The criminal justice system concentrates its resources on imprisoning the most persistent, prolific or dangerous offenders. But it is missing opportunities to intervene earlier. Nine out of 10 prisoners have been convicted at least once before being imprisoned and half have been convicted at least 15 times.
By creating new interventions that can be used the first time that a person is convicted, or even the first time they come to the attention of the police, we can address the issues driving their offending before they escalate and thereby prevent them ever reaching the point of imprisonment.
The Centre for Justice Innovation has been awarded funding from Lloyds Bank Foundation to support the development of an effective and affordable model for early intervention for low level offenders across England and Wales, which can operate either in the context of diversion, or in court. This project will seek to build on the success of CASSPLUS, a community advice service running in multiple magistrate courts in Devon and Cornwall. CASSPLUS is volunteer-led, and offers practical advice, personalised support, and help to access services. It helps people to resolve a range of issues that can lead to offending, such as debt, homelessness and mental illness. For more information about the model, please see our case study on CASSPLUS and a short briefing paper about our community advice service at Highbury Corner Magistrate’s Court.
The project will focus on achieving the following objectives:
- Researching the needs of people at the early stages of the justice system and effective ways to support them through a full evaluation of CASSPLUS;
- Making the policy argument for investing upstream through a research report supported by a range of communication and engagement activity;
- Developing and implementing a scalable, cost-effective, volunteer-driven early intervention support model for people committing low-level offences in three sites in England and Wales;
- Creating two resources to help other areas replicate our model: a toolkit explaining the approach and a resource pack including model forms, policies, and other documentation.
The project is supported by Lloyds Bank Foundation, an independent charitable trust which partners with small and local charities who help people overcome complex social issues. This funding was awarded as part of its new 2020 Criminal Justice National Programme.
Supporting the development of new early intervention services
The Centre’s work in diversion to date indicates significant interest from police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners in adapting the CASSPLUS model to work with diverted offenders as well as replicating the existing court-based approach. We are looking to speak to local commissioners, court practitioners or voluntary agencies with the ability to source local funding that would be interested in setting up a community advice service in a local courthouse. We are unable to provide monetary support to sites, therefore interested parties will need to be able to identify their own sources of local funding.
We aim to increase the use of early intervention by raising awareness of the potential of the model amongst policy-makers and commissioners; and increasing the capacity of local areas to adopt the model by providing them with a range of resources.
How to apply
To get involved in the project or for further information, please contact Suzanne Smith at the Centre for Justice Innovation: firstname.lastname@example.org