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Clinks launches new online evidence library to facilitate effective practice.

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First article tackles racial disparity in the CJS

On the whole, I try to resist plugging work that I am involved in on the blog. But today’s post is an exception. Earlier this week (7 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 is 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. I was commissioned by Clinks to curate the series.

The library was launched with an article by Patrick Williams of Manchester Metropolitan University:

Community empowerment approaches — The key to overcoming institutionalised racism in work with black, Asian and minority ethnic people in contact with the criminal justice system. Patrick has written a concise, authoritative evidence review which provides an in-depth look at the growing rates of racial disparity in our criminal justice system and highlights key principles for effective interventions with people from Black, mixed, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds in contact with that system.

Patrick reviews the current evidence-base, to which he is an important contributor, and covers a number of key issues:

  • Racial disparity within the criminal justice system
  • The multidimensionality of social inequalities experienced by minority groups
  • The lack of a clear strategy and officially approved programs to tackle racial disparity
  • The criminal justice system’s preoccupation with risk, as opposed to need
  • Principles to govern minority ethnic interventions
  • The importance of acknowledging racialisation and racism(s)
  • Community empowerment models
  • The argument for paying participants to engage
  • The importance of the voluntary sector.


Both Clinks and myself are delighted that the first article is of such high quality and reflects the concerns of the voluntary criminal justice sector about the persistent (and, in may cases, worsening) levels of racial disparity and discrimination in the justice system.


Over the next few months, the library will grow with the publication of a number of new evidence reviews. The next one to be published is by Mary Corcoran who examines the use of cost-benefit analyses of service provision in a number of different contexts, all of them particularly relevant to voluntary sector organisations working in the criminal justice system.

This will be followed by Patricia Durr’s review of the evidence of the growing field of trauma-informed practice and its application to the criminal justice system, in particular prisons.

Evidence reviews on a gendered approach to working with people who have offended (by Loraine Gelsthorpe) and the desistance model (by Hannah Graham) will follow later this year.

The topics for this first tranche of evidence reviews were not selected by chance but were the result of a poll of Clinks members undertaken at last year’s conference.

All these evidence reviews have been designed to be up-to-date, authoritative and accessible − in the sense that they are both free to download and have been written in plain (non-academic) English. They are all between 800 – 2,000 words long and include a short reading list linking to key texts for people who wish to explore the topic in greater detail. Wherever possible, I have sought to locate free-to-access versions of these key texts (hosted on such sites as ResearchGate).

Clinks will shortly be consulting with its members again for suggestions on the key topics which they would like to see as the subjects of forthcoming evidence reviews. If you have any immediate thoughts on this or would like to share your views on the library in general, you can contact me by email.


Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here.

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