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Clinks online evidence library growing apace
Reviews of long term prisoners, peer mentoring, work with Class A drug users and engagement all added to Clinks evidence library.

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A growing catalogue

Last September Clinks, the infrastructure organisation for the criminal justice voluntary sector, launched a new online evidence library. The project was designed to support the sector with access to the most up-to-date evidence about a range of different activities and interventions in the criminal justice system. The objective was to make it easier for providers to build their practice on the best evidence and to encourage commissioners to award contracts and grants to providers who work in this way. The evidence reviews are concise, written by leading academics with a specialism in the area they are reviewing and are purposefully written in plain (non-academic) language. I have been curating the library on behalf of Clinks and wanted to share four new recent additions to the library.

Peer mentoring

Peer mentoring is now a core component of service delivery right across the social justice sector and is engrained in most organisations working in the criminal justice system. Dr. Gill Buck, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Chester (@gillybuck), has reviewed the current evidence-base on peer mentoring in the criminal justice system for the Clinks online evidence library. 

Peer mentoring involves community members, often with lived experience of criminal justice, working or volunteering in helping relationships and is now integral to the delivery of most services in the criminal justice system. The review covers a number of key issues:

  • How peer mentoring can
    • Help people to leave crime behind,
    • Connect them with services and employment opportunities, and
    • Facilitate consciousness raising and collective system-reform efforts.
  • The barriers to effective peer mentoring and how to plan for and minimise these.

Gill also reviews the effectiveness of peer mentoring in promoting desistance to help voluntary organisations who are required to evidence reductions in reoffending.


You can download the review for free here.

Working with young people sentenced to life sentences

The life sentenced prison population of England and Wales stands at almost 7,000 men and women, with the majority of these individuals (51%) now facing minimum ‘tariffs’ of 10-20 years in custody, while almost a third (29%) will serve at least 20 years. The authors of the Clinks review on this subject, Serena Wright (@S_wright_Crim), Susie Hulley (@smhulley) & Ben Crewe (@crewebencrewe) are the principal researchers and joint authors of a major study on men and women serving life imprisonment from an early age, the findings of which were published in Life Imprisonment from Young Adulthood: Adaptation, Identity and Time

Their evidence review provides an in-depth look at the specific challenges and needs of the significant number of people already serving long life sentences from a young age in England and Wales, examining a range of key issues:

  • The sentencing context and the growing numbers of people serving long life sentences. 
  • The impact of life imprisonment for murder on people sentenced at a young age. 
  • The broad ‘stages’ experienced during such long life sentences. 
  • The challenges of ‘uncertainty’, in terms of the lack of a fixed release date 
  • The particular needs and challenges for women serving life sentences. 
  • Suggestions for how to respond to the specific needs of long-term life sentence prisoners. 


You can download the review for free here.

Working with Class A drug users in contact with the CJS

A significant proportion of crime is committed by people who are dependent on Class A drugs and are driven to offend to fund their dependency. With the promise of more investment in and better commissioning of our drug treatment system courtesy of Dame Carol Black’s Review of Drugs, now is the perfect time to get a grip on the drugs and crime evidence base. Tim McSweeney is currently a Senior Lecturer (Forensic Psychology) with the School of Life and Medical Sciences at the University of Hertfordshire and has been a prominent researcher in this area for over 20 years and has advised international and global bodies such as the United Nations and World Health Organisation on policy responses for tackling drug-related crime.

His evidence review covers all the key issues including:

  • Trends in illicit drug use.
  • Our knowledge of patterns of opiate and cocaine use among people in contact with the criminal justice system.
  • Points of intervention throughout the criminal justice process.
  • A summary of evidence of ‘what works’ with this client group.
  • The critical success factors of working with service users who misuse Class A drugs.


You can download the review for free here.

Engaging people with convictions

With the (re)unification of the probation service, there is renewed interest in probation practice and the key issue of how to engage people in their supervision. Voluntary sector organisations work in different ways but are still keen to engage and retain in service the people they wish to help.

Kevin Wong from the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU), Manchester Metropolitan University has been a prominent researcher in this area and has examined the issues of assessment, engagement and promoting desistance in both the probation service and voluntary sector organisations in his evidence review for the Clinks library. His review examines a wide range of issues including:

  1. Summarising the evidence base and guidance materials on ways to engage effectively with adults and young people with convictions.
  2. Setting this evidence base within the context of the research underpinning broader rehabilitative practice.
  3. Looking at the differences in effective engagement practice between the statutory and voluntary sectors.
  4. Discussing the role of co-production in needs assessments – inevitably the first stage on the engagement process.
  5. Proposing ways in which this learning can be applied to voluntary sector organisations by practitioners, policy makers and commissioners.


You can download the review for free here.

We hope you’ll be motivated to click on the links and read the evidence reviews of interest to you. Please share with your colleagues.

A matter of fact

If there’s a subject you’re particularly interested in, please look out for Clinks new online “A Matter of Fact: Talking about Evidence” series where our review authors will be talking about their specialist subjects and you’ll get the chance to ask your own questions direct to the people with the best grip on what the evidence base does – and doesn’t – tell us. You can book to attend the online conversations by clicking the links below:

To hear Serena Wright and Susie Hulley talk about long term young prisoners, book here.

To hear Patrick Williams talk about Community Empowerment, book here.

To hear Gill Buck talk about peer mentoring in the criminal justice system, book here.


Thanks to Devon Divine for kind permission to use the header image in this post which was previously published on Unsplash.

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