This was all the more striking in that, despite the almost universal existence of policies that required staff to move around between specialist functions and generic field teams, the application of the policies was totally erratic. This did not only apply to prison work. Person A would be deployed to work at the Crown Courts. They would win the confidence of judges whilst being regarded with scepticism by the Probation staff and managers, and as a result, for a quiet life perhaps, or because
managers realised that person A would not function effectively in any other post, he or she would be left alone well beyond the timescales of any staff movement policies. Person B would be enthusiastic about prison work and develop a very critical view of field work in the community from what they saw in the prisons, and again they would be left alone to avoid having to move a reluctant field officer by direction into prison.
From time to time, a crisis would force managers to get the policy out, dust it down and try to apply it! Different Probation Services faced this problem to different degrees because the geographical location of prisons was very unevenly spread across the country. My own service, a small one, had to staff three prisons – this involved two senior officer posts alongside I think six other senior posts. In
these circumstances, we could all see that we would have to take our turn in prison.
There is no doubt that when you worked in a community based team, you thought of prisons as backwaters. All the key professional discussions related to work in the community and although there were some enthusiastic voices about prison work, they seemed to operate in a somewhat marginal part of the Service.
Such was the context when I was deployed to work at Grendon and Springhill Prisons. To this in my case, there were also the emotions involved in leaving behind my first team as a manager, a team that I had forged through some very painful and stressful early years to reach a point at which we all enjoyed working together. I was having to hand the leadership of my team over to a young officer who had recently been promoted but for whom I had little respect and who for a number of reasons
was disliked by many of my team.