Stephanie Kilili – Policy Officer, Office of the Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner – shared with us their adult diversion scheme aimed at helping offenders get on track with their lives and taking them out of the criminal justice system. Checkpoint is a voluntary adult offender diversion scheme within County Durham and Darlington. It targets low and moderate level offenders at the earliest stage of the criminal justice process, and offers them no criminal conviction in return for successful participation in Checkpoint.
Behind the crime
Understanding and addressing why an offender has committed a crime is essential to making sure they do not commit that crime again. This is the premise on which Checkpoint is based. The scheme aims to reduce re-offending by addressing the motives and causes behind the offender’s behaviour.
Introduced in 2015, Checkpoint offers eligible offenders a meeting with a navigator to discuss their needs and identify the underlying causes of their offending. In the meeting, the offenders agree a contract, which lasts for four months. The contract is tailored to the individual offender’s needs and can have up to five conditions including a combination of the four below:
- Offending condition: not to re-offend over the period of the contract (mandatory).
- Victim condition: to take part in a restorative approach if the victim wishes.
- Intervention: to attend sessions with relevant services to address personal issues that contributed to the person committing the offence (e.g. substance use, accommodation, finance, employment, mental or physical health).
- Community condition: to complete 18-36 hours of voluntary community work and/or wear a GPS tag.
Upon agreement to the contract, the offence outcome is then classed as a deferred prosecution, which can be invoked at any point during the four-month period should the offender breach the conditions of the contract. Upon completing the Checkpoint scheme, the offender exits the criminal justice system with no criminal record. If the offender fails to complete the contract or re-offends any time throughout the duration of the contract, they will be prosecuted and the courts will be informed of the circumstances of their failure to complete the contract.
Using a forecast model that is the first of its kind globally, offenders are graded green (low), amber (medium), and red (high) based on their offence. This allows the providers of the scheme to target their resources to specific cohorts of offenders to prevent them from re-offending and to understand who the scheme works best for. In other words, the green and amber subjects can usually access the scheme.
To be eligible for the scheme, the:
- the offender must live within the County Durham and Darlington;
- the offence must have taken place within County Durham and Darlington;
- the subject must be over 18;
- the offence must be suitable for an out of court disposal (serious offences such as rape, robbery and murder are not eligible);
- the subject must not be subject to an order imposed by the courts or be on police/court bail;
- the subject must not be graded red (high risk) on the forecasting model; and
- there must be admissions OR sufficient evidence to charge.
Results so far
The scheme is currently being evaluated by Cambridge University through a randomised control trial that ended in 2018. It will take approximately 2 years to get the results of this evaluation. However, interim impact figures from the randomised control test phase show a difference of 15% in re-offending rate compared to traditional criminal justice disposals (33.6 vs 47.6%).
The results from the implementation phase can be found here.
The response from practitioners to Checkpoint has been also very positive. The Checkpoint team won the Howard League for Penal Reform community award in 2016. Checkpoint has had a significant impact, with Stephanie telling us that cabinet officials have requested Stephanie told us some of the achievements of Checkpoint so far such as “Cabinet officials requesting a briefing on Checkpoint; Latin American, African, and Caribbean Members of Parliament speaking highly of the Checkpoint scheme; and publication of the Checkpoint pilot phase evaluation in an academic article.”
Moreover, the response from the people who have gone through Checkpoint has been positive. As Stephanie made clear, the greatest achievement of Checkpoint is “all the individual success stories” such as the one below:
Tell me what your life was like before you had your Intervention.
My life was absolute chaos, looking back it is actually frightening what my life was like back then. I was drinking at least a litre of vodka a day and I was homeless. My children didn't want to know me and my mental health was at rock bottom.
What problems were you experiencing and how did you deal with them?
What problems wasn't I facing? I was homeless and wandering around the streets. I had been in a very toxic and abusive relationship which affected me massively. My mental health was at an all-time low which was made worse by the amount of alcohol I was drinking. I was very chaotic and struggled to keep any appointments I was offered.
Tell me about your experiences within Intervention.
Checkpoint is absolutely brilliant. Steph and Gary (the navigators) were there when I was at my worst and Steph rang the hospital every single day when I was admitted to see how I was getting on. Instead of kicking me when I was down and charging me, I was supported instead.
What has made a difference and what is your life like now?
The biggest thing for me was the accommodation that Checkpoint found. I was really reluctant to go as it was all the way in Blyth, but what choice did I have? The manager at the supported living where I was placed wanted me to leave after a day as I was so disruptive. Gary and Steph spoke to the manager and tried their best to sway him. On my second night there I had an alcohol induced seizure and I was hospitalised for over a week. This was an absolute life saver as I did a full detox from alcohol and my withdrawal was managed. Steph rang me every day and spoke to the nurses and even persuaded the manager to let me go back to Marlow Lodge when I was discharged. I went back to Marlow Lodge and I have been there for 12 weeks now and I have not touched a drop of alcohol. I am even volunteering as a support worker and I support other tenants with alcohol related issues where we complete drink diaries together. I see my children every single week, I even get the Metro and a bus back to Seaham on my own. My mental health is still working progress, however I am fully in control now and take my medication every single day. I could not be prouder of how far I have come in 12 weeks.
What do you do now that stops you having the same situation?
I don't drink alcohol!! I take all of my medication properly which helps and I now have a great relationship with both of my children. I have cut out all of the toxic people in my life and I have made new friends here who are very supportive.
What has the intervention done for you and why?
It has completely changed my life. I didn't realise it at the time because I was drunk all of the time. I didn't even realise it was Checkpoint who sorted my accommodation out. I was so chaotic and I am embarrassed about my behaviour. I messed Checkpoint around quite a bit and used to turn up at various police stations demanding to speak to you. I didn't even know what I was doing. Despite all that though Steph and Gary supported me and I couldn't be more thankful.
Are there any additional areas you need help and support with?
I still have a long way to go, I have an amazing support worker now here where I live. I am so much more confident and independent.
For updates follow Twitter: @checkpoint999 and Facebook: Checkpoint & Offender Management
For more information on Checkpoint, contact Stephanie Kilili via:
This case study was compiled and edited by Michael Farinu in 2019