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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Justice data lab results coming thick and fast

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The Transforming Rehabilitation programme has focused minds at the Ministry of Justice and the criminal justice sector generally on the key issue of what sorts of interventions do reduce reoffending. The MoJ has issued a number of new research studies including a Summary of Evidence on Reducing Reoffending and a series of rapid evidence assessments on different categories of intervention.

Thursday’s child has far to go

The Transforming Rehabilitation programme has focused minds at the Ministry of Justice and the criminal justice sector generally on the key issue of what sorts of interventions do reduce reoffending. The MoJ has issued a number of new research studies including a Summary of Evidence on Reducing Reoffending and a series of rapid evidence assessments on different categories of intervention.

But the most interesting initiative has been the Justice Data Lab which provides organisations working with offenders the opportunity to evidence how effective their work is at reducing reoffending. To use the service, organisations simply provide details of the offenders who they have worked with and information about the services they have provided. The Lab then supplies aggregate one-year proven re-offending rates for that group, and, most importantly,  that of a matched control group of similar offenders.

The first set of results were published in early October 2013 and were rather disappointing. Disappointing because there were only seven results published from 52 submissions and most of these seven were inconclusive in terms of whether the different initiatives had reduced reoffending.

The good news is that the Justice Data Lab has picked up the pace. The second set of results were published on 15 November and the MoJ has committed to publishing updates on the second Thursday of the month from now on.

Take 2

So, what do these second set of result tell us? Well, a further 23 reports were published with headline findings in the now-to-be-regular JDL update with individual detailed reports also made available.

Employment programmes

Nineteen of the 23 reports related to NOMS CFOJDL november 2013 (Co-Financing Organisation – these schemes are co-funded with the European Social Fund) provision. NOMS CFO providers work with offenders in prison and the community to help them gain skills and employment.

The JDL analysis relates to offenders who were involved in Phase 1 of the programme in 2010, starting the intervention either in custody or during a probation sentence. The NOMS CFO programmes are delivered by a wide range of providers including Probation Trusts, private (Serco, A4e, Pertemps), academic (Manchester College) and voluntary (SOVA) sector providers.

Only 5,774 of the 19,799 offenders (29%) in these 19 cohorts could be matched in order for a comparison of reconviction rates to be undertaken. There were a number of reasons for this:

  • Offenders had not yet been released from custody, or not released long enough for reconviction information to be available.
  • The employment programme was started over a year after a community sentence started.
  • Some offenders were excluded because their index offence or previous offences were of a sexual nature.
  • Some offenders committed a reoffence before the intervention started.

In ten of these 19 schemes, there was “insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion about the impact of participating in the programme on re-offending.” In the other nine schemes there were reductions in re-offending. In five of these cases reductions in reoffending were in the range of 0/1 to 8-11 percentage points. In the final four cases, reductions in reoffending were calculated as being between:

  • 3-14 percentage points (Merseyside Probation)
  • 4-16 percentage points (Serco in South-East)
  • 7-17 percentage points (Manchester College in West Midlands)
  • 7-19 percentage points (A4e in South-West)

Other programmes

The other eleven programmes whose results were published related to family interventions (2), accommodation resettlement and Integrated Offender Management. However, there was insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions about reoffending in each of these four cases. The report also contains the reports on the seven interventions published in the initial findings in October 2013.

Looking forwards to Thursday 12 December

In my opinion, this month’s Justice Data Lab results address one key criticism of the pilot – that insufficient studies are being published. To publish 23 reports in one month shows that there is both real interest from providers and real commitment from the MoJ to try to identify what works in reducing reoffending.

The JDL is also beginning to tackle the other major criticism – that we are not learning much about re-offending. It is true that there was insufficient evidence to draw conclusions in almost two thirds (14 out of 23) studies this month. However, the Lab will soon be able to measure reconvictions for offenders who were either placed on community sentences or released from prison in 2011. This should mean that the proportion of offenders who can be matched grows appreciably with the result that many more studies should provide statistically conclusive results.

Let’s hope that the Justice Data Lab is allowed to continue beyond its one year pilot status which is due to run out in April 2014. If the sector knows that the Lab is there, there will surely be an increased emphasis on ensuring that organisations collect the basic identifying information which underpins all their submissions.

 

If you’ve applied to the Justice Data Lab, please share your experiences in the comments section below.

 

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All Probation Posts are sponsored by Unilink

With over 20 years’ experience in the criminal justice sector, Unilink is a world leader in probation and community corrections software applications, as well as prisoner self-service, prisoner/case management and prisoner communications. Unilink’s integrated suite of products provide a complete digital solution enabling efficient running of prisons and probation. Underpinned by biometrics it integrates seamlessly to deliver security, efficiency and value – while being proven to help rehabilitate prisoners.

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