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Sarah French of the MoJ Justice Data Lab explains how the lab is getting increasingly sophisticated at tracking reoffending outcomes & is always willing to help

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Today’s post is by Sarah French who leads the MoJ’s Justice Data Lab Team.

The Justice Data Lab

Accessing personal data from third parties can be a minefield for any organisation aiming to understand the impact of the work they do. This is doubly so when that data is considered sensitive.  The Ministry of Justice’s award winning Justice Data Lab (JDL) was set up to help address these issues for organisations working to help rehabilitate offenders.

The Data Lab’s path to the present day

From the earliest days of the JDL we have always provided evidence showing how well interventions have performed in terms of the standard one year reoffending rate. However, some organisations, particularly those dealing with the most challenging offenders, needed more nuanced information to help assess the strengths and weaknesses of their programme. We expanded the outcomes assessed to also look at how many reoffences are committed, the time taken to reoffend and, more recently, the changes to the seriousness of such reoffences to add shades of grey to the black and white of an offender committing another crime.


Innovating and advancing…

There are many facets to helping offenders get onto a crime-free path, whether it be securing safe and secure accommodation, improved health, improved skills through education, or even gainful employment, but how can we tell? Working with other government departments, the JDL is looking to enhance the current reoffending metrics to include a number of value added measures that more closely match the aims of the intervention being evaluated. For example, an organisation that provides training opportunities to get offenders into employment may be equally as interested to know if an offender starts work upon release from prison as they are in whether they reoffend or not. Or even whether it is the employment that stops them reoffending, a win-win for society and the organisation.

We’ve made big steps with incorporating Offender Assessment data into our processes, which has expanded the scope of interventions that we can robustly analyse than was possible in the early days and we aim to continue such enhancements. To make the recidivism measures as relevant as possible, we will look to investigate more bespoke reoffending time periods beyond the current 1 year period – both in terms of shorter periods that cut down the current waiting time, or extended periods to assess longer term impacts.

We are always willing to listen and these are just some of the plans in the pipeline – if there is something that you may feel would be beneficial then please let us know!

Collaboration is key

By talking with those faced with the task of changing offender behaviour, we have built on our ideas as to what can be useful to those in front-line services. We have also identified development opportunities when some may have thought that the JDL could not help – as a result of direct conversations, we have taken on a sex offender programme to be analysed as a test case. Using lessons from this experience will help inform a wider roll-out to take on other such projects. To help very small organisations overcome difficulties in evaluating modest cohorts, we have analysed similar projects together rather than separately (for example, a large number of Women’s Centres were analysed in May 2015 when most would have been too small for the JDL to analyse separately).

We also understand that it can be helpful to understand the data that the JDL require in the early stages, and we can help to advise on data collection processes so that you have everything to hand when it comes to submitting a request.

How can we help you?

The Justice Data Lab is free and available to all organisations addressing offending behaviour to access, and the process for doing so is simple; just follow this link.

The team are always available to chat, whether it is just for those with a general interest in the service or for a potential user. For those that are interested get in touch on


Blog posts in the Criminal Justice category are kindly sponsored by Get the Data which provides Social Impact Analytics to enable organisations to demonstrate their impact on society. GtD has no editorial influence on the contents of this site.


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I can foresee a situation in the near future where the MoJ links its own funding to participation in the Justice Data Lab and puts pressure on other funders to do the same.

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