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Friday, 22 June 2018

22 June 2018, the House of Commons Justice Committee published its most damning report so far on Transforming Rehabilitation, the government’s part-privatisation of the probation service. The report concludes:



TR will never deliver the kind of probation service we need

Justice Committee demands review into alternative system for delivering probation by February 2019.

Major questions to be answered

Today (22 June 2018), the House of Commons Justice Committee published its most damning report so far on Transforming Rehabilitation, the government’s part-privatisation of the probation service. The report concludes:
The scale of the issues facing the sector is of great concern to us given that evidence suggests that if probation services are delivered well they can have a positive impact on the prospects of someone receiving probation support and wider society.
The main conclusions and recommendations are set out below:


The National Audit Office identified in a Report in December 2017 that the Ministry of Justice had had to change the fixed-cost assumptions in their contracts with CRCs from 20% to 77%. In this Report we conclude that this raises serious questions about the Ministry of Justice’s reluctance to challenge overoptimistic bids and its ability to let contracts. We also call for there to be more transparency on the changes made to the Ministry’s contracts with CRCs and what the Ministry expects to get in return for additional funding negotiated by providers.
In this Report we criticise the Ministry’s constant renegotiation of CRC contracts but we welcome the Ministry being open to the idea of terminating contracts due to poor performance with CRCs before they are due to expire in 2022. If any contracts are terminated prior to 2022 we caution that transition plans must be in place which make sure that: offenders receive the support they require to be rehabilitated, and their risk of reoffending does not increase. The Ministry should undertake a public consultation on any further changes to ensure a wide range of views on contractual arrangements. This public consultation should consider the number of CRCs and the bodies eligible to bid for CRC contracts.

Provider performance

CRC performance in reducing reoffending, particularly the number of times an offender reoffends, has been disappointing. We conclude that we do not think that the payment by results mechanism provides sufficient incentives to providers to reduce reoffending, but we also do not believe that CRCs should carry full responsibility for poor performance in reducing reoffending. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice review the payment by results mechanism and set out where it should be amended.
The Ministry of Justice has not been applying the financial penalties (service credits) as envisaged in the contracts with CRCs and it remains unclear to us how the Ministry of Justice is tackling underperformance on a day-to-day basis. We call on the Ministry to set out what other steps it is taking to address underperformance.

NPS-CRC split

Under the TR reforms, offenders were split between the NPS and CRCs according to their risk of harm. This has complicated the delivery of probation services and created a “two-tier” system. There are co-ordination challenges and despite work going on at a local and national level to try and resolve these issues, problem remain. A swift resolution to these problems is needed. The Rate Card (the list of available specialist services and programmes that CRCs offer and which the NPS can purchase from the CRC) processes are cumbersome and create barriers for the NPS to use these services.
This split causes problems in the delivery of probation services as the risk of an offender can change throughout their time on probation. We call on the Government to ask HMI Probation to conduct a review of how offenders should be distributed between the NPS and CRCs, and to investigate the impact of changing offender risk and how the NPS and CRCs manage this matter.

The voluntary sector

We find in this Report that the Government have failed to open up the probation market, a key aim of the then Government when they introduced the TR reforms. The voluntary sector is less involved in probation than they were before the TR reforms were implemented. This is of deep concern to us given the real benefits that the voluntary sector, especially smaller organisations, can bring to probation. There is a lack of transparency on which voluntary sector organisations are involved in probation contracts. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice publishes more information on probation supply chains and considers what benefits might be gained from reintroducing targets for voluntary sector involvement. We also recommend that the Government should consider whether involving some of the smaller, more specialised voluntary sector organisations could be incentivised.
We also call on the Ministry of Justice to look at the contractual barriers to greater voluntary sector involvement, including those relating to sub-contracts.


Staff morale is at an “all-time low” and staff have high caseloads, in some instances they are handling cases for which they do not have adequate training, and they feel de-professionalised. This is the concerning evidence that we heard. We call on the Ministry of Justice to publish a probation workforce strategy, which covers staff in the NPS and CRCs, setting out the basics with regard to professional standards, training and maximum caseloads/workloads.


Short custodial sentences

We find it extremely worrying that sentencer confidence in community alternatives to short custodial sentences is so low, particularly as the latter have worse outcomes in terms of reoffending. We recommend that the Government should introduce a presumption against short custodial sentences, as the Scottish Government have indicated they will do.
Under the TR reforms compulsory 12-month post-sentence supervision was extended to short custodial offenders. We find that this one-size fits all approach lacks the flexibility to meet the varying needs of offenders. We call on the Government to consider getting rid of this requirement.

Through the Gate (TTG)

One of the key components of the TR reforms was that all offenders would receive an element of continuous support from custody into the community. The current TTG provision merely signposts offenders to other organisations and is wholly inadequate. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice reviews the purpose of TTG and the support it provides to offenders (including whether it should introduce a prisoner discharge pack, based on need). We also recommend that real consideration should be given to whether it is appropriate to release prisoners, with few family ties, from custody on a Friday because access to Government services can be difficult.
The TR reforms introduced a 12-week intervention point: 12 weeks prior to release, pre-release resettlement activity (such as arranging accommodation, dealing with finance, benefits and debts and support related to education, training and employment) commences. We find that this approach is too inflexible and does not reflect the varying, and often complex, needs of offenders. We propose that offenders should begin receiving pre-release resettlement activity no later than 12 weeks prior to release.

Types of activities and frequency of contact

There has been evidence following the TR reforms that some CRC providers supervise their offenders remotely, over the telephone. We conclude that kiosk meetings are never likely to be appropriate and that telephone supervision should only be used in exceptional circumstances and not in isolation. Further, delivery of probation services must be supported by credible evidence. The Ministry of Justice should set out its minimum expectations to providers on the balance between remote and face-to-face supervision and on where providers meet those they are supervising.
We were concerned that only one in two individuals are supervised by the same officer throughout their case given the strong evidence that continuity of support allows a trusting relationship to be developed. National guidance should be introduced.
We heard in our inquiry that some of the work offenders were required to do under unpaid work orders was meaningless. We recommend that, where possible, unpaid work should contribute to the local community and be linked to education and training.

Specific needs of offenders

The issues facing offenders on probation are not all within the gift of probation services to resolve, and therefore a cross-Government approach is needed and organisations need to work together.
There are strong links between homelessness and reoffending, therefore we find that it is unacceptable that any local council has been able to deem an individual who has served a custodial sentence as making themselves intentionally homeless. We call on the Government to amend its guidance for Local Authorities to make it explicit that an individual who is homeless because of having served a custodial sentence should be deemed vulnerable for the purposes of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. We further recommend that the UK Government should work with the Welsh Government to ensure that their homelessness legislation takes due account of the risks of reoffending.
Currently offenders cannot apply for Universal Credit until they are released from custody. For many this can mean that they have the £46 discharge grant to live on for a number of weeks. We call on the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Work and Pensions to enable offenders serving custodial sentences to apply for Universal Credit (UC) prior to their release from custody so that they receive UC on the day of release. In the interim we recommend that the Ministry of Justice set up a transitional credit fund for those offenders who have insufficient funds to provide for the basics.

Longer-term future of Transforming Rehabilitation

On the longer-term future of the TR reforms we conclude that we are unconvinced that the TR model can ever deliver an effective or viable probation service. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice initiate a review into the long-term future and sustainability of delivering probation services under the models introduced by the TR reforms, including how performance under the TR system might compare to an alternative system for delivering probation.


The Justice Committee has a strong history of holding the government to account on Transforming Rehabilitation over recent years. Most of the issues highlighted above are well known to those working in the sector.
Perhaps the most important component of the Committee’s report is the demand for a review which looks at alternative models. The MoJ has been working on this for well over a year now and the latest rumours to reach me suggest an even more fragmented and complex system is being constructed out of the ashes of TR. While it seems clear that the role of private Community Rehabilitation Companies will diminish, it is far from clear where the responsibility for the offender management of low and medium risk offenders will sit.  Whatever solution is proposed, surely the MoJ must seek to create a more coherent structure than we have now.



Justice Committee keeps up pressure

Earlier this week (20 June 2018), the House of Commons Justice Committee (@CommonsJustice) published a new report criticising the government’s “narrow approach” to dealing with young adults in the justice system.
Justice Committee: Dealing effectively with young adults while the brain is still developing is crucial for successful transitions to a crime-free adulthood

The treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system

Dealing effectively with young adults while the brain is still developing is crucial for them in making successful transitions to a crime-free adulthood
That’s the headline conclusion of a new (26 October 2016) report by the Justice Committee.

Step change in policy and practice needed

The report says that research from a range of disciplines strongly supports the view that young adults are a distinct group with needs that are different both from children under 18 and adults older than 25, underpinned by the developmental maturation process that takes place in this age group. In the context of the criminal justice system this is important as young people who commit crime typically stop doing so by their mid-20s.
Those who decide no longer to commit crime can have their efforts to achieve this frustrated both by their previous involvement in the criminal justice system due to the consequences of having criminal records, and limitations in achieving financial independence due to lack of access to affordable accommodation or well-paid employment as wages and benefits are typically lower for this age group.

A distinct approach

The report argues that there is a strong case for a distinct approach to the treatment of young adults in the criminal justice system:
Young adults are still developing neurologically up to the age of 25. They have a high prevalence of atypical brain development. Rates of learning disability, communication impairment and autistic spectrum disorder are ten times as high as they are among young people in the general population, and there is a high level of Acquired Brain Injury – which, according to estimates by the Centre for Mental Health, can increase the likelihood of crime by 50%.
These factors impact on criminal behaviour and have implications for the appropriate treatment of young adults by the criminal justice system as they are more challenging to manage, harder to engage, and tend to have poorer outcomes.
For young adults with neuro-disabilities maturity may be significantly hindered or delayed. Flawed interventions that do not recognise young adults’ maturity can slow desistance and extend the period of involvement in the system.

Missed opportunities

Committee Chair Bob Neill said:
The approach to young adults in the criminal justice system must be based on a robust assessment of the evidence. If not, it will continue to fail, with so many missed opportunities to transform lives, repair harm, lower costs, and reduce crime.

Key statistics

The number of young adults in the criminal justice system, mostly men, has fallen in recent years. But adults under 25 representing 10% of the general population, account for 30-40% of criminal caseload, including policing time, those supervised by probation, and prison entrants. They also have the highest reconviction rate, with 75% reconvicted within two years of release. Young adults serving community sentences have equally poor outcomes: they have the highest breach rates.
The worst outcomes are typically for young black and Muslim men and care leavers, each of whom are over-represented in the system. Nearly half of young men and two thirds of young women in custody aged between 16 and 21 have recently been in care; many have a history of being exposed to violence, including in the home, abuse, neglect, bereavement and criminal behaviour.



Much of the recent research in this area derives from a substantial programme supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, which has established and supported the Transition to Adulthood Alliance (T2A), a coalition of 12 criminal justice, health and youth organisations. The Committee heard from T2A that there is an irrefutable body of evidence from advances in behavioural neuroscience that the typical male adult brain is not fully formed until the mid-twenties.
The evidence supporting the view that young adults have distinct needs and outcomes is founded on three main bodies of research: criminology, neurology and psychology. The Committee heard evidence from experts in each of these fields.
Committee Chair Bob Neill said:
Research findings in criminology, psychology and neurology indicate the need for a distinctive approach. There is overwhelming enthusiasm for change within the sector. And yet the Government has been hesitant to act. We do not understand why it has not been more courageous, and has hidden behind outdated legislation. So we have used the evidence we received to develop a blueprint for change, which we expect the Government to adopt as part of their forthcoming reform plan.

Blueprint for change

The main points in the Committee’s blueprint include:
  • Overarching principles to inform a step-change in policy and practice in relation to young adults and to underpin a strategic approach “founded on the clear philosophy that the system should seek to acknowledge explicitly [young adults’] developmental status, focus on [their] strengths, build their resilience and recognise unapologetically the degree of overlap of their status as victims and offenders” (para 142)
  • Understanding risks and needs including “through a policy of universal screening by prisons and probation services for mental health needs, neuro-developmental disorders, maturity and neuro-psychological impairment” (para 143)
  • A distinct approach with specialist staff in prison and probation services and other criminal justice professionals dealing with young adults underpinned by more in-depth training (para 144)
  • Building the evidence base for the treatment of young adult offenders, in part through expanding the availability of promising programmes and robustly evaluating them, and examination by the Ministry of Justice of whether the case can be made for investment to facilitate interventions aimed at young adults, including by the creation of an equivalent to the pupil premium for prisons and Community Rehabilitation Companies (para 146)
  • Cross-departmental reform to extend statutory support provided to under-18s by a range of agencies to people up to the age of 25, and consideration of legislative change to recognise the developmental status of young adults (para 147 and 148)
  • Courts and sentencing: further work to evaluate the impact of maturity as a mitigating factor in sentencing and the inclusion of age and maturity in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, and the testing of young adult courts (para 150 and 152)
  • Prisons: use of the forthcoming prison reform bill to extend for those up to the age of 25 the sentence of detention in a young offender institution for 18 to 20 year olds, together with testing various models of ways of holding young adults in custodial institutions, revision of the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme, and other measures to reduce violence in prisons (para 154 and 155).

Dying on the streets

St Mungo’s reveals a dramatic increase in the proportion of people sleeping rough who have died with mental health support needs from 2010 to 2017

The case for ending rough sleeping

Anew (19 June 2018) report from St Mungo’s reveals the shocking fact that one rough sleeper in London dies every fortnight and that a large proportion of these men and women have mental health needs.
Dying on the Streets  is based on a national survey of outreach teams working with rough sleepers. The survey results show that too many deaths are going ignored, and access to emergency accommodation and mental health services for people sleeping rough is getting harder. In London, 158 people who were sleeping rough died between 2010 and 2017.
Survey respondents said access to vital services for people sleeping rough has got harder during the last five years:

The survey received 71 responses from services operating in every English region. Here are the main findings:
  • 79% of respondents said rough sleeping had risen in their area in the last five years, compared to just 3% who said it had fallen and 13% who said levels had stayed the same.
  • Only 21% of respondents said their outreach service had seen a real terms increase in funding in the last five years. 31% reported a funding decrease, despite the rise in the number of people sleeping rough.
  • 63% of respondents were aware of someone who had died while sleeping rough in their local authority area in the last year. However, only 23% had any experience of a review being carried out in their area following the death of someone sleeping rough.
  • 64% of respondents said access to emergency accommodation for people sleeping rough had got harder compared to five years ago.
  • 70% of respondents said access to mental health services for people sleeping rough had got harder compared to five years ago, and 42% said the same for access to substance use services.
The chart below shows the proportion of people who died while sleeping rough in London who had a recorded mental health problem:
St Mungo’s make ten key recommendations in their report to address this tragic situation; calling on the Government to commit to the following in the forthcoming national rough sleeping strategy:
  1. Ensure multi-agency reviews always take place following the death of anyone sleeping rough, and numbers are recorded at the national level.
  2. Increase funding for StreetLink to raise public engagement and awareness of the service, improve the quality of alerts submitted and the ability of outreach services to respond to referrals.
  3. Create a specific funding pot for rapid relief from rough sleeping that promotes joint funding from health and local authority budgets for assertive outreach.
  4. Invest in specialist mental health services for homeless people in all areas with high levels of rough sleeping.
  5. Guarantee rapid access to drug and alcohol services for people sleeping rough, regardless of local connection or recourse to public funds.
  6. Ensure that assessments under the Care Act are available on the streets to all people sleeping rough.
  7. Guarantee emergency accommodation for individuals at immediate risk of rough sleeping, and expand access to No Second Night Out (NSNO) services.
  8. Fund innovative emergency accommodation options including pop-up assessment hubs, female-only emergency accommodation and emergency accommodation with immigration advice for migrants sleeping rough.
  9. Improve the accuracy and speed of decision making on immigration applications and prioritise applications from people who are sleeping rough.
  10. Require a refresh of all local homelessness strategies to plan and integrate these new rapid relief measures.

Streetlink is a government app that provides a simple way for people to inform the authorities about rough sleepers and ensure they are offered help & support.


StreetLink is a website that enables the public to alert local authorities in England and Wales about people sleeping rough in their area.
This service offers the public a means to act when they see someone sleeping rough, and is the first step someone can take to ensure rough sleepers are connected to the local services and support available to them.
The service is funded by Government as part of its commitment to end rough sleeping.
It has launched a companion app which allows members of the public to alert the authorities to people sleeping rough so that they can be offered helping services.

The app

The app is basic but works well. The initial bugs seem to have been resolved (judging by user comments on iTunes and Google Play) and the app works best when you set up a profile and enter basic minimum details about yourself (name, email and phone number if you like).
If you then spot a rough sleeper you are concerned about, you simply let your phone set your location and provide basic information about exactly where you saw them (on a bench, in a car park etc.) and whether you have seen the person frequently.

The app also gives advice on how to get help for a rough sleeper.
Additionally, it provides you with information about the number of rough sleepers by local authority (you can see my recent blog post on the worrying rise of rough sleepers nationally) and keeps a record of any reports you make.
This is a very basic app but does exactly what it says on the tin and is probably invaluable for volunteers helping out with a soup kitchen or other provision for people sleeping rough.
You can download the iOS version here
You can download the Android version here

All innovation posts are kindly sponsored by Socrates 360 which provides a complete solution for staff, prisoners, probationers, etc. combining engaging content, simple set-up and an easy tracking system. Socrates 360 has no influence over editorial content.

Drugscope's State of the Sector survey makes it very clear that a large proportion of dependent drug users with complex needs face a dramatic cutback in a wide range of services essential to promoting their recovery.

Drug treatment under pressure

On 12 February 2015 DrugScope published its latest State of the Drug Treatment Sector report. Based on a survey of 189 treatment services, supplemented by a number of interviews with Chief Executives, the report focused on three key themes:
  1. The frequency and impact of recommissioning;
  2. The nature and impact of changes to funding; and
  3. Gaps in provision.

Addiction to re-commissioning

The report found that the substance misuse field is still addicted to recommissioning, despite the inevitable expense and disruption to services that this causes. 54% of community services had been through re-tendering or contract renegotiation in the year prior to the survey (up to September 2013) and one half (49%) were expecting to go through that process in the coming year.
Survey respondents noted that much  re-commissioning was driven by the desire to make economies of scale but that this resulted in a lack of diversity and choice for service users. Small and medium-sized organisations were felt to be particularly disadvantaged by the incessant recommissioning cycle.

Funding cuts

It is clear that substance misuse services are no longer protected from the reduction in public sector spending. The survey found a strong consensus that the substance misuse field is likely to suffer substantial disinvestment between 2014 and 2016 with an average net reduction of 16.5% although the picture varies considerably from area to area with different survey respondents reporting substantial increases or decreases.
The graphic below shows this mixed picture with a worrying figure that 60% of community services are experiencing a decrease in funding:

state of sector 2015 funding

 Gaps in provision

Of course, cuts in other services have also had significant impact on drug users in treatment. Access to mental health treatment and support has always been problematic for drug users but over one fifth respondents felt that access had worsened in the year prior to the survey:
state of sector 2015 gaps


Respondents did acknowledge that the drug treatment sector has received substantial government funding over the last 15 years, but Drugscope’s State of the Sector survey makes it very clear that this period is well and truly over and that a large proportion of dependent drug users with complex needs face a dramatic cutback in a wide range of services essential to promoting their recovery.

What the MoJ doesn’t know about prison and probation

The MoJ acknowledges strategic evidence gaps and asks the research community to help address them.

Research gaps

Last week (17 May 2018), the MoJ published an interesting document setting out its areas of research interest. The document highlights the Ministry of Justice’s strategic evidence gaps with a focus on long-term and cross-cutting gaps in our understanding. It was published in the light of Sir Paul Nurse’s review of research councils which made clear the need for government departments to communicate clearly about where their long-term research interests lie, to ensure that:
the UK continues to support world-leading science and invests public money in the best possible way. 
The document sets out its research gaps under four themes:
  1. Deliver a modern courts and justice system 
  2. Create a prison and probation service that reforms offenders 
  3. Promote Global Britain and protect the rule of law 
  4. Create a transformed department that delivers excellent services
In this post, I focus on the second theme – how the prison and probation services can promote desistance and reduce reoffending.

What research the MoJ wants

The prisons and probation section highlights four main themes which are discussed in turn below.

1: How do we reduce the number of young people offending and entering the youth justice system?

Arecently published Ministry of Justice international review outlines approaches that can be effective in managing young people in the youth justice system. While the evidence base is growing, most of the high quality published studies are international. Therefore, there is a lack of robust evidence on what works for whom at the various stages in our youth justice system. Comparable information on cost-effective interventions is also limited. Key questions highlighted by the MoJ include:
  • Which interventions are most effective in preventing ‘at risk’ children and young people from offending?
  • Which interventions are effective in reducing reoffending (and improving other outcomes such as education; training and employment; health and accommodation) for children and young people at various stages of the youth justice system?
  • What works to increase compliance among children and young people with the various youth justice disposals and supervision?
  • What type of interventions reduce reoffending among children and young people who are being supervised in the community or in custody?
  • What are the outcomes for children and young people post-release from custody (for example education, training and employment, health and accommodation)?
  • What are the factors predicting transition into the adult criminal justice system and do these vary by ethnicity or gender?

2: Does diversion to alternative disposals work and for whom?

The criminal court and youth justice system delivers justice through the decision making of magistrates, judges and other key stakeholders. It is a complex and expensive system to run. Diverting more offenders, where it is appropriate to do so, to alternative disposals or support has potential to deliver efficiencies, swifter justice and better outcomes. This includes triage, health and liaison to divert low level youth offenders and/or those with health issues away from the formal justice system to more appropriate support. For the wider offender population, initiatives include Restorative Justice and Community Resolutions. The MoJ wants to know:
  • How effective are different interventions aimed at dealing with the underlying causes of offending? At what point in the justice process or pre-justice process are they most effective? Who are they most effective for? What is the best approach to commissioning and delivering these interventions?
  • How effective are alternative disposals and diversionary methods in reducing subsequent offending? How does this vary across offence and offender type, and how can we make sure diversion is targeted where most effective? Where do costs and benefits fall?
  • What incentives and behavioural levers are more effective in encouraging the use of alternative disposals and diversionary methods among front line stakeholders?
  • What are the attitudes of victims, witnesses and the wider public, as well as key partner organisations such as the police and judiciary, towards alternative disposals, diversionary methods and community supervision? Is there confidence in these measures delivering justice?


3: What interventions are most cost-effective in reducing adult reoffending, and what works for whom?

There is good evidence on what factors are associated with reoffending – for example, impulsivity and poor self-regulation, drug misuse, lack of employment or lack of stable accommodation. However, our understanding of what works to reduce reoffending tends to be high level, with less understanding of what approaches might work best with different types of offender. In terms of sanctions, there are, for example, questions about the optimal approach to rehabilitating vulnerable offenders. In terms of interventions, there is good evidence on some (for example drug misuse) but for others there are gaps (for example accommodation). Evidence on the costs and benefits of interventions (and on which part of the system the costs and benefits fall) is also lacking, as is a more in-depth understanding of what works with whom, and how. Better quality evidence in this area would help to improve practice and design more effective interventions for offenders, be they delivered in a custodial or community setting. This is the largest section in the document and you can see the hand of the Probation Inspectorate. I reproduce some of the MoJ’s highlighted areas below:
  • Are certain sanctions more appropriate for some offenders than others, and how do we create the right conditions in custody and community for this rehabilitation? What is the best way to rehabilitate vulnerable offenders – for example those with mental health problems or learning disabilities, or those who have experienced domestic abuse?
  • What role does the workforce have in achieving effective rehabilitation? How can we develop a rehabilitative culture across the prison and probation workforce?
  • How can local services be best engaged to support and sustain desistance during the sentence and beyond? How can providers of services collaborate and work in partnership with prisons and probation to support offenders?
  • At what point of an offenders’ journey through the criminal justice system can we best intervene to support their rehabilitation?
  • What is the relationship between different sentences (custodial versus community, length of sentence, and delivery of sentence such as use of electronic tags) and reducing reoffending or promoting positive outcomes (for example reduced drug use)? What factors account for the relationship, and are there lessons to suggest different sentences are more effective in reducing reoffending in different circumstances?
  • What works to increase compliance among offenders with their court orders and licence conditions?
  • Which non-accredited interventions are effective in reducing reoffending and supporting desistance?
  • How effective are new forms of technology in engaging service users and supporting their desistance (for example, electronic monitoring and in-cell technology)?
  • What are the links between the different operating models implemented by prison and probation providers and key outcomes for service users? How effective are community hubs in helping engage probation service users and supporting their desistance?

4: How do we best create custodial and community based environments that keep people safe and reduce levels of violence and self-harm?

Improving and sustaining safety in prisons is a high and urgent priority for the department. Providing a safer environment for those in prison and returning people to the community in a better condition than on their entry to custody is an essential role of the prison service. We have reasonable information on levels of violence and self-harm within prisons as well as some of the risk factors (for example, assaults are strongly associated with younger age prisoners as well as those with low self-control). Existing evidence also shows that the prison environment, and the relationships within it, play a considerable role in how prisoners behave: for example, physically poor conditions, highly controlling regimes, or circumstances in which rules are unevenly applied or not adhered to, heighten tensions and induce stresses, giving rise to conflict and assault. Available staff with appropriate skills and minimising the illicit economy in prisons are also important in reducing risk. Further research, particularly involving quantified outcomes, is needed. The key questions where the MoJ is inviting research are:
  • What approaches are effective in reducing incidents in prison such as assaults, self-harm or drug use?
  • What are the drivers of violence and self-harm in custody and how can we better predict emerging risks? How does this vary by prison type and offender groups?
  • What are effective ways of stopping illicit items entering custody?
Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and autho Russell Webster.