Mission: Impossible? Looking for solutions to big challenges facing policing

Jon Clements, Development Director

Monday 1 January 2018


Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help us find solutions to the big challenges facing policing and the criminal justice system. 

Crime is now the third biggest issue of concern to the public, behind Brexit and the NHS, and as a result is back on the political agenda. But how can the government address these concerns when any spare cash seems destined for the health service? Crest’s MD Harvey Redgrave recently explained the scale of the strategic dilemma facing ministers ahead of next year’s Spending Review. So it seems only fair that we now set out some of our ongoing research and analysis which may help to find solutions to this very thorny problem. At Crest, we like to work collaboratively so please do get in touch if you have insights, evidence or advice to share on any of the projects in our snapshot below.


Children of prisoners: an invisible group?

How many children in your kids’ school have a parent in prison? Most parents would rightly not be expected to know. But does the school even know?


These are difficult questions. But with the children of prisoners at risk of substantially worse life chances, they need answering. Once one of their parents is in prison, the chances a child suffering mental health problems double and they become at higher risk of living in poverty and poor housing. They are also significantly more likely to end up in the criminal justice system themselves - 65% of boys with a convicted parent go on to offend.


Despite this, children of prisoners remain an ‘invisible’ group with no shared understanding across agencies of their needs and situation - even though parental imprisonment presents a clear opportunity for preventative interventions to support children and their families.


Why doesn’t this happen and what could be done to improve the current system?

Crest’s project, in partnership with Porticus, will review these issues and the impacts they have. We will look in particular at the role of local authorities (children’s services/safeguarding), schools and prisons. Our research will examine the issue from the child’s point of view and the findings will inform recommendations for policy and practice.


If you have insight to share, please share your views by contacting a member of the project team.


Smarter solutions to domestic abuse

A police force receives a call for help relating to domestic abuse every 30 seconds and there were an estimated 1.9 million adults who experienced domestic abuse last year. Shockingly, these figures underestimate the true number of victims who are affected by domestic abuse across the country. Finding better ways to both identify and protect victims and prosecute offenders are vital.


With new announcements expected from the government in the autumn, domestic abuse is one issue that has broken through the Brexit policy logjam. Working in partnership with CGI - a leading information technology and business process consulting services provider - Crest is working to identify practical and innovative ways to deliver better outcomes for people who suffer or are vulnerable to domestic abuse.


We are looking for new ways we can use existing technology to improve detection, enforcement and protection for victims and potential victims. Specifically, the project is identifying where stronger partnerships between the ‘doers’ and the ‘data’ can solve problems.


Supporting police forces to better understand the drivers of the demand

Are the police doing what we, as a society, need and want them to do? If you speak to any frontline police officer (or follow a few on twitter), there is no shortage of examples of ‘non-policing’ duties they have picked up. A complex set of circumstances are at play here: the changing patterns of crime, changing expectations about the role of the police, the impact of austerity on public services and changing technology. In partnership with the Dawes Trust, Crest is examining how, and to what extent, police demand is properly understood and managed. Furthermore, we will be looking at the kinds of changes that would be needed to make it easier for the police to organise and prioritise its activities.


Take the example of mental health. Officers may not have the right skills and training to deal with sensitive and challenging mental health situations but will always respond to emergency calls. However, if they are dealing with mental health crises, they aren’t supporting preventative community activities or pursuing offenders. As policing resources continue to be squeezed, Crest is asking: what should the police’s mission be for the 21st century?


See policing demand for the latest on this project and to read our last focus piece.


Ending the inertia for women offenders

Our landmark report into justice devolution showed how giving local communities greater control over the justice system offered the chance to join up public services and address issues such as housing, mental health and welfare - all drivers of reoffending. Now we are applying this approach to women offenders, a group often researched but still subject to poor outcomes.


Thanks to support from the Hadley Trust, Crest will build on some of the core principles set out recently in the Government’s Strategy for Female Offenders. Over the coming months, we will be working with police force areas to develop practical devolution strategies for low-to-mid level women offenders, focusing on the offender rather than the offence. We will explore how direct and indirect savings, offered by a devolved approach, could allow policing budgets to be redirected, bridging gaps in government funding and making all of us safer.


Devolution makes it possible to adopt a more tailored and collaborative approach. Local leaders – notably PCCs and elected mayors – are the ones with access to the levers to effect change, the understanding of particular local factors, and democratic accountability. So why not pass responsibility for this group of offenders to them?


We want to hear your ideas. Share your views by contacting a member of the project team.


Rewiring justice

We believe that the reforms to the criminal justice system over the past 25 years have been based on flawed assumptions about how to change offenders’ behaviour, and have favoured processing people through the system over transforming lives. Crest’s Rewiring justice project seeks to identify a new model for justice which balances punishment and rehabilitation.


Our interim report in March concluded that the debate between those who seek liberal/welfare-oriented solutions and those who favour a more punitive system had failed to deliver either rehabilitation or punishment. Since then, we have been out in the field looking at good practice and exploring a series of bold but achievable policy options including:

  • Out of court disposals

  • The current system of fines including a more sophisticated system of asset confiscation

  • Re-designing community sentences, including options for more sentences to be tailored to the offender/offence and more intensive unpaid work

  • Expanding the use of GPS tagging technology and new intermediate measures to restrict liberty (e.g. secure locations)

  • Reforming custodial sentences

  • Managing the most prolific offenders


Watch out for the final report on this project in the coming weeks.


Conclusion

As you can see, Crest is determined to find solutions, not just point out the problems. We recognise that the criminal justice system is operating within increasingly constrained budgets and in many areas with increasing demand on those resources. But we maintain that the system can still be improved. We welcome input from front-line practitioners, criminal justice professionals and policy makers/influencers to inform our work. Please get in touch if you have insight to add or would like to know more about any of these projects.


To learn more about how we can enable devolution and other criminal justice reform, please contact us.

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