Criminal justice policy and the voluntary sector

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1 Criminal justice policy and the voluntary sector

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3 Criminal justice policy and the voluntary sector Involving the voluntary sector 5 Reducing re-offending 5 Listening and responding to people with lived experience 6 Reducing cost and saving money 6 Multiple and complex needs 7 A different approach for women 7 Preventing youth custody 8 Young adults as a distinct group 8 Support for children and families 9 Tackling racial disproportionality 9 Health and wellbeing 10 Valuing volunteers 10 Creativity and inspiration are vital 11

4 Clinks is the national infrastructure organisation supporting voluntary sector organisations in the Criminal Justice System. 4,000 National network Our aim is to ensure the sector and the people they support are informed and engaged in order to transform lives and communities. We are a membership organisation with over 650 members including the voluntary sector s largest providers as well as the smallest; our wider national network reaches over 4,000 voluntary sector contacts. 650 Members This pamphlet sets out the key policy issues raised by Clinks members, and the main issues on which Clinks advocates for change. For more detail please visit 04

5 Involving the voluntary sector The voluntary sector consists of charities, community groups, and social enterprises which range from small and unstaffed groups to large organisations that deliver a diverse range of services for individuals, families, and communities. Many provide opportunities for people in the Criminal Justice System to change for the better; whether that is through housing, training and employment, mental health, mentoring, drug and alcohol, debt advice, or other services. The voluntary sector is a crucial partner in the design as well as the delivery of services, and should be involved fully in order to improve the Criminal Justice System. The voluntary sector, if it is to play a full role in improving services, must be allowed to speak out on behalf of, advocate and campaign for the people they exist to support. Reducing re-offending The voluntary sector has pioneered a desistance based approach which supports people to change their own lives, rather than doing rehabilitation to them. Desistance from crime is not a one-off event it often involves moving in and out of offending behaviour before stopping altogether, and is different for each individual. There are many factors that positively support desistance from crime, including employment, housing, improved health and well-being, better family relations, a positive self-identity, and forming constructive bonds with peers, support workers, and communities. The voluntary sector has driven the need for more person-centred services. These services are often delivered at a local level by highly trained staff and volunteers. The services are flexible and person-centred so that they can be appropriately tailored to the individual. Clinks thinks the voluntary sector s role as both a crucial designer and provider of services should be recognised through increasingly open engagement. The voluntary sector s role as a campaigner should be protected, allowing it to speak freely on behalf of service users and communities. Clinks thinks the Government should do more to bring desistance theory into the heart of policy making and service delivery. Policy and practice should be person-centred, acknowledge that people need long-term support, and that relapse can sometimes be part of the journey to rehabilitation. 05

6 Listening and responding to people with lived experience The people and families who have experience of the Criminal justice System are a vital source of intelligence about how to improve services. The voluntary sector promotes a number of models for involving these experts by experience, in order to listen to their views, involve them in service design and the delivery of services. These approaches amplify people s voices to make sure the Criminal Justice System benefits from their insights. Clinks thinks the Ministry of Justice, commissioners, and service providers should prioritise the involvement of service users to inform policy and practice. Where possible this should be conducted by a neutral party who is able to talk and listen to service users with total impartiality. Reducing cost and saving money The pressure on government budgets at a national and local level means that our police, courts, prisons, and probation services are having to operate with fewer resources. The same is true for services that assist rehabilitation, such as mental health, drugs and alcohol, housing and homelessness. The biggest cost in the system is imprisonment, and the most effective way to reduce cost will be through early intervention, prevention and alternatives to custody. If we allow budgets to be held more locally and ensure local areas are responsible for reducing re-offending, then the cost savings of a more effective approach could be re-invested in critical services for the most disadvantaged. Clinks thinks the Ministry of Justice should develop a clear strategy for reducing the number of people in prison by increasing investment in preventative services, diverting more people away from the Criminal Justice System into appropriate services, and rolling out alternatives to custody. This should be supported by piloting the devolution of responsibility and budgets to local areas. 06

7 Multiple and complex needs People in the Criminal Justice System are often facing multiple and complex needs that require support from a range of agencies. They are commonly experiencing a combination of homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, mental ill-health, and associated problems with benefits and debt. However, a lack of coordination between services and commissioners means that these individuals are often passed from pillar to post, facing multiple assessments, different referral criteria, and a range of key workers to engage with. This can be confusing and reduces the likelihood that services will be either effective or efficient. A different approach for women Women who have offended are known to have very different needs to men. A large majority have experienced trauma, including sexual and domestic abuse; many have been homeless; many are primary carers; suffer from mental ill-health including post-traumatic stress disorder; are engaged in street sex work; and have chronic substance misuse problems. Only a tiny proportion of women in the justice system are assessed as a high risk of harm to others and as such most women could be effectively managed in the community, thereby avoiding the need for prison. The voluntary sector has developed gender-specific responses to this challenge, including a one-stopshop approach that delivers a holistic package of support in a safe and women-only environment. Clinks thinks services require better local coordination for people with multiple and complex needs. Decision makers, commissioners, and service providers should use learning from the Making Every Adult Matter coalition to assist better service design and delivery. Clinks thinks the National Offender Management Service and probation providers should expand the quantity and ensure the quality of gender-specific services for women. This must include working alongside magistrates, the Crown Prosecution Service, and defence solicitors to encourage the use of more effective community sentences. 07

8 Preventing youth custody The youth justice system has shown how a focussed approach on reducing youth custody can dramatically reduce the number of people in prison. The local and multi-agency nature of youth offending teams highlights the potential for a different way of delivering criminal justice interventions that works to reduce re-offending. This includes preventing young people from entering the Criminal Justice System and diverting them into more appropriate services. However, the youth justice system will need ongoing investment to keep case loads small and provide flexible one-to-one specialist support. This will need to be matched by a clear strategy that tackles the over-representation of young people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in the system. Clinks thinks that the youth justice system needs to remain focussed on reducing the use of custody, increasing the use of early intervention and diversion, providing a locally owned and multi-agency approach to all services. A national strategy to address the various causes of overrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic young people in the youth justice system needs to be produced and published. Young adults as a distinct group Young adults, defined as year olds, account for less than 10% of the general population, but make up a third of those involved in the Criminal Justice System. Young adults have the highest rates of breach for community orders and are the most likely group to re-offend. But they are also the most likely group to desist from crime with the right support. Despite clear multi-disciplinary evidence that the Criminal Justice System should take a distinct approach to young adults, there has been almost no specific policy or legislation from central government focused on this age group. The majority of youth and adult justice policy and legislation remains arbitrarily split on the basis of chronological age at 18. As a consequence, implementation of the evidence within local service delivery has moved ahead of policy in many parts of the country, but with an inconsistent application nationally. Clinks thinks the Ministry of Justice should utilise the evidence gathered by the Transitions to Adulthood Alliance to produce a national strategy for the management of young adults aged in the Criminal Justice System. This needs to promote a distinct approach to young adults and design services, based on evidence and service user consultation, which support desistance from crime. 08

9 Support for children and families Evidence shows that strong family relationships play a key role in reducing the likelihood of re-offending. Families are often the main source of emotional, practical and financial support for prisoners, from the time of arrest to after release. However the impact of imprisonment on families can be considerable and particularly damaging to children, for example children affected by parental imprisonment are twice as likely to suffer mental health problems as their peers. The voluntary sector has played a leading role in this field for many years by pioneering prison visitor centres, developing family engagement work and addressing the needs of children affected by imprisonment. Clinks thinks that services working with the families of people in the Criminal Justice System should be supported by a clear governmentwide strategy, enabling consistent and specialist support on issues such as children s wellbeing, debt, housing and maintaining healthy relationships in custody and post-release. Tackling racial disproportionality Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are disproportionally overrepresented from police arrests, to court rulings, prison population and probation case loads. This needs to be addressed if we are to create a just and equal system. Some specialist voluntary sector organisations provide tailored services to people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, but these grassroots initiatives have been particularly affected by recent cuts in public spending and rapid changes to the local policy and commissioning environment. Clinks thinks the recommendations of the Young Review outline how to improve outcomes for young black and Muslim men in the Criminal Justice System. These should form the basis of a more comprehensive strategy that tackles racial discrimination and disproportionality. 09

10 Health and wellbeing People in contact with the Criminal Justice System suffer from significant health inequalities. There is a high incidence of mental health problems, substance misuse, smoking, learning disability and difficulty, long-term medical conditions and disabilities, and many other health conditions. Improving health outcomes among this group plays an important role in enabling people to desist from crime, but they often have little, or ineffective, contact with statutory health services. Many voluntary sector organisations promote health and well-being through front line services. They can support people to access and engage with health providers, provide a safe venue for outreach services, accompany people to appointments, or assist them to understand and manage their health needs. Valuing volunteers The voluntary sector recruits, trains and manages committed and passionate local people as volunteers. By providing a bridge between communities and the Criminal Justice System volunteers engage and motivate people trying to desist from crime. This includes involving peers as volunteers, where people with lived experience can provide practical advice and support. Volunteering is not free, it requires ongoing investment to ensure quality recruitment, training, and supervision can be maintained. Clinks thinks volunteering should be championed by government departments and providers should involve the voluntary sector to develop sustainable community involvement in vital public services. Clinks thinks that the Ministry of Justice and Department of Health should give a high priority to addressing the health needs of people in contact with the Criminal Justice System. 10

11 Creativity and inspiration are vital Arts have a long and established history in supporting rehabilitation and resettlement in prisons and in the community. Evidence shows that engaging in music, theatre and the visual arts can contribute positively towards desistance from crime. The National Alliance for Arts in Criminal Justice has developed an Evidence Library that houses key research and evaluations that demonstrate the impact art can have. The arts face numerous overlapping challenges, from a difficult funding climate to public opinion, but there is a clear need for access to the arts as a springboard to positive change. It can address underlying issues including lack of self-esteem and confidence to support a person s journey away from crime and towards a new identity. Stay informed Clinks members can access the full range of policy support, including monthly policy e-bulletins, member-only consultation events, expert seminars and access to a range of other member benefits. To become a member and keep up to date with the latest information visit: To ensure that Clinks effectively represents the voluntary sector we regularly consult our members and others by convening workshops, roundtables, conferences and through our online networks. Everything we submit to Government on behalf of our members is published online. You can read our policy briefings and responses by visiting: Clinks thinks the Ministry of Justice and the Arts Council should develop a joint strategy to support the arts within criminal justice settings. 11

12 Tavis House 1-6 Tavistock Square London WC1H 9NA Published by Clinks All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, no part of this publication may be stored in a retrievable system or reproduced in any form without prior written permission from Clinks. Clinks will give sympathetic consideration to requests from small organisations for permission to reproduce this publication in whole or in part but the terms upon which such reproduction may be permitted will remain at Clinks discretion. Clinks and the authors are not legally trained or qualified. Any information or guidance given in this publication should not be taken as a substitute for professional legal advice. Clinks is unable to accept liability for any loss or damage or inconvenience arising as a consequence of the use of any information provided in this guide. Clinks is a registered charity no and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales no

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