The lessons from justice reinvestment

Earlier this week, the MoJ published the findings from the first evaluation of the justice reinvestment project conducted by Kevin Wong and his colleagues from Sheffield Hallam University. The pilot operates a payment by results approach which means that if the pilot areas succeed in reducing demand on criminal justice services (by 5% for adults and 10% for young offenders), they receive additional funds generated by the savings to invest in further reducing re-offending initiatives.

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Earlier this week, the MoJ published the findings from the first evaluation of the justice reinvestment project conducted by Kevin Wong and his colleagues from Sheffield Hallam University.

The Local Justice Reinvestment Pilot 

In simple terms, this MoJ pilot which runs until June 2013 set out to test whether local crime reduction partnerships could be incentivised to reduce demand in the criminal justice system.

The pilot is running in six sites: Greater Manchester and the London Boroughs of Croydon, Hackney, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark.

The pilot operates a payment by results approach which means that if the pilot areas succeed in reducing demand on criminal justice services (by 5% for adults and 10% for young offenders), they receive additional funds generated by the savings to invest in further reducing re-offending initiatives.

This first report consists essentially of a process evaluation of the development and first year of implementation and does not present findings on whether the pilot areas have succeed in reducing offending and demand on the criminal justice system.

However, data recently emerged on the differing performance of the pilot sites in terms of youth offending.

What did the pilot sites do?

It appears that the Greater Manchester pilot was more innovative in approach, partly because there were considerable advantages in the opportunity to implement new approaches across a larger area whose boundaries were the same for police, probation, courts and the local criminal justice board (all, from last November, under the aegis of the Police and Crime Commissioner).

Manchester sought to redesign its criminal justice system based on a portfolio of interventions and processes focused at the point of arrest, sentence and release from prison.

Agencies devised a re-design framework which aimed to divert offenders from the CJS at key transition points.

The range of approaches for adults are summarised in the graphic below, taken directly from the report:

 

Justice re-design

A range of interventions for young offenders were also put in place including: youth custody triage, restorative justice and prevention and pre-court work for young people at risk.

The findings

The report is mainly based on qualitative research – principally interviews with key stakeholders.

Many of these stakeholders agreed that the pilots didn’t provide enough incentives to encourage local agencies to invest sufficient funds and make major changes to local practices and procedures.

They attributed this reluctance to four key factors:

  1. The reward payment structure.
  2. The lack of financial risk.
  3. The low level of expectation of receiving a significant reward payment, and
  4. The complexity of the outcome metrics.

Clearly we will have to wait for the final report to see if any of the pilot sites succeeded in reducing demand sufficiently to allow themselves to invest in further improvements in the reducing reoffending system.

Like most people, I think there are much more substantial savings to be made through system-wide changes rather than merely focusing PbR contracts on one component.

Recommendations

Although this is only a first stage report, the authors have assembled a helpful set of recommendations which I summarise briefly below, readers can read the full report  here.

  • Incentives need to be stronger – options include: a penalty mechanism combined with reward payments; upfront funding; and an ‘easy to understand’ outcome measure.
  • Strategic leadership and communicating  – it is vital that all staff understand the purpose and workings of Justice Reinvestment.
  • Performance management – the report found that several local agencies did not fully measure or understand their current performance – which made it impossible to work out if new approaches were working.
  • An evidence based approach – adopting a range of proven interventions which were designed to complement rather than compete with each appeared to be the most effective way to get Justice Reinvestment off the ground and generate interest
  • Co-terminosity, commissioning services across a large enough area with common boundaries for all the key players makes Justice Reinvestment much more achievable. This could be a key lesson for Transforming Rehabilitation which has 21 Contract Package Areas, 42 Police and Crime Commissioners and 433 local authorities.

It will be interesting to see whether the new approach proposed in the MoJ’s Transforming Rehabilitation for the same provider to work with offenders in custody and on release succeeds in generating savings which can be reinvested in services to reducing reoffending further.

 

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