The Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) has a very clear aim, which is 'changing lives for safer communities'. This week, as we launch our corporate plan 2014-17, we spell out exactly how we aim to change lives for safer communities throughout Northern Ireland.
PBNI is a non-departmental public body that employs approximately 400 staff and supervises 4,594 offenders. It is the lead organisation in helping to rehabilitate and resettle offenders here. We are the organisation that supervises the largest number of offenders in the community.
Probation officers are social work-trained and use this training to provide services at all stages of the criminal justice process: at court, in custody and in the community and with victims of crime.
Committing a crime is always a choice. That's why we in probation are not about excuses, or justifications.
We are about helping offenders see that they have different choices. We are about holding them accountable if they make the wrong choices.
Through this plan, the themes of developing probation practice, engaging with communities, working effectively and efficiently, providing rehabilitation through collaborative working and partnership, and contributing to criminal justice strategy and policy, provide the framework for PBNI to help contribute to community safety.
Within the corporate plan, we want to do more than give you the facts and figures about PBNI. We want to tell the story of probation. We want to explain how we put it in practice – 'changing lives for safer communities'.
That is why we have a section called 'real life stories'. The real life stories give those who come into contact with probation – be they offenders, victims, staff, volunteer mentors or community beneficiaries – an opportunity to tell their story and relay their experience of working with probation. It is clear from those stories that probation works. We now want to build on that work.
Importantly, we want to continue changing lives for safer communities.
Vilma Patterson is chairman of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland