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Volney defends split in Probation Department
Opposition MP Alicia Hospedales (Arouca/Maloney) has criticised Justice Minister Herbert Volney for recent developments in which responsibility for the Probation Department has been removed from the court and placed under the Ministry of the People and Social Development.
Hospedales said Volney had “emasculated” the Probation Department. She made the claim in a statement issued on Thursday. She is a former minister in the Social Development Ministry. “This move has resulted in the Probation Department having responsibility for family matters only, resulting in the responsibility of probation officers being no different to that of a social worker assigned to the National Family Services Department,” she said.
Hospedales said Volney had “failed to realise that family and criminal matters are intertwined.” “How can he remove the main function these workers were hired for?” she asked. “What is even more ludicrous is Minister Volney’s decision to create an offender management division, giving the responsibility for criminal matters to contract workers, most of whom will not have the qualifications, experience, knowledge of their responsibility before the court and the preparation of reports for the court,” Hospedales said.
Hospedales said Volney’s decision to create an offender management division was doomed to fail because many of the people who will be assigned to that division would not have the “institutional memory” required. “One can also predict the backlogs in reports that will occur, the problems that will arise with the reports and the many blunders that can occur because experience will be severely lacking by many of the contract workers who will be assigned to Minister Volney’s proposed Offender Management Division,” the statement said.
Hospedales said she did not think Volney understood how complex and intricate the work of the probation officer was. “If he did, he would not have made such a decision in haste,” she said. “Minister Volney needs to take a critical look at the decision that he has made since it can severely impact the probationers and severely cripple the court system in it’s mandate to issue probation and community service orders,” she said.
However, in responding to Hospedales’ comments, Volney said the criminal court aspects of the Probation Department of the Ministry of Justice will be taken over by the Offender Management Unit Division of the ministry. He said that policy change was made by the PP Government.
The other portfolio of the Probation Department, which relates to family law and other civil law issues, will remain in the Probation Division of the Ministry of the People and Social Development. Volney said the development “was a positive move because they will be able to work in sync with all the aspects of offender management as they relate to electronic monitoring and early release, parole and other aspects of restorative justice.” Volney said anyone who says the developments are not positive “is afraid of change.”
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