Kathryn has an LLB (Scots) Law from the University of Dundee, an MA Criminal Justice Studies from the University of Leeds and a BA Community Justice Studies from the University of Portsmouth. She has a split role, working as a court officer and an offender manager for Greater Manchester Probation Trust.
During the final year of my law degree, I completed work experience as a criminal defence solicitor. Although I found this work interesting, I did not feel like I was making a huge difference to the offender's life. As I was still unsure of my career plans, I studied for an MA Criminal Justice Studies, during which I learned about the Probation Service. It sparked my interest because I felt I could be an active part of helping offenders to change; a change that would have an impact not only on the victim but also on the whole of their community.
Upon graduation, I worked first as a prisoner custody officer and then as an arrest referral treatment worker, gaining valuable experience before applying for, and successfully completing, a probation service traineeship with the Greater Manchester Probation Trust .
I don't really have a typical work day. As offenders can be unpredictable and lead chaotic lifestyles, I have to be responsive to their individual circumstances and, if required, re-assess the level of risk they pose to others. I have to think fast and make crucial decisions which impact directly upon the offender, the victim and the public. Thankfully, I work in an excellent team who support me during those stressful times.
I have a split role, which requires excellent time management skills. As a court officer, I prepare court reports which assist magistrates and Crown Court judges in reaching their sentencing judgements. This assessment identifies whether or not an offender can be managed in the community by the Probation Service, based on the risk they pose to the public. It also identifies the most appropriate intervention that will most likely reduce their risk of re-offending.
As an offender manager, I hold a case load where I am responsible for the management of offenders on community orders or on licence (on release from prison). My primary role is to protect the public and this is achieved by risk management, challenging problem behaviours, but also with a focus upon rehabilitation. The latter is achieved by supporting the offender to make positive changes to his or her lifestyle, for example, through gaining employment and stable accommodation, and by getting them to take responsibility for the offence.
Since qualifying as a probation officer, I have developed as a practitioner by undertaking regular training and receiving support from more experienced colleagues and management supervision. My long-term ambition is to return to academia to undertake research and lecture in criminal justice studies and criminology.
What I find particularly rewarding about my job is protecting the public and victims from further crimes. I am responsible for the risk assessment of each offender on my case load and managing this risk effectively. This can mean regular liaison with partnership agencies such as Children's Services and drug and alcohol treatment agencies. I am always meeting new professionals and this keeps the work I do varied. I know that the work I do does make a difference to the local community and this in itself is highly motivating. It is also rewarding to support offenders to change, however small that change may be.
The most demanding area of my job is working with society's most dangerous and prolific offenders. This involves exploring the problem behaviour with the individual and challenging the frequently entrenched attitudes and beliefs that led to the offence. I have been subject to aggressive behaviours by offenders and this experience was stressful, unpleasant and intimidating. However, I would still choose to be a probation officer because I can and do make a difference to the offender, victims and society.
I would advise anyone who is looking to enter this profession to get some form of experience (voluntary or paid) of working with offenders or vulnerable and marginalised groups in society. This could be done through your local drug and alcohol agency, the Prince's Trust or, ideally, the Probation Service as a volunteer or a probation service officer.
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