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Sunday, 27 March 2016

Post 12 - 'Risk' Reduction or Not?

The word 'risk' has now become such a regular feature in everything we read, hear and see on the various forms of media which now influence almost every area of modern life. Constantly phrases are used such as "We have to weigh up the risks"..."What are the risks involved?"..."How risky is it?"..."What's our exposure?"..."Can we stand the heat?"..."What are the consequences?"..."What are the outcomes?"..."Have we done a costs benefit analysis?..."What's the ROI?"...etc etc. Risk, something which is pre-eminent throughout so many areas of life today the world over.  Depending where you were fortunate enough (or not as the case may be) to be born or to live, the generic everyday risks you face on a daily basis are or course different. In Europe even a school trip = risk assessment, the relevant HSE are now integrated into every area of European life and we are safeguarded by this statutory factor to the extent that now we probably never give it a second thought.  But 'risk' comes in many forms and not all are tangible or overt, visible therefore manageable, some risks are subtle and engage with us without us even being aware of it as 'risk' takes on many guises which on the surface appear socially acceptable and in fact expected and normal.

It seems so many people and organisations have a view, they readily voice their views and in some cases they are strong influencers of others and their perception and understanding of risks to the point that decisions are made which effect the lives of many and yet most attach the decision to the front line 'Face Person' of the decision.  However the differential in the ability to think critically before influencing is not necessarily something given much weight when these people are put in a position of influence.  So who are the true 'influencers'?  Apart from the obvious Marketing, Media, Religion, Schools and Parenting influences, there are other groups which until recently in my view have been overlooked because if you think about it, it may not be that they are in fact individuals either.

An example on the most serious scale of an individual influencer is perhaps whoever is President of the United States at any given time?  Perhaps even a Prime Minister voted in with a landslide, loved by everyone at the time, who all prospered under his government, but then a decision is made which later appears in hindsight to have been flawed or motivated by other factors than those promoted at the time, if the press and pressure groups are to be believed.  In my personal view only a moron could think such decisions are made alone or with a personal motive in mind, surely they are made on the basis of multiple full and complete risk assessments of the situation and information available and current at the time. A risk assessment is almost never carried out by the decision maker, almost never carried out by the 'Face Person', it is usually done by 'experts' in their respective fields, experts who when the shit hits the fan do not have to stand up and explain their thinking process or their rationale for the decision, as the perception perpetuated by the mass media is of course the 'Face Person'' is the person responsible, ergo they are culpable.  In many spheres of operation such as Politics, the Military or a PLC such an outcome can be fatal as the ingredients of the outcome are obvious to the general public.
"So we'll blame you if that's OK?"
But what of situations where that is not the case, where there is such a myriad of obstacles to establishing who was behind the analysis which gave rise to the final decision, where does that responsibility lie?  What of the Life Sentenced Prisoners who are released (a Killer who is released from Prison and Kills again, or the Multiple Rapist who is released and Rapes again) surely it is inadequate to suggest these are calculated risk decisions taken by an "independent" Parole Board, which was the explanation given on every occasion when there is a failing, who were the 'influencers' and what is their culpability?  In response people suggest we need to leave the EU and abandon the ECHR as it is misused to defend the rights of prisoners and after all they have forgone their "rights" when they broke the law haven't they?  
But the examples above are not representative of people who truly encountered change within themselves, they did not integrate any learning, they did not encounter true remorse, shame or guilt for their actions previously, they simply learnt what they needed to say at any given moment, they manipulated those they had contact with on a daily basis. Inadequately trained and educated in the necessary skills to identify and recognise traits, to the extent that by the time they appeared before the Parole Board reports had been written suggesting these people had changed. In fact they were clearly extremely dangerous men, and in the case of one of those men the authorities were warned years in advance, I know this because I warned them about him and what the future would bring were he progressed, but at the time I was ignored.
The fact is the American and UK prison systems are broken, and no amount of building new prisons to house ever increasing numbers or internal reconstruction is going to change that, because reducing offending rates whatever country we are talking about, is all about people, it's about people engaging with people.  So locking people up for extended periods with others who are all 'doing time' warehoused with little or no intellectual stimulation is simply the blind leading the blind.  You can worry about drug problems in prisons, or lack of education or even the levels of violence, but unless you connect the right people with the 'right' people, you will only effect superficial change and certainly not make any impact on serious crime rates (unless of course that is your intention). No one is born bad. With the exception of the criminally insane or those who 'retire' having made their fortune with their ill gotten gains, criminals change because they want to change. They change because they choose to change, they reach a point where they register the consequences of their actions and decisions. They encounter realisation of the impact they have had on others, they feel the pain they have caused through their actions, they understand and comprehend they have brought hurt and chaos into the lives of many and as a result they are on a road to nowhere.
The Choice to Change is Open to All

They encounter genuine remorse and guilt, shame combined with resolve to never create victims again. Sometimes that realisation is brought about through introspection and self analyses, sometimes through an event, a powerful experience or the guidance and support of another with greater insight and  knowledge of the issues at hand. One thing is absolute, and it is that the decision to truly change their lives is NEVER chosen by a criminal because they have been broken or coerced through an institutional attitude or a political policy.

In my view cutting front line Probation Officer staffing levels is a mistake. Cutting Prison Officer staffing levels is a mistake. Building huge prisons to house greater numbers of criminals is a mistake. Surely it is apparent a refined recruitment process needs to be implemented, and pay a decent salary for educated staff with the right skill sets. Obviously you will not get certain invested parties saying that because if the staff inside have the skills then those parties become redundant. However surely if you are going to have hidden parties "influencing" decision makers then you have to ensure they are the right people with the right tools equipped to do so and not simply doing so because that's how we do it. The world penal community of 'experts' agree that Norway is the world leader in rehabilitation, so why are we ignoring them, are we so arrogant or corrupt that we believe only we know better in everything? Whilst in the meantime recidivism just is, and will remain a facet of broken Criminal Justice Systems the world over while their communities suffer and the invested parties become wealthier as the industry of prisons and incarceration continues to grow and expand? So really we are confronted with unknown risks daily by the mere fact that we do not invest in a proven theory, we prefer to keep gambling and experimenting because we know better?

That is corruption in it's purest form.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Post 11 - Is The Concept of Corruption Corrupt?

Most of us when we hear the word corruption think of 'backhanders', something given or promised in order to improperly influence a person's conduct or decision, usually a gift or money. However we would be wrong if we thought that is all it's about. Corruption is a very strange phenomenon in many ways, not in the sense that is exists but more in that when identified, quite often rather than being exposed others are sucked in by definition of the fact they do not expose or disclose, that by omission and virtue of their knowledge they too are corrupted;  Many would say to be corrupt you do not have to receive a personal 'gain'. Some would say systems and processes are corrupt not people, that people are merely human and therefore frail and vulnerable to an existing circumstance, ie there is no such thing as the 'Rotten Apple' syndrome, but if so what of morality and personal responsibilities, free will and choice? 

"The One Bad Apple Theory"
One of the problems with the rotten apple theory is for that theory to be true there must only be single parties independent of each other who are all about themselves, so greed and personal gain. However for an individual person to be considered corrupt there clearly has to be a manipulation or divergence of what is proper or correct, in other words exploitation to gain. That said we are then confronted with those within processes, systems or organisations who are deemed corrupt, are they rotten apples or is it worse the tree is infected, or even worse than that is the whole orchard diseased, and if so does that mean the surrounding soil is contaminated, and if so what of the farmer tending the soil, are they then corrupt? It does seem that there appears to be some dissent regarding levels of corruption, the implication being there are different types and that some are acceptable?  

Detectives who fabricate evidence and logs to give the impression to a jury and the courts that fingerprints and items which came into their possession 4 months after a crime was committed were found at the scene of the crime 4 months earlier? Involves more than one party, collusion possibly systemic at the time as the police called it 'dressing the cake', so is that corruption? My personal view is yes, and a divisional commander of the metropolitan police agreed and apologised in person to the criminal in the presence of the solicitor, however only after 6 years of 'chasing' by letter, after CIB1 and CIB2 had been disbanded, and after the offending police officers had retired and after the criminal agreed in writing they would not seek an appeal. Some may even say in addition to the act the conditions in which the apology was offered and came about were also corrupt? In such circumstances the detectives can retire and go on to lead a productive life, earning a living with his CV intact and portray a facade of decency to any and all who enquire, despite the fact they are as much criminal as the people they have imprisoned throughout their careers. "Shocked by the extent of corruption within its ranks, Scotland Yard set up a new anti-corruption unit in the early 1990s. Its members had to operate in conditions of unprecedented secrecy and they became known as the 'Ghost Squad'. Bent Detectives really did believe they were untouchable: they stole cash and property, fitted-up innocent people and sold secret information to cripple court cases. Many of them are now in jail or awaiting trial but the battle against corruption is not over.  Only now can the story of the 'Ghost Squad' be revealed. Award-winning BBC home affairs correspondent Graeme McLagan had followed the investigation since the beginning. He has interviewed undercover officers and many of the corrupt officers they have exposed".
"No Way, Not Us"
What about the prison officer who accepts cash/goods/benefits to smuggle items into prisons or make life easier for a prisoner inside their prison? What about the same prison officer committing the same acts but out of fear of threat to himself or his family but chooses not to report events?  What about their peers who are aware but say or do nothing?  The Prison Officer who leaves the service and in preparation for when he does takes copies of the OASys software, internal prison service training and guidance manuals, confidential material relating to prisoners. People within administration or management positions who manipulate and adjust schedules or worse 'lose' paperwork in order to delay proceedings to benefit their friends? The person in power over a vulnerable person in their care who knowingly writes a false report for example a social worker or probation officer with a theory 'adjust' the history of their client to fit their errant theories and when discovered are simply removed from the case, is this corruption?  The manager of those persons who simply sign off a report giving the impression they have read and agree with the report but the reality is they read nothing they are simply protecting one of their own.

The taxi driver who agrees to take you somewhere for cash in his pocket as oppose to on the meter, or the Maitre D' who accepts money to seat you at a good table or 'bump' another when the restaurant is full, both deprive their employer of income? What about the people who make these requests of those in a position to assist who then succumb; Is this corruption? The professor who uses research from their students or interns to further themselves, their research or publish, all without any accreditation or recognition to the contributors. Many would say this is life, it is part and parcel of the world we live in, where is the line? Who draws the line and just because you drew it does that give you the right to cross it or redefine it at will, and if you do and are discovered, what then?

If as many believe corruption just 'is' and some say it appears NOMS do because they refuse FOI's on the subject and don't seem to want to invest in real systems which will catch corrupt or violent staff, what is the answer?  They don't want to bring in enhanced recruitment processes which include tools such as Psychometric testing, when one would say you can never have too much information, in particular about someone who was volunteering to hold power and control over vulnerable people.

"Your In, Sorry Your Out"
There are psychological factors at play in all areas or incarceration, and whether research showed a drop or not in corruption or violence, the fact that a person was wearing a camera system being monitored externally and was synchronised with a GPS system with 'live' systems at all times whilst they were inside their respective institution; in my humble view would certainly have very obvious effects on their demeanour and outcomes regarding spurious allegations, complaints etc.  So the question remains why NOMS are not entertaining the idea as a realistic proposal and possible solution, and is the fact that they are not doing so, in itself corrupt?  A ten year telephone contract negotiated in the midst of a recession was not corrupt, staff stealing food is not corrupt, staff receiving benefits such as sailing trips or beneficial loan rates is not corrupt, free hanging baskets of plants from prison gardens is not corrupt, the list goes on and on to the extent you have to wonder about motivation.  You cannot be involved with this sector and not know or have heard about what happens.  So how can so many, so called respectable people and organisations, carry on day in day out making the same noises, taking home their salaries, quaffing copious amounts of wine and food, pontificating over dinner lunch or at an event, when the truth is they all appear to be a sham.  By definition then where does the corruption begin? Where does it lead? Is it in fact corrupt as it appears to be the 'norm' and no one seems to want to stand up and take it on?

Why is that?

NOMS the Corruption Prevention Unit
01527 551229.