COMMENDEE 2017-18: In a career in probation spanning a remarkable 45 years, Chris Munn has helped lead innovative practice across several areas, including female offenders and sexual and violent offenders, as well as veterans and foreign nationals. It is a tribute to her many qualities – she is summed up as a ‘stalwart’ – that much of that practice is still discernible, and still changing lives.
[Summary of original nomination and supporting materials submitted to the Trust]
The list of words and phrases that jump out from Chris Munn’s nomination reflect many features of current practice, much of which has either always been at the heart of probation or has been developed over recent decades: structured evidence, sex offenders, female offenders, families, accommodation, partnerships, and networks. To these can be added, as initial nominator and Local Butler Trust Champion Jon Nason, NPS’ Head of Plymouth, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, says of Chris: “dedication, commitment, hard work and compassion.”
In concluding a personal view looking back at four decades in probation, Chris captures the arc of change – and the core unchanging values at its heart – in the probation service:
“Bureaucracy increased as it can do when an organisation develops and has greater controls built in alongside increase in accountability. But the positives far outweighed negatives and the greatest change has been in community links, working together with a range of agencies including the police, and the emphasis on evidential based work in a structure of performance standards. Public protection and impact on victims with risk assessment and management was also far more central to our work.
Looking back to the 70s, the ‘advice, assist and befriend’ of my early days had become conceptualised as public protection, victim work and rehabilitation, but importantly the roots of the service are still there with the same core values and beliefs. We have always had a dedicated staff group who are passionate about the work, with whom it is a pleasure to work with. I can trace our development back to those early days as a continuous evolving process, some bad but much good.”
As Jon implies, much of the detail of this kind of career is difficult to capture in a nomination, but in Chris’ case, he says, “it is the package she brings to the criminal justice sector, which is an example to all of how humanity and professionalism can make a positive difference to so many lives.”
He adds that many of the initiatives Chris has been closely involved with, and in particular those around female offenders, families, and the importance of accommodation, have “stood the test of time”.
Her colleague Jane Richards, a Senior Probation Officer, describes an “infectious enthusiasm for her role”. Angela Cossins, Director of NPS SWSC, praises Chris as “someone who has truly made her mark on the complicated world of probation and how we best manage and rehabilitate some of the most challenging individuals in our society, with success.”
Another colleague, Daniel Monck, also a Senior Probation Officer, calls Chris “knowledgeable, open and generous with her time”, and says:
“She has forgotten more about probation work than I know, and her willingness to use this experience to assist other members of the management team is of great value. I have certainly benefited from this significantly over the last five years. I have witnessed Chris embrace change and lead her team through a challenging period whilst keeping a smile on her face. I’d say that her ability to keep smiling is a really top quality.”
Chris herself is not resting on her laurels, and says she looks forward “to new challenges” and to “stretching herself,” which is a remarkable attitude to still be bringing to her work after such a distinguished and lengthy career in probation.