THREE or four generations of some families in Hucknall had gone through life without a job, disclosed Mark Taylor, of the Probation Service, in a talk at the October meeting of the town’s Men’s Probus Club.
He added: “Unemployment is a key pressure in causing people to re-offend, and there is no getting away from that.”
Mr Taylor said times had changed from the ‘conveyor-belt’ days of young people being able to take up apprenticeships and get jobs at the local pit or factory. The dislocation of that pattern had given rise to social problems.
The speaker said probation officers played a part in trying to find work for people who had committed offences and asking employers to give them a chance.
He also pointed out that teenagers were no longer able to go through the ‘rite of passage’ which was formerly offered by National Service.
Mr Taylor mentioned the controversial step of offenders having to wear orange jackets when they did unpaid work in what was now known as community payback.
He said fears of vigilante action, such as people shouting abuse at the offenders while passing in cars, had not been realised.
“It obviously does not go down well with the offenders to wear this badge of shame but the majority just get on with the jobs they have been given to do,” added Mr Taylor.
He stressed that the work of probation officers was by no means confined to being seen in courts and supervising people who had been given a court order.
The officers also worked closely with the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and councils, plus health and childcare organisations. The Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Probation Trust was one of 35 across England and Wales and they had contracts with Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke.
Mr Taylor said each probation officer had a caseload of 50 or 60 offenders against their names.
He denied that probation was a ‘soft option’ in dealing with offenders. “We don’t take it as read what offenders tell us,” he said. “We consult other agencies as well about a defendant before producing our reports to the court.”
The speaker said he had dealt with all manner of offending during his 30 years in the service. But what worried him most was domestic violence, especially where the victim continued to live with the offender.
He told the club a disturbing trend was that some soldiers, perhaps suffering from combat stress and shellshock, were getting into trouble.
Mr Taylor emphasised that offenders sent to the Astral Grove probation hostel in Hucknall could have as many as 12 conditions attached to their licence. If they breached any of these, they would find themselves back before the court.