Unlocking Modernisation: Challenges for Criminal Justice Agencies

Evelyn Woodland
May 20, 2024

In the run-up to Modernising Criminal Justice 2024, we’ve asked our expert speakers to share their thoughts on the challenges to modernisation in the sector. Speakers were asked, "What do you perceive as the most significant challenges currently facing the criminal justice sector in its journey towards modernisation?"

Simi O’Neil, Head of Probation Inspection Programme, HM Inspectorate of Probation

The service is not an attractive place for recruiting people, pay is not competitive and many staff describe burn out and difficulty coping, There are many dedicated staff who want to do a good job, but the workforce is new and there are high levels of leaning and development that the service is not equipped to respond to. 

Rob-Apr-11-2024-01-41-54-1102-PMRob Marsh, Probation Officer at HMPPS

The challenge currently is both one of resources and cultural change. The probation service has a wealth of well trained and capable staff desperate to deliver positive outcomes whilst battling well publicised resource challenges. The programme of training new probation officers should be commended, but it will take time and I think we now need to hear the voice of lived experience and employ those who have been through the system where they can add value. They are the experts in their journey and need to be listened to and their views taken seriously and respected. With regard to culture, we need to accept that professionals alone will not solve this issue, so seeking  innovative solutions to complex problems will ultimately be needed in the long term, for example consulting those with lived experience on new developments to test their relevance and application, which will in my view, finally provide the opportunity enable the sector to be fit for purpose.

Sid Sid Singh, Co-Founder of The Growth App

The greatest challenges at present is the lack of resources and speed of innovation and the reason for these two lie primarily on two factors, the priority of funding crucial resources and the risk evaluations that hamper growth.
Add to it the political climate and concern about negative media rhetoric and we have a system that is simply falling behind.
There are some Prison Governors and Probation centres that are more progressive than others and some of this comes down to people, there are also so many organisations that do not get a seat at the table because they are all fighting to be on a framework or find funding from the same providers and grants.
Modernisation can only take place when there is time to consider, currently Prisons are
operating at full capacity and probation is dealing with more people than ever before.

Kam-3 Kam Stevens, Co-Founder of The Growth App

Change can be uncomfortable, with new and innovative solutions being developed by innovative and agile smaller companies,I believe the biggest hurdle is bureaucracy and a willingness to take a different approach . The blame culture within the sector causes resistance and stagnation with solutions resulting in barriers to entry.

Dr Sarah Lewis (2) Dr Sarah Lewis, Director at Penal Reform Solutions

Catch up or get left behind

We support people on long term sentences and a recurring theme upon release is them saying to me “I need to catch up, Sar, I am being left behind.”  Witnessing friends and family thriving on the outside, with careers, families, and lives they built, is a punch to the stomach for someone who has missed years of their life in a cell.

I believe this is the biggest challenge for us right now, in respect to modernisation.   I do a lot of international work and people are streets ahead, embracing bold, humane approaches. They're focusing on rehabilitation, fostering positive prison cultures, and harnessing technology for efficiency and well-being and releasing the pressures that affect us globally across prisons, in a sustainable way.  Look at the Rescaled project, the Norwegian import model, Singapore’s captain of lives, to name but a few.

Returning to our people leaving prison, the advice I give them is to get a plan, set the pace, ask for help, and know we are with you.  There are hundreds of wonderful organisations in our Criminal Justice space ready to help.  Let’s make a plan, work together to achieve something pioneering. Let's not become that country that leaves its people behind. 

Join us for Modernising Criminal Justice 2024 on the 6th of June at the QEII Conference Centre in London, to hear further discussions on the future of probation alongside other key topics and the latest technological advances in the field.

New call-to-action