Unlocking offending data

Reoffending is one of the biggest challenges facing Britain today. Charities and social enterprises play a vital role in breaking the cycle of offending—but they need better access to data on offending in order to understand and prove what works. NPC proposes the creation of a Justice Data Lab to improve access to reoffending data, particularly for charities.

A prisoner released from a prison in England and Wales has a one in two chance of being reconvicted within a year, which partly accounts for the doubling in the UK prison population over the past twenty years to over 85,000. The overall cost of crime to UK society is estimated at £64bn per year.

Government, charities and social enterprises can help address this challenge by providing offenders with the right support. But to be clear about what works to reduce reoffending—and avoid decisions based on instinct or anecdote—those working in criminal justice need access to evidence about which approaches are successful.

In this report, we outline the results of a survey of 236 criminal justice charities’ need for and attitude to data on reoffending. Around half had attempted to access offending data from government, but only a fifth were successful every time. Four in five found the process of accessing data hard some or all of the time.

Many measure the impact of their work based on soft outcomes (like confidence) but struggle to access the right data to know whether they really reduce reoffending. With government increasingly commissioning services based on outcomes, small charities that can’t prove their impact on reoffending rates risk missing out.

This is why NPC wants the Ministry of Justice to create a Justice Data Lab to provide a national system for accessing offending data. Public service providers would supply the details of offenders they have worked with to government data analysts, who would then assess the reoffending rate of that group.

 This Justice Data Lab would help charities, funders and commissioners identify which services work, but also how services could be improved. Over time, this will help ensure more offenders get the services they need to get their lives back on track.

Benedict Rickey, report author