Book review: The Long Road to the Straight and Narrow: The Challenges of a Life in the Probation Service

AuthorSylvia Clail
Published date01 June 2022
Date01 June 2022
Subject MatterBook reviews
The Long Road to the Straight and Narrow: The Challenges
of a Life in the Probation Service
John Hedge
Mereo Books. 2021, pp.316, pbk. £11.00, ISBN-13: 978-1861517777
Reviewed by: Sylvia Clail, Youth Services Outreach Manager, Simon
Community, Belfast
The trouble with you do gooders is(2021). A tting start to Hedges Introduction
into his journey. Hedge summarises his life work and experience in this fascinating
overview of his 37 years working in Probation services, being a father and also a
self-proclaimed social activist.
The detail in the book gives an overview of political factors impacting the service,
Hedges personal life and detailed accounts of experience with service users, col-
leges, and partnerships. The book is broken down into 5 sections (1) Finding The
Way; (2) An interesting job; (3) London; (4) The scrubs. (5) Final years.
Part 1: Finding the way
This section provides an overview of Hedges early days of study and rst place-
ments. Hedge outlines what led him into a career in Probation and what drove his
passion for the service in joining in 1970. What is striking in comparing the
service then, and the new world currently is the description Hedge provides when
working with clients in his early days and interview techniques he was advised to
use by experienced colleagues. The technique described aligns with Millar and
Rollnicks motivational interviewing (2002) a skill well known now in the current
service. Hedge goes on to describe his recording methods and the benets of
using what is now coined as reective practice (Schon 1983). A common theme
even back in the advise, assist and befriendera of service delivery is the high case-
loads and ongoing stafng needs of the service.
Part 2: An interesting Job
Now qualied having obtained his degree, Hedge gives an overview of his
experience, starting out as a qualied ofcer, and details supportive colleagues
and those service users from his caseload that he often still nds himself wondering
about. This is an intriguing part of the book and one that brings you back to your
own memories in the early stages of your career. Hedge describes how the
central value of probation services then, and now, I think, is a determination to per-
severe with people despite their continuing problems and reluctance to co-operate
(2021). Even more empowering is how he describes the slow pace of change. One
similarity between Hedges experience in the 70s and now is the same large
252 Probation Journal 69(2)

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