By Peter Wozniak
The union of probation officers has threatened "inevitable" strikes if planned cuts of 25% go ahead.
Napo is currently meeting in Scarborough and is expected to vote overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action to oppose the government's plans.
The union argues that cuts of 25% to the probation service would be primarily be borne by redundancies - and that this would lead to courts resorting to short sentences as opposed to community service because of the lack of officers.
Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, said: "Industrial action is inevitable and will involve joint initiatives with other public sector unions.
"It is ironic that if the coalition invested in the Probation Service in the short term it would save massive amounts in the medium and long term.
"The government should invest in probation and not cut and privatise it."
Napo pointed out the reoffending rate for prison is 66% and for supervision orders is 50%.
"For those who complete programmes it falls to 34%," it argued. "The curtailment of programmes is bound therefore to lead to a rise in reoffending."
The justice secretary Ken Clarke has based his approach on precisely the opposite outcome, with a liberal justice policy switching from short sentences to more community service - much to the chagrin of the Tory grassroots.
Napo argued courts would be forced to use short prison sentences if no resources are available for community orders.
This will result in an increase in the short-term prison population - the exact opposite of what the coalition desires, it added.
The possibility of strikes by Napo is a harbinger of the concerted industrial action bound to follow the comprehensive spending review on October 20th.