Publication - Research and analysis

Evaluation of the Community Reintegration Project

Published: 31 Jul 2014
Part of:
Research
ISBN:
9781784126438

This is an evaluation of the Community Reintegration Project (CRP), which formed part of the Scottish Government’s wider Reducing Reoffending Programme (RRP) and focused on addressing the needs of offenders serving prison sentences between six months and less than four years.

115 page PDF

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115 page PDF

1.0 MB

Contents
Evaluation of the Community Reintegration Project
5 Evidence of Offender Outcomes

115 page PDF

1.0 MB

5 Evidence of Offender Outcomes

5.1 In this chapter, we look at the five short and medium-term outcomes identified in the logic model that relate specifically to offenders. These were:

  • Increased offender trust (short-term)
  • Increased offender motivation to engage (short-term)
  • Increased offender awareness of needs and services (short-term)
  • Increased offender engagement with planning and services (medium-term)
  • Increased addressing of criminogenic needs (medium-term)

5.2 Taken together, these outcomes rely to a great extent on the work that SPS and CJSW staff do with offenders, and the quality and effectiveness of the staff-offender relationship. In particular the input of SPS staff is key, given their involvement with offenders in the custody period and their integral role in promoting the CRP to offenders. As such, the chapter begins by exploring the PO role in relation to the CRP which can be seen as laying the foundations for subsequent engagement, before considering evidence in relation to each of the specific outcomes listed above.

5.3 In considering the outcomes, we argue that the CRP process relies heavily on the role of the PO and that understanding this role is key to understanding offender engagement in CRP. However, we also see the approach taken by CJSW as critical to engagement (in line with the importance attached to early engagement, continuity and quality of relationships in existing evidence in this area - see Chapter 1) in the post-release period and consider the lessons which can be learnt from practice to date. We suggest there is evidence of progress towards short and medium-term outcomes and a plausibility around the achievement of longer-term outcomes albeit that the availability and organisation of community resources will be crucial here.

The role of the PO in encouraging engagement

5.4 The interviews with SPS staff provided a wealth of information about officer-offender interaction and engagement in general (see Chapter 6) - and indeed, this was clearly seen by POs as a central part of their job:

"I'm a residential officer, working in the residential halls, so therefore have very close contact with the prisoners on a daily basis." SPS14

"That's the role [of a PO], identifying these needs and responding to them, setting small goals, allowing somebody to understand...that even though they're in prison they still have choices, you still have power...you still can decide for yourself how you want to be...its enlightening, it's about observation and allowing somebody to know that when they are good at something, picking on that strength, building it up and moving it forward...." SPS9

5.5 The CRP process clearly builds on this type of approach, and the related paperwork and documentation highlights the importance of offender motivation and engagement to the success of the process, and the role of SPS officers and CJSW staff in encouraging this. Several of the SPS interviewees explained how officers could take an active role in encouraging offenders to engage in the process by explaining the process and emphasising the benefits to the individual:

"… I do emphasise ... 'It's for your benefit, if you have any needs. Even if you have none now,' I says, 'in a couple of weeks' time… it's just a case of putting a referral in". SPS8

"You could kind of encourage them and bring them along with it, explain the benefits of it." SPS12

5.6 The experiences of offenders who had participated in the CRP process also provided evidence of the important role that prison staff had played in encouraging them to get involved in the process. One offender remembered her PO as being instrumental in the referral to CJSW; another reported that "At the beginning [my PO] encouraged me to go for it, to see what it would be like…and so I jumped at it basically" (OP10).

5.7 But not all prison staff were as clear about the importance of actively promoting CRP to offenders, or felt properly briefed or equipped to undertake this role:

"Yeah, it was voluntary if they wanted to do it and that was basically it's not really pushed, I don't think so, it's not pushed." SPS1

"...a manager will come and say 'This person has been selected to do CRP. Can you go and speak to them and see if they want to do it?' That's all we get. We just get it handed to us with a name on it, go and speak to that person and that's it." SPS16

"It would be a doddle to promote if you knew they were going to get support...They had a format they wanted us to follow which we already did, and they gave us no contacts, they gave us no reference, they gave us no help and no support! We tried to do it...we made great efforts every time...we had no phone number ...we couldn't...it was very difficult to persuade prisoners that the criminal justice authority within that area was going to help them." SPS9

5.8 The lack of awareness of community services (CJSW and other) noted by this SPS officer was also raised as a barrier to promoting CRP by a number of other interviewees.

5.9 There was, then, considerable variation in the nature and extent of the effort that went into promoting CRP to offenders; and a perception amongst interviewees that the level of encouragement offered to offenders depended very much on the attitude of individual members of staff. One PO gave his version of how he thought some staff presented the scheme to offenders in a less than whole-hearted way:

"Now, it's very easy for staff to go … 'Right. There's this thing. You want to get involved with it?' 'What does it mean?' 'Och, not very much.'... 'You don't have to if you don't want to. There's a disengagement form if you want…'" SPS14

5.10 Ensuring offenders were properly informed about the services and support available via CRP was identified as a factor in encouraging engagement. Linked to this, the importance of the quality of the initial contact with offenders was recognised by those in managerial or supervisory roles. They acknowledged the need to ensure that officers were suitably equipped to carry out the role:

"And this is where the downfall is in the residential staff's understanding of CRP…because they don't have the knowledge, then they're not able to sell the ...you know… the incentive to the prisoner... Where we're allocating cases to officers, I suppose maybe we should be saying to them, 'What's your understanding? How are you going to encourage the prisoner to become involved in this? Is there anything you need to know?' - so that they can go away feeling confident, or more confident, about what they're actually doing…" SPS4

5.11 One establishment in particular had taken steps to address this. As well as moving the Stage 2b interview to the Link Centre to help ensure a more consistent approach to the initial offer of CRP involvement, they had also introduced a process whereby subsequent disengagement was routinely followed up and challenged by a residential manager.

5.12 These issues to do with the quality of the initial explanation of the CRP to offenders by prison staff were also highlighted by some CJSW staff who felt that offenders referred on to them often showed little awareness of the reason for their referral or little motivation to engage:

"I have to say most women that I've been up to see, when I speak to them [at a first meeting] about the referral that's been made, they've got no idea what it's about." CJSW8

"…you're getting guys coming across and… the first question I'll always ask in any interview, 'Do you know why you're here?' And I would say 90% of the guys that I see'll say, 'No'. 'Has the CRP been explained to you?', and the biggest answer you'll get is either 'No' or 'I've heard something about it, but, you know, I dinnae have any …' So we're then a wee bitty on the back foot at that point. We're having to sort o' sell it if you like at that point". CJSW5

5.13 However, while recognising the need to improve rates of engagement and attrition (and the fact that the prisons were actively trying to do this), CJSW staff also regarded this as something of a double-edged sword. The advantage of prisons adopting a more proactive approach was that it led to engagement from some offenders who might otherwise have slipped through the net or have dropped out of the project; however, CJSW staff also indicated that working with unmotivated people presented challenges for them, and that formal disengagement might sometimes be a preferred option.

5.14 Although staff showed commitment to working with offenders in general and motivating them to engage in CRP in particular, they were also clear that there were particular groups of offenders who would always be difficult to engage in a scheme such as CRP. These included:

  • Long-term, repeat offenders: This was a type of offender whom it was felt did not wish to change, would not respond to staff encouragement, and was regarded as a "tough nut to crack".
  • Offenders who regarded prison as a 'positive' option: Some were reported as keen to stay or return as prison provided a safe and secure environment, and was perceived as preferable to the alternatives available to them.
  • Those on very short sentences: In these cases there may not be an opportunity to build up a relationship or offer any sort of interventions to address behavioural issues. It was also suggested that longer sentences could sometimes offer the opportunity of a period of stability and a cleaner break from a lifestyle linked to offending, and allow the time to reflect and make positive choices.
  • Those with antipathy toward social work and social workers as a result of previous experience. It was noted that many offenders had long records of involvement with social work in relation to their own histories or those of their children and that previous negative experiences made them unwilling to engage with CJSW as part of the CRP process. A similar antipathy towards engagement with SPS staff was also noted.

5.15 It was also noted that some offenders were returning to stable environment in the community, e.g. returning to a former address and employment, and so had no real need for CRP support. Such offenders would account for some of the observed non-engagement and attrition.

5.16 More generally, there may be scope for improving the quality of the initial interaction with offenders. Interviews with offenders suggested that they had low levels of awareness and understanding of the CRP as a specific initiative. While this may not be inherently important - awareness was also low amongst those who remained engaged in the post-release phase - it may help explain the pattern of attrition if offenders are not fully informed and persuaded of the benefits of the process from the outset.

5.17 Overall, then, the staff-offender interface and the initial approach to engaging offenders in the CRP emerged as an important theme in the evaluation, and appears fundamental to the success of the reintegration process. This, therefore, provides a key theme in addressing the specific CRP outcomes in the following sections.

Increased offender awareness of needs and services

5.18 An increased awareness of their own needs and of available services among offenders would appear to be a logical pre-requisite for increased engagement. The interviews with offenders provide some evidence of offender awareness and a tentative suggestion that this may have increased as a result of the CRP process

5.19 Many of the offenders who had been through the CRP process showed awareness of their own needs, particularly in relation to addiction issues, and most were receiving support or awaiting referrals from a range of agencies. Typically, offenders had been referred to housing and benefit services within prison, with support to tackle addiction another common feature. Among women offenders, in particular, identification of family and relationship issues was also common, with related referrals to relevant services.

5.20 The evaluation cannot provide definitive evidence that such referrals resulted directly from engagement with the CRP or that they would not have occurred without such engagement. Often, the offenders themselves were unclear how referrals had come about; in other cases, a range of pathways was evident e.g. offenders made self-referrals, or were referred on to other services via the TSO scheme at one prison or via drugs workers or mentoring services such as Shine.

5.21 However, a number of offenders provided accounts of how interactions with staff as part of the CRP process had made them aware of their own needs:

"You know, I was in there and I thought 'I don't really need help'…I'm thinking it's only like alcoholics or drug abusers that need [help] but you do need it [help] once you've been in there …" OC3

"Maybe at the start you think, oh, I don't need help, I don't need to go and speak to agencies. But when you, when you actually go and speak to them, like - trying to think how you'd put it. Like for me, I find it hard to open up to people and that's including workers as well; like I just find it hard. But it's put me into a better place where, come on, I'm gonna tell them and then I've told them sometimes what it is and we've worked on stuff…" OP22

5.22 Another offender described specifically how the experience of discussing her CJSW report as part of the Comprehensive Screen process had made her take stock of the issues affecting her life and how those had contributed to her offending behaviour:

"…basically it gave me a kind of...wake up call if you know what I mean, seeing that down on paper." OP10

5.23 In relation to awareness of services, offenders involved in the CRP process cited examples of POs organising referrals for them. However, it was also apparent that offenders in custody got a lot of information about services and support from other inmates or were already aware of available services in prison as a result of previous sentences, and the extent to which the CRP itself led to increased awareness of available services was not clear. Awareness of services with a practical focus (e.g. around housing or addiction) was particularly high, as was awareness of those with an established 'profile' within the prison, such as Shine, Phoenix Futures or New Routes. The implications of this for a new project or service, like the CRP, are returned to in Chapter 7.

5.24 There was, though, some evidence of increased awareness of community services, particularly in relation to the CJSW service itself. One offender nearing release said: "I know [now] there is help available" (OP22); another said "I mean I never even knew there was throughcare in [town]" (OP7). The research also identified instances of offenders re-engaging with throughcare following release - something that was only possible because they had been made aware of the service while in custody and knew how to make contact.

Increased offender trust

5.25 It was apparent from the interviews that trust was considered critical to offender-practitioner relationships, regardless of whether those involved prison officers, CJSW workers or representatives of other support agencies and services. This was a particularly strong theme in the interviews with women offenders and staff working with this group. While this was considered relevant to all relationships, not just those linked to the CRP, staff (both CJSW and SPS) felt that the regular meetings which formed part of the CRP process supported the development of a trusting relationship:

"[It's] just that they feel more supported and stuff and, you know, they'll obviously get to know me a lot better and be able to kind of confide in me about things and then they'll find it easier to get some of the problems sorted. I think, you know, they'll find me approachable and just, just things like that, you know. They can be a lot more open about things and get their issues sorted for release." SPS5

"The more you go up and visit them, the more they start to open up." CJSW8

5.26 Being seen to take action was also a factor in developing trust. One of the offenders interviewed emphasised that this sense of follow through was integral to the relationship with individual staff members:

"I like [officer]. He gets things done; when you ask him to do it and he gets things done. He does it, same as [officer]..." OP22

5.27 In contrast, another offender recounted the negative experience that she had had: "You go to an officer and say, 'Officer, I want to see someone', 'Yes, we'll do it', and then they don't do it for you. I think that's terrible" (OP21). It is, thus, possible to see how carrying out a proactive PO role in relation to the CRP could lead to the development of a relationship based on trust and, conversely, how shortcomings in the way the role is discharged could undermine the development of a positive relationship built on trust.

5.28 In relation to developing this sort of trusting relationship with CJSW staff, there was also evidence of how the CRP process may have assisted this by facilitating interaction with offenders prior to release:

"…she'd come up and visited me twice. She was up to see me before that… she was a good support. She was alright. It was good to know that I was going out to somebody." OP2

"If you meet them a couple of times [before release] you just feel you can be honest." OP7

5.29 CJSW workers also concurred, explaining from their perspective the benefits to be gained from early referral and the opportunity to develop a positive relationship:

"I think just maybe the timeframe as well, getting the referrals early. I think that is kind of quite a key for them - I mean, it might not make them engage, but I think getting them early - and it's not just you've met them once in custody and 'I'll see you when you come out.' I think if you've met them a few times, then you are going up there and you're travelling and meeting them, and they can see, 'Oh, there's - that girl's back again,' or - it's the same person as well. And again, if they've maybe asked you to look into something, that you're going up and saying, 'Well, I've done this,' or, 'Let's fill in this form,' or, 'Let's do this.' I think they feel that you are there to support them." CJSW11

5.30 Much of the evidence in this area relates to work with women offenders who seemed to more readily respond to the opportunity to work with CJSW following release. Nevertheless there were also male offenders who spoke positively of the support they had received from CJSW and their continuing engagement following release:

"I wasn't too sure about it [to start with]. I just thought, oh, it's another thing. But since I've come out X has done a lot for me. She's keeping in contact with me. I'm keeping in contact with her, so I would say to people it's a good thing to do." OC4

5.31 This offender spoke in terms of the practical support he had received from his CJSW worker, but it can be seen how this might lead to the development of a positive and trusting relationship providing the potential for more holistic support.

Increased offender motivation to engage

5.32 Offender motivation was a key theme across all groups of interviewees, both in a general sense and specifically in relation to the CRP. It was clear that a range of factors contributed to the motivation to engage with services and address needs. While many offenders indicated that their motivations were of a personal or external nature, there were also indications that working with staff - POs, CJSW workers, TSOs and other agency workers - could help to reinforce this motivation.

5.33 It was recognised by many staff, and by offenders, that the opportunity to address practical needs - especially housing - often provided the initial motivation to engage with services:

"…but housing and benefits is about the only [needs] you can guarantee they'll ask for help on, but the rest of them [needs] you might need to push them into!" SPS3

5.34 Certainly, it was apparent that accommodation was a key concern for interviewees. However, a number of staff noted that there were risks associated with this if offender expectations were raised and then not met. One officer recognised the importance of ensuring that offenders were not misled as to what the accommodations options might be:

"There's probably a general issue, is it realistic for my staff to maybe say to prisoners 'Well, this is about throughcare and if you've got housing issues let us know, and we can sort them out for you before you go out'? In the prisoner's mind, they're thinking 'They're going to get me a house'. They aren't…" SPS16

5.35 Another officer suggested that some offenders had turned down the opportunity to engage with the CRP on a subsequent prison sentence because of disappointment at the outcome of previous involvement with the project. It was also suggested that this could be demotivating for staff as well as offenders:

"Ultimately we have no control over where [Housing] decides to put somebody and if they are only going to give them a hostel place, they are only going to give them a hostel place. So the guy's maybe went in there with all the hopes that he can get something better than that and he gets nothing out of it. The officer sits there thinking, they just put him there anyway. What benefit was that?" SPS15

5.36 In this context, several staff expressed a wish to hear how people had fared following release so they could learn of the value of the scheme, and so they could use positive stories to promote the CRP to offenders.

5.37 While addressing practical needs was seen as a key motivator in engaging with the CRP and related services, there were also some who were motivated by a more fundamental desire to change their lifestyle and behaviour and were positive about the opportunities available to do so. There were a range of examples from the offender interviews of personal circumstances acting as a trigger to engage with services and make changes in their lives: relationships, children, and the death of a partner were all mentioned as factors in people's motivation to engage; others talked in a more general sense about the importance of life circumstances, and age in particular, as triggering a desire to change:

"I'm 34…I'm only living for my bairn and my kids, ken, and that's what I'm wanting, to bring my kids up as normal as possible." OP14

"I don't want to keep offending. I'm 43 years of age. I'm getting a wee bit sick of it." OP18

"I'm only 21. I don't want to be in here the rest of my life… The jail is great. Like seriously [other prisoners] need to wake up, do you know what I mean? Like change it, go and change your life." OP22

5.38 Staff recognised the importance of harnessing such personal motivation in addressing the needs of individuals and, equally, the difficulty of making progress in its absence. As one officer put it: "…they have to want to change. We can throw all the things on, all the courses, all the pilots, all the process but if they don't want to change…" (SPS6).

5.39 While the importance of offender self-motivation and individual desire to change was noted by several interviewees, the role of staff - both prison and CJSW - in developing and supporting such motivation was also apparent. Two CRP participants spoke of their experience of CJSW input, with one highlighting the importance of the emotional support provided by her CJSW worker, and another explaining how the practical support provided had kept her focused:

"… they're always there, you know? I'm still needing help even [after] all this time… It's made a difference to me because the way ... the way I was feeling when I came out of there, I don't even know if I'd be here the now" (OC3).

"[CJSW worker], like she can do a lot for you, you know what I mean? Like if you didn't really know how to go around things and how to - like if you've got something to do and you want to do it, but you don't really ken how to go about it, she'll sit down and she'll speak to you, 'This is, this is a plan of action'. She gives you a wee plan. Do you know what I mean? She says, 'Right, well, we'll speak to them' and she just sort of helps you, gets you back to outside really." OP22

5.40 Staff themselves also acknowledged their role in motivating people to engage or to stay engaged. One SPS officer said:

"… the point of doing the interview [Stage 4] in my opinion is to actually keep them motivated to keep involved even if there isn't a change, but there are always small changes." SPS15

5.41 A CJSW worker offered thoughts along similar lines:

"…but a lot of it's motivational as well. You know? I think .. well, I like to think that the good bit … the best part of it is motivational…if we have to see guys six times during the course of a sentence, that's fine by me, you know? If I've got a guy saying, 'Right. When are you coming back? I really want to see you pretty soon.', I'll do that, and I know [colleague] will as well, because if that's keeping them going, or if that's actually giving them a bit of belief, and keeping them engaged with services and whatnot, it's small fry to us." CJSW5

5.42 The experience of staff and offenders, thus, suggests that the motivation to engage with services is complex, but that SPS and CJSW staff have an important role to play in encouraging and maintaining motivation, and that the CRP process can be seen as providing a potential mechanism for tapping into and supporting offender motivation.

Increased offender engagement with reintegration planning and services in prison and in the community

5.43 The CRP monitoring data indicate a level of offender engagement in the reintegration planning process through attendance at reviews and meetings (see Chapter 2), although their commitment to active engagement was reported by CJSW interviewees to be limited in some cases. The meetings with CJSW, in particular, can be seen as representing increased engagement.

5.44 Whether the CRP process is leading to increased engagement with services is less clear. While the evaluation picked up on significant engagement with services, it is not possible to say if there was any increased level of engagement as a result of CRP involvement. However, there was a view, supported by the experience of offenders, that engagement with services (and CJSW in particular) at the pre-release stage increased the likelihood of engagement in the post-release stage. While continuing engagement in the community was not common for male offenders, it appeared to be a more significant feature of working with women offenders, and the experience of those who had maintained contact with CJSW supported the theory that building up a relationship prior to release was key to the success. As one CJSW client said: "… if I'd just come out and met her I'd have been a bit shy with her sort of and now she knows my situation, she know everything I'm going through now" (OC2). The value of continuity of contact was apparent, not just in relation to CJSW, but also in relation to other agencies (e.g. mentoring services) offering pre and post-release services.

5.45 Community-based agencies also offered a view that putting arrangements in place prior to release increased the chances of continuing engagement in services. For them, CJSW throughcare offered the opportunity for more successful engagement through joint working. For example, CJSW presence at meetings and appointments was commented on positively, as was the possibility of following up non-attendance at appointments.

5.46 Those with experience of successful engagement in the post-release phase with women offenders suggested a number of factors which could contribute to this. While the development of a relationship at the custody stage was seen as key, workers also indicated the importance of multi-agency input and practical assistance such as gate pick-ups - both of these factors were seen as instrumental in maintaining contact. However, staff also described a persistent approach to tackling apparent disengagement in the community, with phone calls and text reminders being used to maintain contact between appointments and to follow up non-appearance at appointments.

5.47 Maintaining the engagement of male offenders on release was, however, recognised as an issue which needed to be addressed. CJSW and support agency interviewees offered a range of possible explanations for this, suggesting that offenders disengaged once practical needs were met, once they were out of the prison environment and no longer felt obliged to engage, and as a result of quickly falling back in with old acquaintances and into their old way of life. CJSW staff also noted that they did not currently have the capacity to follow up disengagement in the community in a proactive way.

5.48 The evaluation offered some pointers as to how this might be addressed:

  • The Link Centre-based model undoubtedly allowed for regular pre-release meetings between CJSW support workers and the male offenders accommodated at Perth. However, it is possible that the system of individual CJSW visits necessarily used at the prisons accommodating female offenders was perceived as providing a more personal approach which may have been a factor in the quality of the relationship which developed between CJSW workers and female offenders.
  • Some CJSW staff suggested that a more intensive approach, involving multi-agency pre-release meetings, gate pick-ups and mentoring support, might be needed to facilitate ongoing engagement. This sort of approach appeared to be a more common feature in CRP work with women offenders, and the workers there identified such activities as important to continuing engagement and there may be lessons to learn there. While CJSW staff working with male offenders were keen to develop this type of work as they thought it would help with engagement, it was also recognised that this would have resource implications. Such an approach was, however, already being explored with the extension of the Tayside Intensive Support Scheme (TISS) to the Dundee area. This scheme was a partnership between CJSW, the Police and a number of third sector agencies targeting very persistent male offenders at the point of arrest. TISS will run alongside the CRP, and may provide further pointers for success in this area. The work of other projects such as that running at HMP Addiewell may also offer lessons.
  • The Dundee CJSW team were keen to raise their profile with both offenders and other services, and were considering the production of leaflets advertising the service.
  • Another option being considered by the Dundee CJSW team was that of developing their role in the form of a signposting service, passing offenders on to other agencies who would be able to do the more intensive work with offenders.
  • Flexibility and ease of access were also identified as possible factors in facilitating engagement for male offenders. A health worker, for example, indicated that offenders who were reluctant to engage with CJSW may nevertheless engage with health services, which then opened up the opportunity for cross-referrals to other support services. It was, therefore, important that services operated in a flexible way, offering a holistic approach in response to the needs of this client group, and making appropriate judgments about the need to involve other services in the light of client preferences. A central 'hub' with an addiction focus was also currently being explored - this would provide 'one-stop' access to services and, again, the option for referrals to other agencies.

5.49 There is much here that can be seen to be consistent with the messages emerging from international evidence on features of throughcare associated with successful outcomes (e.g. early engagement, continuity of services, multi-agency working, support in the immediate period following release - see Chapter 1). And, while these points are presented as options for increasing community engagement with male offenders, they may also be relevant to optimising the service for female offenders.

Increased addressing of criminogenic needs

5.50 Criminogenic needs are those related to risk factors associated with criminal behaviour and include issues such as family circumstances (past and present), addictions (drug and alcohol), mental health, homelessness, education, employment and income. Meeting needs in these areas is clearly integral to the aims of the CRP, and the evaluation provides a range of evidence - qualitative and quantitative - in this area about related activity.

5.51 Referrals to services provide one proxy indicator that needs are potentially being met and the monitoring data show referrals to a range of different services in the community. The bulk of such referrals related to housing, addictions and benefits, with a small number related to health and education. Interviews with staff (SPS and CJSW) reinforced this picture, indicating that housing, addictions and benefits were the most frequently identified offender needs, and this was also apparent in the accounts of offenders themselves. Although quantitative data were not available on referrals to prison-based service, the interviews with staff again indicated that such referrals were common: there were frequent references to Link Centre appointments to discuss housing needs and to instigate benefit claims and referrals to prison-based addictions services.

5.52 Staff (SPS, CJSW and those working in community agencies) appeared to have a clear understanding of the factors leading to offending and the need to address these. Addictions, in particular, were highlighted as being linked to criminal activity and repeat prison sentences. However, staff in a range of agencies also saw dealing with issues such as housing and benefits prior to release as a priority. These key issues of housing, benefits and addictions are each discussed briefly below, before looking at the addressing of other needs.

5.53 Housing: Arranging appropriate accommodation was seen as preventing someone having to present as homeless on release which would almost inevitably result in hostel accommodation and likely exposure to a drug and alcohol culture. The relationship between homelessness and offending in particular was seen as central to repeat offending; as one agency worker put it: "Does homelessness cause offending or does offending cause homelessness?"

5.54 Offenders themselves were aware of the criminogenic risks presented by certain accommodation options and were keen to secure housing that would help them avoid criminal behaviour. One offender in the community talked about her concern about being placed in accommodation in an area with a known drug problem; another offender in custody talked of his current aspirations and previous experience saying, "it's just setting you up for a fall, I think, putting you in a hostel" (OP16). Uncertainty about the type of accommodation they might be offered was clearly a source of anxiety for offenders in custody who were keen to know that they would not be instructed to present at the local housing office as homeless on release without knowing where they would be allocated.

5.55 There were accounts of inter-agency efforts to prevent homelessness on release (or to pursue a strategy of 'managed homelessness') and to secure appropriate accommodation for vulnerable offenders, and to support them in that accommodation. These included established working relationships and information sharing between prisons and local authority housing departments in some areas. Alongside this, though, interviewees across a range of organisations expressed concern about the lack of suitable accommodation in the community and the implications this had for successful reintegration. There was also some frustration at the rules and procedures which contributed to the problems in this area (e.g. rules that restricted payment of housing benefit while someone was in prison; the limited time period before a local authority reclaimed an empty property, and the process for the disposal of possessions from empty properties). For a range of interviewees, housing was seen as a key resource issue in looking ahead to the future of throughcare services.

5.56 Benefits: Many interviewees stressed the importance of ensuring benefits were in place prior to release in order to prevent an immediate return to criminal behaviour such as shoplifting and other low level theft. The picture from the interviews was that in most cases benefit applications were successfully started in prison and that this was a positive step. CJSW workers were also involved in assisting offenders with benefit claim interviews and applications following release, and of helping secure food parcels and crisis payments when problems with benefit claims were encountered. CJSW and agency workers also reported offenders facing difficulties when rules and processes did not fit well with their circumstances. These included problems of getting a doctor's line to progress a benefit claim when a prison sentence resulted in an offender being removed from a GP's patient list, and administrative systems relating to community care grants issuing letters of award too late to reach offenders before they were released from prison.

5.57 Addictions: Both drug and alcohol addictions were identified as key factors linked to offending behaviour, and as important needs for many short-term offenders. CJSW and SPS staff interviewees talked about the importance of tackling addictions and the opportunity offered by a period in custody, with referrals made to Phoenix Futures, the SPS addiction services and local authority led Throughcare Addictions Services in order to do so. Several offenders commented positively on the opportunity to tackle their addictions, although there were others who were unhappy with the treatment on offer (e.g. the availability of addiction-blocking medication and the presumption in favour of methadone programmes). Transition to the community could be challenging for those with a history of addictions and the evaluation identified continuity of support as a factor which might help maintain involvement in services. The research identified instances of such continuity of support being provided by drugs workers, mentoring schemes or by CJSW workers who might attend appointments with clients. CJSW and other community support agency workers, however, identified the need for addictions services to be designed in a client-focused way (e.g. the 'one-stop shop' or hub approach discussed elsewhere) and the need for mentoring-type input between formal appointments to support offender motivation in this area.

5.58 Families and relationships: Those providing support to women offenders in particular reported that responding to family and relationship issues were common in their work. Here referrals were made to organisations such as Circle which worked with families of those with addictions. Their work in supporting offenders and their families could involve individual mentoring, practical hands-on support (including gate pick-ups) and included children and grandparents as well as offenders themselves. Work of this type was seen as a potential gap in relation to responding to the needs of male offenders - one SPS interviewee suggested that parenting skills would be a useful addition to the programmes on offer in prison.

5.59 Mental health: A number of staff (CJSW and prison) interviewees noted the prevalence of mental health problems amongst offenders, and particularly amongst women offenders - self harm was a particular issue here. A number of offenders also mentioned referrals to mental health professionals, although there were several reports of dissatisfaction with the service received in terms of the waiting time for appointments or the type of treatment offered.

5.60 Education, training and employment: Needs in relation to education, employment and training featured less prominently in discussion with staff and offenders, although they were touched on by some interviewees. Although staff interviewees, particularly CJSW staff, acknowledged the importance of tackling these issues, they often saw them as secondary to other issues. The priority was to deal with issues such as housing and addictions, and achieve a period of stability for an offender, which might then allow other issues such as employment and training to be tackled. This view was also apparent amongst offenders, some of whom talked positively about addressing this in the future once they were more settled. However, there were also instances of offenders undertaking training while in prison, applying for and successfully moving on to college courses, and exploring opportunities to do voluntary work. The wider challenge for offenders finding employment in a period of relatively high unemployment was noted by some. It was also suggested that greater use of the Open Estate at Castle Huntly, with its emphasis on reintegration back into the community and employment placements, may also be helpful here.

5.61 In relation to other behavioural needs, some offenders in the evaluation had had the opportunity to attend programmes while in custody to address offending behaviours or improve their life skills (e.g. anger management or personal development programmes teaching coping strategies and building self-esteem). However, a number of SPS staff commented on this, noting that the resources were not available for these types of programmes in prison for those serving short-term sentences, and - for women offenders - that programmes were not available in all prisons. There was also a view that very short prison sentences did not generally allow sufficient time to address such needs. CJSW staff also commented on this. One interviewee believed that this was a gap in current service provision in the community for short-term offenders, and another indicated that increased demand for such services would be a problem given the need to prioritise those on statutory throughcare arrangements.

5.62 The inference from the evaluation is that a CRP-type process can play a part in linking people to services in order to meet their needs. Valuable work was being done in all these areas, in particularly in relation to housing, addictions and benefits, although it is not possible to determine the extent to which this was as a result of involvement in CRP. There are also complexities and inter-linkages in dealing with these needs (e.g. the availability of appropriate housing options will impact on the effective response to addictions). It was also clear that CRP was operating within a wider service and community context which will have an impact on the extent to which needs are effectively met.

Comment on long-term outcomes for offenders

5.63 The logic model articulated two long-term aims for the CRP as follows:

  • Increased reintegration
  • Reduced reoffending

5.64 The evaluation did not set out to consider the achievement of the CRP's long-term outcomes. Nevertheless, it is possible at this stage to offer some comment based on the perception of interviewees.

5.65 There was general agreement amongst interviewees that addressing people's needs while in prison was important to reintegration. Alongside this was a number of more specific points indicating where staff thought the CRP - or the provision of support to offenders more generally - was helping with reintegration. For example, a reduction in homeless presentations by offenders leaving prison was attributed by one housing agency interviewee to the work of the CJSW team in addressing housing needs prior to release. In relation to housing again, there was a suggestion that the involvement of a CJSW support worker increased the likelihood of offenders keeping appointments with housing officers immediately following release. More generally, external agencies were positive about the impact of CJSW involvement on offender engagement with services, e.g. in helping people stay involved in addiction services, or assisting them in securing welfare grants.

5.66 In terms of reducing reoffending, several interviewees believed that the project was beginning to show benefits in this area - they suggested that the rates of returning to prison showed some signs of slowing down:

"Well obviously you'll get your usual customers coming round and round and round, but we're seeing different names. So to me if we're not seeing guys that have been in prison maybe once or twice again, that's a result for me." CJSW5

"…you can generally say that a lot of the short-termers come through the revolving door on a regular basis, but the ones that have been on the CRP … I don't think we've had very many of them back through the door." SPS4

5.67 The views and experiences of some offenders also added weight to this view, with one saying that the help she had received via the CRP on a previous sentence had enabled her to stay out of prison for an extended period; another respondent reflected that if she had had more support during a previous prison sentence, this might have prevented her current return to custody. Several CRP participants expressed an intention not to reoffend in the future - although the offenders themselves did not necessarily attribute this to support they had received in prison.

5.68 Staff in various settings also offered a more reflective view on longer-term outcomes. There was a sense that not enough time had yet elapsed to judge the success of the scheme, or that not enough data were available to allow outcomes to be assessed; additionally it was suggested that it would be difficult to identify clear 'cause and effect' in relation to outcomes. Some were also keen to reflect on the definition of 'success'; interviewees were very much of the view that keeping individual repeat offenders out of prison for longer (rather than necessarily stopping them offending altogether) constituted a successful outcome.

5.69 Some also reflected on the complex nature of offending behaviour and the reality of helping those with 'chaotic lives' (i.e. lives characterised by lack of structure (social and familial), and multiple problems, and with a high likelihood of substance misuse). There was a strongly expressed view that offending behaviour could not be addressed unless the lifestyles and personal circumstances of offenders were fully take into account and tackled in a holistic way.

5.70 Interviewees gave a range of examples of the challenges which needed to be addressed in working with this client group, given their lifestyles and personal circumstances:

An offender might not present at pre-arranged accommodation following release because of an immediate return to drug or alcohol-related behaviour;

Many offenders returned to accommodation or neighbourhoods which would bring them into contact with previous networks and acquaintances;

Offenders were often ill-equipped to deal with officialdom (e.g. in relation to housing, benefits or health related issues); this may be as a result of social skills, literacy skills or the lack of a permanent address or contact number;

Offenders might find it challenging to negotiate a series of appointments on release, or may simply be deterred from attending by travel costs.

5.71 Interviewees also made the point that the work done with offenders took place within a wider social and welfare context which was not designed with the needs and circumstances of offenders leaving prison specifically in mind. Here, interviewees highlighted issues noted above relating to availability of suitable housing, and rules and procedures relating to benefits.

5.72 These sorts of issues all created challenges and contributed to the 'revolving door' identified by so many interviewees and suggest the need for a more holistic, system-wide approach to working with this group.. Clearly these issues are outwith the scope of the CRP as a discrete process, but do need to be taken into account in considering how to maximise progress towards the stated long-term aims.

Summary

5.73 In general, the CRP process appears to support POs in their interaction with individual offenders and their role in promoting engagement with relevant services.

5.74 But some prison staff were not clear about the importance of actively promoting the CRP to offenders or felt poorly equipped to do so. As a result, the quality of staff-offender interaction around the project varied, with the result that some offenders - when presenting to CJSW - showed little awareness of the reason for their referral or motivation to engage.

5.75 Some prisons were taking positive steps to promote the project more actively and consistently. CJSW staff pointed out that this could be a mixed blessing, as increased numbers of referrals might also lead to dealing with an increase in individuals lacking any real motivation to engage.

5.76 Many of the offenders who had taken part in the CRP appeared to have a good awareness of their own needs. Although it is not possible to show that the associated referrals were a direct result of the CRP and would not have happened anyway, there were some specific accounts from offenders of how interactions around the CRP had helped them to understand or address their needs.

5.77 Trust was considered fundamental to the development of productive offender-practitioner relationships and, again, there were aspects of the CRP process (in particular the regular review meetings) which appear to have supported this.

5.78 In this context, staff and offenders emphasised the importance of staff being able to deliver real practical benefits; and, equally, the dangers of failing to do so. The opportunity to address pressing needs (such as housing) was also a key driver of offender motivation to engage and staff were conscious of the impact of being unable to deliver on this because of external resource constraints.

5.79 The CRP process was also seen as providing a helpful mechanism for identifying, tapping into and supporting wider offender motivations to change - whether triggered by significant life events, circumstances or simply life stage.

5.80 It is clear that involvement in the CRP led to increased engagement with reintegration planning - a number of offenders were attending reviews and pre-release meetings during the course of their sentence that would not otherwise have happened. However, the rates of engagement and attrition apparent from the monitoring data suggest that there is scope to increase this level of engagement further.

5.81 It is less clear whether the CRP led to increased post-release engagement with services, although both offenders and staff felt that contact pre-release made such engagement more likely once offenders returned to the community.

5.82 The challenges of sustaining service involvement beyond the prison gate appear greatest in relation to male offenders, and the evaluation identified a number of ways in which this might be addressed.

5.83 Across all the offender outcomes - whether short, medium or long-term - the evidence is limited and does not allow for causal attribution. However, the indication of positive impacts is in line with existing evidence on addressing recidivism[17]. There is, perhaps, enough evidence of good practice and good experiences to suggest that there are features of the CRP which have proved helpful and that support the plausibility of the model in increasing reintegration and reducing reoffending, albeit that this may only be fully possible if services are appropriately organised and adequately resourced to address the complex needs of offenders.


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Email: Justice Analytical Services