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My probation officer is never going to be my friend but I have a better understanding of her job now

Source: Abobe Stock

During the time she was on licence from prison, Sally had a difficult relationship with her probation officer. It’s only with the benefit of hindsight that she’s able to see why probation did things the way they did and how understanding her offending behaviour has made her a better person.

I’m under no illusion that many of you reading this will vehemently disagree with what I say. If I were reading it several years ago I would have too and, I think that’s the point I’m trying to make.

During my last year in prison, I became aware of my probation officer. She’d visited my family home to do an assessment prior to my being allowed home for 3 days every month and she’d filled in the necessary paperwork which allowed me to be released on tag. My partner described her as ‘OK’ when she’d visited him at home but I totally got that she wasn’t going to be our friend and was grateful that she seemed competent and professional.

The day I left prison I met my probation officer in person for the first time. Hilary (not her real name) went through the various conditions of my licence and explained to me that as my conviction related to a work-related offence, I had to seek her approval before accepting any offer of employment and she said I would have to disclose my conviction to an employer even if they didn’t ask me about it. She gave me a form to fill in to

Help identify potential risk factors and any areas of concern.

In my view, the form just highlighted what I knew already – I wasn’t a risk to anybody and getting a job was high on my list of priorities. But to Hilary, the form seemed to be saying something very different – without a job I’d have no money and would be at risk of reoffending.

In total I was on licence for 2 years. I met Hilary regularly (weekly, then two weekly and for the last 6 months I was able to attend monthly) and each meeting I had with her lasted about an hour.

It became clear that we had different views and opinions on practically everything.

  • I wanted to put the past behind me and move on – she wanted to get to the bottom of my offending behaviour.
  • I told her that despite my parents divorcing when I was 5, I’d had an extremely happy childhood and had a good relationship with both parents – she told me that their divorce must have caused me some trauma.
  • I told her that I was coping well with the events of the last few years and had no mental health concerns – she told me I would benefit from counselling.

I’m sure you’re getting the gist of this ‘relationship’.

I was offered several jobs and was never asked if I had a criminal record but, due to the conditions of my licence, I had to disclose and the job offer was immediately revoked. I asked Hilary why, if she thought that I would reoffend if I didn’t have a job, why was she making it so difficult for me to get one. She wasn’t helping me, just putting obstacles in the way.

I lost count of the number of times I moaned and complained to friends and family about her

Bloody woman’s in the wrong job, she should have been a psychotherapist not a probation officer.

I did eventually get a job which Hilary approved of and, on my last supervision session before my licence ended, I was able to tell her that I had just been promoted. I remember being surprised when she congratulated me, shook my hand and told me she was proud of me.

Although my relationship with Hilary wasn’t easy, I never thought about complaining. I just accepted the fact that she had a job to do, even if she did it in a weird way. And, lets not forget, it was my own offending behaviour that had put me in that position.

Looking back at that time now I can see that there were lots of reasons why Hilary did what she did, even though it made little sense to me at the time.

When I left prison I just wanted to put all that stuff behind me and start my life again. I knew that I was mentally strong and I just wanted to carry on as I’d left off before my conviction (albeit without breaking the law). But, Hilary knew better than anyone that you can’t have been convicted and imprisoned without it leaving some mark. I can see now that she was trying to rein me in a bit, help me to take some time to adapt to life after prison and to give some thought to why I did what I did. She wanted me to walk before I ran.

Although I just wanted to concentrate on the future, Hilary wanted me to better understand the past – the triggers and patterns to my offending.

Going through this whole process and coming out of it the other end has definitely made me a better person with more insight in what makes me tick. I’ll admit now that Hilary played a big part in making that happen.

By Sally  (name changed to protect identity)

Useful links

  • Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below.
  • Information – We have practical self-help information on probation.
  • Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions related to probation on our online forum.

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