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Breaking reoffending cycles
New NPC project maps the complexity of the criminal justice system and highlights causal factors, leverage points and funding flows.

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A systems map

NPC has just (8 December 2021) published a very useful resource for those seeking to understand the complexity of the criminal justice system and influence its outcomes. The resource comprises a report: Breaking reoffending cycles in the criminal justice system: Mapping causal factors, leverage points and funding flows and an interactive website from where come the images in this blog post.

As readers know, the criminal justice system is immensely complex. It encompasses many vast institutions and subsystems—the court system, the prison system, the probation system—and it interconnects with many other issues that the charity and voluntary sector seeks to tackle, such as homelessness and mental health. NPC has found from previous research that this complexity, combined with what they neatly call “policy turbulence” and structural issues, can cause uncertainty for funders around how to use their resources effectively.

The purpose of the project, led by Theo Clay, Seth Reynolds & Abigail Rose, is to identify points within the CJS that practitioners and funders can intervene to bring about long-term change in the system.

The rationale

NPC, like most of us, believes that the criminal justice system requires more investment to tackle the root causes of crime and reoffending. While this is primarily the responsibility of government, independent funders and philanthropists also have a role to play in providing extra support. However, with the resources available, making progress on tackling the drivers of reoffending requires the charity and voluntary sector and the statutory sector to think strategically and systemically about where to invest. Limited resources make it critical to recognise how issues are interrelated and where action can be taken to achieve systemic change.

The NPC map is divided into subsections of the different factors affecting reoffending: socio-cultural factors, political system factors, court system factors, prison system factors, probation system factors, system coordination factors (for example, the transitions from prison to the community), and post-release factors. Each factor includes further explanation of the issues at hand and relevant quotes from our lived experience interviews (led by Phil Mullen and the lived experience team from Revolving Doors).

Onto this map, NPC has layered an analysis of where, within this system, funding to charity sector organisations is going. By linking an overview of the factors that affect reoffending with an analysis of the current resources going towards tackling those factors, it is possible to identify gaps in support.

The aim of the project is, of course, to encourage both statutory and charitable funders to direct resources more effectively and collaborate strategically to improve the system.

Anyone interested in the criminal justice system will have a stimulating and productive time perusing the interactive map (on the biggest screen you can find), zooming in and out on issues of particular interest.

Conclusions and Recommendations

NPC found that the vast majority (an estimated 86%) of charity and voluntary sector funding goes on community-based initiatives—patching up cracks in the system and supporting those it is letting down once they have served their sentence. Only a small minority of funding goes to ‘upstream’ initiatives: organisations focused on advocacy receive 1.6% of total funding for specialist criminal justice charities, those shaping public attitudes receive 0.4%, and 0.3% of funding goes to charities focused on the courts.

Transitions between services, like the transition between prison and probation, are critical moments where progress can be reversed if individuals fall through gaps. The lack of coordination between different parts of the system was repeatedly highlighted as a systemic problem. Yet only 0.6% of current funding for specialist criminal justice charities goes to initiatives focused on this. The report makes six key recommendations; three targeted at individual funders and three at government.

Funders are encouraged to:

  1. Collaborate to fund for systems change
  2. Target gaps and transition points in the system
  3. Look for ‘leverage points’ (the report helpfully identifies 20 of these in an Appendix).

 

The recommendations for government are to:

  1. Use the upcoming royal commission to examine where investment is required to prevent reoffending across the criminal justice system
  2. Invest further in appropriate sentencing
  3. Extend charity sector partnerships

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