Rosemary Godwin-Ese is changing the perception of ex-offenders

Having attained a Bachelors and a Masters degree in Criminology as well as professional qualifications and specialised training, Rosemary Godwin-Ese has worked with the National Probation Service for the past four and a half years. She delivers a range of services to ex offenders including regular supervision meetings, specifically designed programmes and management of community sentences. The NPS also provides ex-offenders with training in new skills and assistance in finding employment. In talking with Rosemary, it’s clear that she is passionate about what she does and genuinely cares about the people she works with.

What’s the biggest challenge for someone coming out of prison
Reconnecting with the outside world and, sometimes, with their family. Imagine being away for a number of years in an institutional environment, and taking in all the changes that have happened over that time; not just with your own family but with London in general. It can be overwhelming. So that, as well as having the label of ex-offender, causes a lot of anxiety. We work with people to help them bridge that gap and begin to re-build their lives.

Initially, it’s a matter of finding a suitable place to live if they don’t have any options such as family to help out. I had a recent case where the person had been inside for 9 years and, while his family was supportive, there wasn’t an option for him to live with them. I was able to write to the council on his behalf to request priority housing, as well as advise him of his rights regarding that and other issues. Getting housing in place for those ex-offenders with no alternative is incredibly important as it reduces the chances of re-offending and makes finding employment more likely, so that they have every chance to go on and lead law abiding lives in the future.

How often do you meet with the people you work with?
High risk cases are seen weekly, as a national standard; otherwise, it depends on the risk they pose to the public. The first three months after being released pose the highest risk for re-offending, so that time period is crucially important in terms of what we do and how we build relationships with the people we work with. We have to balance the amount of risk to the public with the person’s needs, so for those first few months we meet once a week and it cascades down as the risk decreases, to every couple or few weeks or so. So it really depends on the individual.

How many people do you deal with on a regular basis?
Caseloads range from 40 to 50 people on an on-going basis, both male and female, and it depends on their individual circumstance as to how often I see them. In the beginning, before someone is released, I meet them in prison for what’s called a Pre Release, where I help them prepare for assessment and begin to build the relationship between myself and the ex-offender. When the assessment is completed a report must be submitted within a certain amount of time, and throughout the process there is obviously paperwork to complete. Once someone is released from probation, there’s a Termination Assessment to be done. So, aside from seeing people, there’s a fair amount of paperwork involved, and it’s important to be organised as well as flexible.

What’s the hardest part of the job?
The pressure – there are a lot of deadlines; it’s just part of the job. When I have someone who doesn’t seem to want to progress their life – but that’s rare in proportion to the amount of people I see – and the sad stories; not just the fact that someone was in prison but how the life they had before that contributed to that happening can be draining.

And the best bit?
Getting to know the people I work with – seeing them as the individuals that they are. Being able to help someone turn their life around, encouraging them and finding ways for them to move forward. My supportive managers as well – a big plus.

What’s a typical day like in terms of meeting with the people you work with?
It depends on the day – sometimes I am doing Pre Releases, other times individuals come to me for their appointments, which can last anything from 15 minutes to an hour depending on what they need. I work around each individual depending on their circumstances; for instance if they are unwell or can’t travel, I go to see them. In terms of what I do when we meet, it’s a lot about being ready to listen. Good communication is really important; helping them to hear themselves as well as me hearing them.

It really depends on what they need in order to help transform their lives at any given point; sometimes it’s just a really good chat but there is also structured assistance, one to one appointments and group work. Sometimes that involves working with other agencies, such as mental health providers and transitional agencies.

What is your message regarding perceptions of ex-offenders?
It’s important to understand that the Probation Office exists to protect the public by reducing the risk of re-offending, so, in essence, we are there to help people transform their lives. It’s also important to understand that most want to. People sometimes make bad choices and when they break the law and get caught they pay for that – rightly so. But we’re all human and it’s important to have empathy and to give people the opportunity to rebuild their lives, which helps not only that person but also society as a whole. Make the effort to see the whole person. After all, none of us is one-dimensional.

Are you interested in training as a probation officer? If so, you can find further information here: traintobeaprobationofficer.com/employee-stories/