Hammers! Now here is a thing to be writing about. Such a simple tool, used for millions of years and so easy to misplace (a personal note).

“Phwoooaarr this hammer is a bit tasty.”

Vince was weighing it in his hand and grinning. Looked like he was a fellow hammer connoisseur… So, I joined in, noting its size – a third of a normal sledgehammer, a fine tool indeed.

Without any warning and in one perfect golf swing the hammer flew past me, wincingly close to my kneecaps, “Yeah cool” he acknowledged, “I could have really used that!”

Laughing, but a little on the back foot, I decided to recount my ‘hilarious’ tale of the time I lost my hammer. “Well, would you believe it, behind a radiator!” I chortled, “Yes, lost for nearly a week!”

Hammer man just stared at me.

Then he told me about the time he had chained somebody to a radiator; refusing to allow sleep by throwing water across his victim’s face until he grew a beard! “But it wasn’t ‘til I got my hammer out he talked.”

Integral to successful rehabilitation is nurturing individual relationships, challenging behaviour, and that means building trust.

Trust is hard-won and superficial stuff doesn’t really do it. But you can’t just talk about the nice bits, sometimes you need to confront past actions.

Experience teaches us so much, when to trust and when to be cautious.

I enjoy watching our ‘newbie chefs’ helping prep lunch, marvelling as sharp knives slice through the veg. A few months ago, those knives could have been called ‘shanks or blades’, potentially used for very different purposes.

As I see it, hammering down costs in the probation and prison service while the offender population remains so high is causing the whole system to creak. An indicator for caution?

Many prison officers have left the service over the last few years, officers with great experience; they knew the score and were capable of building relationships. Gone.

The new privatised probation service? Sweeping staff cuts have removed years of experience. Knowledge of their ‘clients’, the families, and their complex lives: gone. You simply cannot build effective relationships as caseloads soar and contact time with offenders becomes practically negligible.

Does it all sound a little unsettling? Well, I agree, yes it does.

I was at a bit of a loss about the radiator conversation, but I had to confront the wrong doing. As an opener, I tentatively asked if the radiator was turned on?

“Na, I’m not a complete bastard”

Ahhh good…

So, we just keep chipping away!