Since his conviction, Len has been subject to supervision by probation. So far, his experiences have been quite positive and his probation officers have proved to be a great source of help to him; Len believes this is, in part, due to his willingness to be open and honest with them.
My offence carries the worst stigma out of most of them because it’s a sexual offence; not contact related but for downloading illegal content which is unfortunately becoming an increasingly common offence these days.
I’m coming up to 3 years sober from drugs, alcohol and porn and it’s safe to say that I’m a law abiding citizen and have learned a very hard lesson from my mistakes. My views will be more closely related to those who have a sexual offence and subject to notification requirements.
I’ve learnt several things when dealing with probation but rule number one is definitely ….. DON’T MESS WITH THEM.
You’ll be spending a lot of time with these people so it’s best to be brutally honest at all times. The two probation officers I’ve had are well meaning, decent people whose interest is in seeing me progress whilst keeping me accountable for my actions. Their primary role is prevention of crime but they’ve also got a vested interest in encouraging positive developments in your life. Most want you to succeed, but a lot of that is down to you and how willing you are to help them help you.
Even before I attended my first probation meeting, I’d sat down and wrote a long essay about how I got into my situation. This helped to keep things consistent and has been really useful when my probation officer has changed.
It’s likely that you’ll learn new things that you didn’t know or realise when you initially wrote your story. However being honest will help probation identify and discuss with you any suitable courses of action, i.e. are drugs a problem? or do you have problems socialising, is there any unresolved trauma in your life that needs to be dealt with etc.
I’d always recommend that you keep probation up to date with things that are going on in your life or any time constraints you have, for example if your appointment is at 5pm and you’re at work and can’t get there on time, then tell them as soon as possible so your appointment can be rearranged. Officers can be flexible but they’ll appreciate you giving them plenty of notice. If you fail to attend but don’t tell them until the following day, that wouldn’t go down well and unless you have a really good, genuine reason it could go down as as breach. Being hospitalised is a genuine reason for not physically being able to attend and can be checked out. However, going on a bender and not turning up because you’re hungover isn’t.
Probation staff aren’t trained psychologists or experts in criminal law, you may end up educating them on a few things but they’ll twig if you’re being obstructive, defensive or trying to change the subject all the time so always be open and upfront.
Make sure you tell them about any successes you have or anything you’ve done which is constructive, even if it’s as mundane as painting your ceiling or going out for a long walk.
If you’re worried about something tell them. This could be a problem you’re facing or difficulties in dealing with people, threats you might receive or harassment etc. If they don’t know they can’t help. If it is something very serious they have a duty to report it, such as your life being in danger.
If there’s something you’re unsure about, like whether or not to apply for a particular job, ask them about it. It’s always a good idea to get a bit of common sense guidance before you go ahead and do something.
Maybe I’ve been lucky with the probation officers I’ve had but from the start my intention was to forge a good relationship with them. By being upfront and honest I’m sure I never gave them any cause for concern which could have been the reason why they’re so decent to me.
By Len (name changed to protect identity)
A comment from Unlock
Len seems to have a good relationship with his probation officer and this is something we would always encourage. If you’re truthful and sincere, probation are more likely to view you as low risk which ultimately helps when making any type of request to them, for example working in certain jobs, travelling abroad etc.
There are times however when officers fail to do something they should do, make unjustified decisions or take inappropriate action. If this happens then it may be that the only option open to you would be to make a formal complaint.