At the beginning of this month, the MoJ of Justice launched the Justice Data Lab. Through the lab will organisations that aim to rehabilitate offenders can access robust evidence of their impact on re-offending. Organisations that would not have the resources to access such information can now operate on a more level playing field. The evidence will help more organisations use evaluation to improve their service and engage with NOMS’s commissioning intentions .
This is a dramatic change and I think MoJ and New Philanthropy Capital, who led on the set up of the lab, should be commended and the lab will hopefully be the first example of official datasets being made (securely) available to more and more organisations.
Opening up access to the data does not mean that organisations will be able to take advantage and they need get prepared. The lab will use the Police National Computer (PNC) to evidence reoffending. I use these data in reoffending studies and therefore below share some crucial tips on how you can take best advantage of the lab. These tips will ensure you increase your match rate to the PNC. This is important because many organisations that want to use the lab will have a less than 100 hundred beneficiaries and need to match as many as possible to ensure useful evidence of impact is generated.
The tips will also ensure you can tell your story. Describing your impact with a story – who did you worked with, what was their history, what did you do with them, how much did it cost? – will make your case more compelling and give you a better chance to get funding.
Ask for the PNC number
The lab will match your beneficiaries to its records in the PNC. This can be done using name and date of birth but this can be inaccurate (Joseph recorded as Joe, 01/02/1979 recorded as 02/01/1979 etc.). Instead, ask your Criminal Justice partner for your beneficiaries’ PNC number or Prison ID number when you receive a referral.
Ask about the last offence
The lab also needs to identify the last offence and conviction that led to your beneficiaries’ current or previous sentence (this is called the index offence). The 12 month reoffending period starts from the date he or she left prison or the Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order commenced. Ask your criminal justice partner for the previous offence type, offence date, and conviction date and the lab can do the rest.
Describe who you are working with
You can also ask for information on a beneficiary’s risk of reoffending (OGRS3), risk of serious harm (RoSH), and the number of previous offences. Depending on what you do you could also ask for criminogenic need scores from the OASys assessment. This information will help you to contextualise your impact, and explain why your impact is important. For example, you might work with individuals with a high risk of reoffending and delaying reoffending or reducing the harm of their offence might be important outcomes for this group.
Present your impact alongside what you did
By demonstrating that your project can plausible reduce reoffending (e.g. is backed up by other evidence) and that you implemented it well, it is easier to say that the impact demonstrated was because of you and not due to chance or some other factor. Potential funders will be more persuaded by such evidence than just your reoffending rate.
Calculate how much you cost to stop a person reoffending
This is called cost-effectiveness and is basically the cost of your project divided by the number of people you prevented re-offending. This figure is very important to commissioners and funders.
For example, if your project cost £75,000, worked with 150 offenders and had a 5% impact on reoffending then your cost to prevent one person reoffending was:
£75,000/(150 x 5%) = £10,000