Heather Munro, vice-chairwoman of the Probation Chiefs' Association, said greater flexibility for staff to reward or punish offenders depending on their performance would help to cut costs and waste in the criminal justice system.
She was speaking after the Policy Exchange think tank called for probation officers to be given new powers to vary the length of work orders, impose extra punishments on those who broke the rules and, in extreme cases, order the forfeiture of personal assets. Munro said probation officers were often "hidebound by standards".
"Huge cost and waste in the system" could be cut "if we had more flexibility to reward people if they've done really, really well or punish them ourselves with some extra hours", she said. "Taking people back to court is very costly."