What impacts on quality assessment using OASys?

Date01 June 2007
AuthorAnthony Crawford
Published date01 June 2007
Subject MatterArticles
What impacts on quality assessment using
Anthony Crawford, Hertfordshire Probation Area
Abstract This article outlines the f‌indings of a small study based in one probation
area which considered the factors that may impact on quality assessment when
using OASys (Offender Assessment System). Following a brief outline of the organiz-
ational and broader context in which OASys is used, the study explores the f‌indings
of case studies, survey questionnaires and interviews undertaken with Probation
Off‌icers. Tentative conclusions are drawn about the factors which emerge as affect-
ing quality in assessment and suggestions are offered for further study. The article
concludes by welcoming the strategic initiatives currently being undertaken to
improve assessment and management of risk but suggests that the use of top-down
initiatives alone, combined with an emphasis on risk management and contain-
ment, may serve to undermine ownership of the aspiration to risk reduction and,
in the long term, threatens the loss of skills necessary for effective assessment and
management of risk.
Keywords OASys, public protection, quality management plan, risk assessment
Assessment of the eff‌icacy of probation practice has been an explicit require-
ment since Home Off‌ice circular 168 (cited in Kemshall, 1997). This set out
probation recording requirements in accordance with the probation rules of 1949,
that aim to ‘facilitate assessment of the progress of the case’ (p. 6). Assessment
for public protection purposes has been emphasized in Home Off‌ice policy docu-
ments since the publication of ‘Crime, Justice and Protecting the Public’ (Home
Off‌ice, 1960, see Kemshall, 1997), which pre-empted the Criminal Justice Act
1991, S.8(2)(b), which provided the power to increase sentence where it was
considered that offenders presented a risk of harm to others. Pre-Sentence Report
(PSR) authors were obliged to consider public protection. This led to a string of
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) reports focused on how more
accurately to assess offender risk-related needs (for example, see Aubrey and
Hough, 1997; Aye Maung and Hammond, 2000).
Probation Journal
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice
Copyright © 2007 NAPO Vol 54(2): 157–170
DOI: 10.1177/0264550507077235

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