The Guardian has a long and honorable tradition of running preposterous stories on April 1st; this year, one seems to have escaped and appeared a day early. Apparently Sodexo, which has been contracted in England and Wales to provide probation services, intends to replace probation officers with automated check-ins so that offenders can report for supervision without making contact with a human being.
Long ago, probation officer Geoffrey Parkinson shocked some of his readers by suggesting that the thing to do with his old lags was to give them 50p to go away, and then to ask “was there anything else you wanted?” But that was in the days when people thought probation officers were supposed to be doing helpful things like advising, assisting and befriending their clients. (I should translate that for anyone who’s not as long in the tooth as I am; I mean, of course, nonscripted business processes where human resources interface in supportive coproduction with customers.) In those days, hard as it is to believe, people imagined that probation officers could help to make a difference to the social behaviour of offenders. How quaint that seems now.