Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
AWARD WINNER 2013-14: Peter is a Probation Officer with Merseyside Probation. He receives his Award for his work with offenders, especially those with complex needs, over more than 30 years in the field, and specifically for his work at HMP Liverpool in the 14 years he has spent there. He brings dedication, skill and compassion to all aspects of his role, and passionately believes that, with the right support, all offenders have the capacity to change their lives for the better.
[Peter Lock gives his account of the work for which he won his Award]
My award was in recognition of 30 years work in Probation. Alongside contributing to new and innovative projects, my main strength has been an ability to build trusting relationships and to motivate people to make positive changes in their lives.
For this exercise I want to focus on three consecutive posts I held in different multi disciplinary settings, located within different agencies, which offered different opportunities and challenges in maintaining the values of the Probation Service and developing my individual practice. Prior to taking up the first of these posts my experience had consisted of a 15 month Community Service Volunteer placement at an Intermediate Treatment centre in Stockport (working with young offenders) followed by two years working as an Assistant Warden in a Probation and Bail hostel in Warrington. After completing my probation training I worked in a busy generic team for two years before moving to a group work team for a further two years. This experience had given me a broad base of skills, and the ability to work both as part of a team and on my own initiative.
My next move was into a new project, the establishment of a Youth Justice Team in Knowsley following the implementation of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. The team was located within Social Services, and was a new departure in that prior to this the Probation Service in Merseyside had not been responsible for the supervision of those under the age of eighteen. The team was made up largely of workers previously employed in delivering the Intermediate Treatment supervised activities programme or in residential settings, so a key part of my role lay in developing the preparation of reports and the interaction with the Youth Court.
Although relationships with colleagues in the team were generally positive, I was seen as representing the “bad cop” role, coming as I did from what was viewed as a more enforcement based service. My next post, a secondment to HMP Liverpool, cast me very much in the “good cop” role. In the early nineties the Probation role in prisons was fairly ill defined and the team I joined was devising ways to respond to the changes included in the 1991 Act which meant all prisoners serving 12 months or over would be subject to statutory supervision – previously prisoners had had to apply for parole in order to be considered for supervision by the service. Probation Officers were viewed by some prison staff as irrelevant and were seen as coming from a welfare perspective, or worse we were seen as “do gooders”.
The next post I took up took me back into the “bad cop” role as one of two Probation Officers involved in the Liverpool Drug Treatment and Testing Order pilot established under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. This was a criminal justice led initiative bringing together probation, health and various drug projects in an effort to target resources on long term, treatment resistant drug misusers. This represented a departure in that it treated drug misuse as a criminal justice, rather than a health problem. It represented the first time that drug treatment initiatives came with the price tag that failure to comply could lead to a return to court for resentencing. The responsibility for enforcement rested with the “bad cops” from the probation service.
[The following article appeared in issue 6 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]
Probation Officer Peter Lock has received a Butler Trust Award for his work on the Public Protection Unit at HMP Liverpool with difficult, challenging and dangerous offenders.
Working in a fast-paced and pressured environment, Peter deals personally with 20-30 cases, including the most difficult and complex people that seem resistant to positive change. Many of these offenders are based within the vulnerable offenders unit, and some suffer mental illness or personality disorders. Peter’s role involves him focusing on Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA), ensuring that risks are managed before release. Through developing strong links with the ‘Resettle’ project in the community, Peter also coordinates the difficult work of helping offenders to readjust after their release.
‘Peter not only ensures all risks are identified, investigated, and effectively prepared and planned for release, he more than anyone else understands the risks that originate from a human being,’ says Head of the Offender Management Unit, Bill Gallon. ‘He never loses sight of this essential point.’
It is his work with high risk, public protection cases that has earned particular admiration from colleagues, many of whom have benefited from his risk assessment training. He has been central to developing the enhanced case review panel, meeting every week with healthcare and prison colleagues to case manage the most complex offenders, making sure they have proper care mapping to reduce their risk in custody and help prepare them for release. It is his genuine interest and concern that makes him so effective in working with difficult offenders, say colleagues.
Comments from those Peter has helped demonstrate the role he has played in transforming their lives. ‘You gave me the start without which I do not know what I would have done to sort myself out,’ said one ex-offender, while another said: ‘You believed in me and helped me believe in myself.’
For Peter the mission is a straightforward one – encouraging people not to feel written off, but to believe that they have the capacity for positive change.
‘I have always been aware of the need to accept failure on the part of offenders, and not to take cases personally,’ he says. ‘I will always encourage a person to try again in their efforts to change, and to use the experience of previous, unsuccessful attempts to strengthen their resolve.’
For more information: contact HMP Liverpool