agencies in some
countries consult victims, especially when home leave or release is being
considered, asking if they have any particular concerns - anything that, in the
opinion of the victim(s), the deciding authority should take into account. A
victim may prefer, for example, that an offender should not be permitted to live
in the same neighbourhood. Where the views of victims are sought in this way,
probation staff should make it clear to them that, while their preferences will
be taken seriously and considered carefully, the deciding authority has a number
of other factors to take into account. Consultation does not mean that the
outcome will be one that the victim would have chosen.
This Rule recognises that rehabilitation requires
offenders to take responsibility for their own behaviour and this includes their
recognition of the harm they have done. Blaming and direct accusation are more
likely to elicit denial and defensiveness, so, like most aspects of probation
work, increasing the offender’s awareness of the harm done to the victim
requires professional skill. Working to enhance victim awareness supports
rehabilitation and allows victims to be assured that their distress will be
recognised and respected in the work that probation agencies undertake with
Restorative justice practices
The Commentary to Rule 93 stated that many probation
agencies have traditionally focused on their work with offenders. Rule 97 refers
to restorative justice interventions which typically involve work with
offenders, victims and the community and indeed potentially with anyone affected
by or with an interest in the crime that has taken place.
Restorative practices can take many different forms. At
the same time, there are a number of common themes in such approaches. A United
Nations Handbook explains “Restorative justice approaches and programmes are
based on several underlying assumptions: (a) that the response to crime should
repair as much as possible the harm suffered by the victim; (b) that offenders
should be brought to understand that their behaviour is not acceptable and that
it had some real consequences for the victim and community; (c) that offenders
can and should accept responsibility for their action; (d) that victims should
have an opportunity to express their needs and to participate in determining the
best way for the offender to make reparation, and (e) that the community has a
responsibility to contribute to this process.” (Handbook of Restorative Justice
programmes, Criminal Justice Handbook series, United Nations, 2006
Restorative approaches include mediation services – for
example, mediation between victim and offender to explore how amends can be made
and how those affected can manage the consequences of the crime. Mediation can
also be used to prevent crime – for example by working to reduce neighbourhood
disputes before they lead to crime. Recommendation Rec(99) 19 on mediation in
penal matters sets out standards for mediation. Other restorative practices
include Family Group Conferences and Sentencing Circles. It is also possible to
bring a restorative perspective to other more formal criminal justice practices
– for example, courts, panels, parole boards can also incorporate a restorative
perspective. The United Nations Economic and Social Council’s Resolution 2002
/12 Basic principles on the use of restorative justice programmes in criminal
matters gives authoritative guidance on these approaches.
Where probation is involved in this way, particular care
must be taken to make sure that both the offender’s and the victim’s interest
and rights are fully respected. The evaluation of these interventions must not,
for example, be undertaken solely with regard to the offender’s reoffending, but
must consider the benefits to the victim from such work. Certainly whenever the
probation agency brings the offender and the victim together, every care must be
taken to make sure that this does not become an occasion for further
Restorative justice approaches call for distinctive skills
and probation agencies should ensure that staff are trained to undertake such
This Rule refers to the need for probation agencies to
share their experience and knowledge and to participate in partnerships with
other organisations to reduce offending and make the community safer. It refers
to work which is not targeted at particular offenders, but contributes to the
general endeavour to prevent or to reduce crime. Probation’s main contribution
to community safety and crime prevention is through their work with known
offenders to reduce the likelihood of their re-offending. In the course of their
work, however, probation staff learn a great deal about the circumstances in
which people come to offend, what slows down their desistance and what factors
in the community make crime more or less likely. If, for example, probation
staff become aware that many of the offenders under supervision are drug-users,
this should prompt them to encourage other authorities (perhaps, in this case,
the health service) to see if educational or treatment services could be devised
to prevent offending – not only to reduce re-offending by offenders under
supervision, but to prevent or discourage people from starting to offend in the
first place. The causes of crime are complex and crime reduction correspondingly
calls for the involvement of several agencies and disciplines working together.
Probation agencies should participate actively in such endeavours.
Complaint procedures, inspection and monitoring
Probation agencies and their staff must ensure the
offenders fulfil obligations that they may prefer to avoid. Probation
supervision can make personal demands on offenders which they may sometimes
resent or resist. Sometimes too probation staff have to take decisions which can
lead to a court appearance or to a recall to prison. The nature of probation
work, then, can lead to disagreement and dispute between staff and offenders and
this is an aspect of the work that probation staff must learn to deal with.
Sometimes disagreement can give rise to formal complaint.
There must be a clear procedure available for offenders
and other service users who wish to complain. Many complaints can and should be
resolved informally and at a low level, by explaining to the offender or other
service user why a decision was taken, but where the complainant remains
unsatisfied, there should be an effective opportunity to appeal to someone at a
higher level within the organisation and in some circumstances to an independent
It is to be noted that complaints can often be avoided by
the agency explaining its role clearly and holding its position with consistency
and fairness. If people know what is expected of them and what they may expect
in return, complaint is much less likely.
Those investigating complaints should be impartial and
should avoid any assumptions that might prejudge the outcome of their inquiry.
In some cases, it will be sufficient for the line manager of the member of staff
who is subject to the complaint to undertake the investigation. In other
circumstances, depending on the level of seriousness of the allegation, a more
senior member of staff should investigate. There is a role too for an
independent authority (for example, an Ombudsman) to respond to complaints, but
normally this process should be invoked only when other mechanisms have failed
to bring a satisfactory resolution. The independent authority may also be in a
position to hear any appeal against the findings of the initial investigation.
Staff as well as complainants need to see that the
procedure is fair and impartial. Independent on whether the complaint is found
by the investigation to be malicious or vexatious, or to be well founded , the
agency should respond to the complainant accordingly.
It is also important to distinguish between complaints
against members of staff and, on the other hand, dissatisfaction with the
agency’s policy. For example, an offender may wish to complain about a decision
to recall him to prison, but, if the agency is satisfied that this decision was
taken and implemented properly, it should be prepared to support its members of
Those receiving complaints should inform the complainant
of the process and, in due course, the outcome of their investigation. Any
changes that will result from the investigation into the complaint should be
explained to the complainant. Probation agencies should respond undefensively to
complaints and use investigations as an opportunity to learn how to improve the
quality of their service delivery.
There should be systems in place to enable agencies to
monitor the quality of their own practices and to check performance against the
required professional standards. Staff should be encouraged to regard these
processes as a device to improve the quality of service delivery and enable them
to do their work as well as possible. Such reviews should focus not only on
individual performance, but should also consider if staff are adequately
resourced and supported in undertaking their work. Information regarding the
number of complaints filed and processed in the course of the year should also
be analysed regularly.
Rule 15 and Part III emphasise the importance of probation
agencies’ accountability to the competent authorities. Arrangements vary in
different countries and accountability can function at national, regional and /
or at a more local level. In any event, the competent authority should ensure
that robust systems are in place which allow them to satisfy themselves that the
agency is undertaking its work as it should.
In addition monitoring from various independent monitoring
bodies is very important for ensuring high quality of professional standards of
probation work. In some countries this may be the ombudsman, in others national
supervising committee, etc. No matter which form such bodies may take, this Rule
requires them to be independent and well equipped to perform their monitoring
Probation agencies should use such inspection and
monitoring systems as an opportunity to learn and to improve their practice.
The competent authority should also take the opportunity
to learn more about the realities of probation practice and to advocate as
necessary on the agency’s behalf for changes in policy or in levels of
Research, evaluation, work with the media and the
Probation practice should be guided by evidence of
effectiveness. One important criterion of effectiveness is reduced
reoffending. There are research findings to show that where assessment can
match the programme of intervention with the characteristics of the offenders, a
reduction in rates of reconviction can be achieved in a measurable proportion of
In recent years, the claims of the findings of ‘what
works’ have been especially influential. Many of these research findings
originate in Canada and USA, although research has also been undertaken in
England and Wales and other countries. Still other countries apply different
probations methodologies, such as strength-based approaches or social work
approaches. As they develop their own ways of gaining and interpreting evidence,
countries can and should use evidence from other countries to develop their own
practices, while remaining aware that ‘what works’ in one country may not work
as well in another.
Any probation methodology should always be seen as an open
question. Established methods of intervention may need to be revised as research
progressively illuminates the way in which they work and their consequences. New
methods are likely to emerge and their effects should be investigated. To
appraise the effectiveness of practice requires systematic research. Agencies
can and should undertake this themselves, but will also need to call on the
research expertise of other organisations, especially universities. Their
involvement ensures independence and gives authority to an agency’s claims to be
effective. This Rule recognises the value of research and recognises that
resources must be made available for this to take place as an investment in the
improvement of services.
Just as practice must be responsive to the findings of
research, policy too should be informed in this way. Politicians in many
countries are under considerable pressure to introduce effective measures to
reduce crime. Policy initiatives should be supported by research, reason and
argument and, while remaining sensitive to the legitimate expectations of the
electorate, politicians should show leadership and try to avoid any temptation
to propose simple solutions to complex problems.
Probation agencies should work actively to explain their
work to the public. This will include disseminating factual information as well
as an explanation of the reasons why the agency operates as it does. The results
of probation practice - and also the results of other sanctions, like
imprisonment – should be discussed openly. Public confidence will grow through
Examples of the achievements and successes of probation
should be announced through the media: there is otherwise a risk that the public
will only ever hear about probation in the context of an incident – for example
a serious offence committed by someone under supervision.
It is not always easy to explain complex (and sometimes
ambiguous) research findings and the media cannot always be relied upon to
present these fairly. Nevertheless the agency must make the attempt. Among other
things, the public must be helped to understand that while probation makes an
invaluable contribution to community safety, it is impossible to bring about a
society that is free of risk and neither probation work, nor any other criminal
justice intervention, can achieve this. Disappointment is often a result of
unrealistic expectation and while the public ought to have high expectations of
the quality of its probation agencies they must remain realistic.
This Rule is a corollary of the last one. Probation policy
and practice develop and these developments should be explained to the public.
It is also important that the public sees a probation agency as an active,
responsive organisation which is always keen to enhance the quality of its work.
The standing of probation and public confidence will be
enhanced by a clear and realistic statements of its purposes and a transparency
about its work. This Rule further emphasis the value of international exchange
of ideas and practices. Countries can learn from one another’s experience – not
only from successes, but also from mistakes.
This document has been classified restricted until examination by the
Committee of Ministers.
Chair: Sonja Snacken (Belgium); members : Marta Ferrer Puig (Spain) ;
Antanas Jatkevicius (Lithuania) ; Irene Koeck (Austria) ; Natalya Khutorskaya
(Russian Federation) ; Roger McGarva (UK) ; Pavel Stern (Czech Republic) ;
Riccardo Turrini Vita (Italy) ; André Vallotton (Switzerland); scientific
experts : Robert Canton (UK) ; Anton van Kalmthout (the Netherlands) ;
observers : Thomas Ljungquist (European Commission) ; Leo Tigges (CEP)