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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.

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