WHEN an inmate is released from prison on probation, the job of the Probation Service is twofold. First, they have a duty to protect the public and ensure the released prisoner does not reoffend. Just as importantly, however, they also exist to protect the former inmate and assist with their reintegration into society.

Increasingly, it looks as though the probation system is failing with the second of those responsibilities.

Research from the BBC’s Shared Data Unit has found that in the period between 2015 and 2017-18, up to 468 people died while on the books of the four organisations managing probation services in the North-East. Ten people were murdered, with another 158 committing suicide.

Given the complex nature of the issues affecting former prisoners, a degree of deviation from the national average is to be expected. However, those figures are alarmingly high, and resulted in Rebecca Roberts, from the charity Inquest, claiming there is “institutional indifference” to the fate of people who have been released from custody.

The probation system was overhauled by the Government in 2014, with the service being split between the National Probation Service, which supervises high-risk offenders, and 21 privately run companies, who work with those deemed low and medium risk.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman, a former Shadow Prisons Minister, is worried the current system is not working. Worryingly, the statistics appear to back up her assessment.