Thursday, 6 October 2011

Offender Desistance Policing and Operation Turning Point in West Midlands

A new randomised control is about to start in the West Midlands. It is designed to test whether prosecution in the courts or a police managed contract to desist from offending will produce better and more cost effective reductions in offending behaviour. Offenders whom the police have decided to charge and put before the court, but who have no prior convictions, will be randomly assigned to prosecution or a "turning point" contract. For the latter group, there will be a very quick, same day, conversation with a trained police officer from the Offender Management team, which is aimed to explore the main reasons for the offending behaviour and arrive at a 'contract' to be signed by the offender. The contract will always have 2 key conditions attached - re-offending behaviour or failure to comply with the agreed conditions of the contract will always attract immediate prosecution for the original offence. Other conditions could include voluntary curfews, drug or alcohol treatment referrals, restorative justice processes and many more. Contracts will last for no more than 4 months. The Cambridge team - Peter Neyroud, Barak Ariel and Professor Lawrence Sherman - will be measuring the cost effectiveness of the approach and the level of crime harm from the treatment and control group over the following 2 years. The trial is linked to a wider programme which is also seeking to introduce a crime harm index as a triage tool in the custody process with the aim that lower risk offenders can be considered for alternatives to court sanctions, allowing Police and other criminal justice agencies to focus on the high harm few who pose greater risks. The Cambridge Stats Lab is supporting the team in the development of this part of the programme using a large sample of data which has been obtained from the Police National Computer. The whole programme is supported by the Monument Trust.
Peter Neyroud

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