Services Provided

The Work of the Probation Service

The Probation Service works with other criminal justice agencies to help to reduce crime and create safer communities. Probation staff operate in all the crown and magistrates’ courts, in the community and in prisons.

In the Courts

We provide reports for judges and magistrates, analysing offenders’ motivation and offending patterns, to enable the courts to impose the most suitable sentences. Court Orders are enforced and those offenders who do not comply are brought back to court for further consideration. Offenders who do not keep to the terms of their early release licences are returned to prison.


We rehabilitate offenders by working with them in a number of ways aimed at stopping them reoffending. We require them to take part in programmes which make them examine and understand their behaviour and the impact it has on victims, and then teach them how to make important changes. We make them do worthwhile unpaid work in their communities. We provide support to help them to beat alcohol and drug addiction. We provide training to help them to find jobs. Some sentences can be combinations of these and other elements.

Victim Concerns

We also work with the victims of serious violent and sexual crimes by providing them with information about offenders’ prison release arrangements, and pass to the prison service any concerns they have.

Those Posing Serious Risk

Through the multi-agency public protection arrangements, we work with the police and other non-criminal justice agencies to handle the small numbers of individuals in the community who pose a serious risk to identifiable victims or to the public generally.

Thorough methods

Offender Assessment methods are thorough and comprehensive. Probation’s special expertise in risk assessment is fundamental to success in managing difficult cases.

Joining with others against crime

We are members of the local community safety partnerships – groupings of key statutory and voluntary agencies and other local enterprises which aim to make localities safer.

Our membership of Local Criminal Justice Boards, including chief officers from the police, probation, courts, the Crown Prosecution Service, Youth Offending Service and the prisons, play a vital role in our joint work to reduce crime and bring more offenders to justice.

Diversity offers strength

Our capacity to nurture and promote the concept of “diversity” in our communities is a priority in all 42 Probation Areas in England and Wales. Inclusiveness, equality and fairness are required to ensure simple justice. Nationally and locally the Probation Service is proactively promoting a culture in which diversity is valued and equality of opportunity is a reality for both staff and offenders.

Our success in substantiating such a commitment to issues such as:

  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Religious Tolerance
  • Disability
  • Gender Issues and
  • Sexual Orientation

depends to an extent on both national policies and local priorities. The Home Secretary and the Director General have signalled very clearly our commitment to increasing the proportion of ethnic minority staff we employ and ensuring that new local Probation Boards, in their composition, reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.

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Common problems to deal with – a picture

At any one time, probation staff are supervising more than 7000 offenders.

Analysis of presenting problems in a sample of cases from the East of England showed that:

  • Drugs and alcohol problems figure heavily – up to 64%
  • Unemployment is another important issue – up to 43%
  • Financial problems were mentioned in 36% of cases
  • 28% presented with accommodation problems

Supervision plans made soon after sentence will incorporate ways of dealing with these issues, which are usually discovered at the Pre-Sentence Report stage. Other concerns will arise during supervision, and plans for managing them will be included by the Case Manager in the regular reviews of progress.


The work of the 42 Probation Areas is overseen by local Probation Boards, who together with operational Chief Officers are responsible to the Home Secretary through the National Probation Directorate.