If you don’t subscribe to Justice Lab, the government’s latest effort at providing us with all things ‘data’, then you may be missing out. It’s not that the stats on offer are always fabulously fascinating, or that they could even be called reliable (most publications come with a caveat on the limits of the research, as you would expect with most data sources), but they do offer helpful insight into who’s trying what.

This month’s latest offering is interesting. It focuses on the various pilots and schemes throughout the country which are dedicated to reducing re-offending, through the use of relationship building, mentoring, support and housing for youth offenders, and adult offenders. What we found particularly striking was that the only services which actually reduced re-offending were the ones which offered people the chance to have their immediate needs met – like housing and employment.

The other schemes, though all well-meaning and supportive, really focused on the emotional elements and quite frankly, had no impact on reducing offending rates. That’s not, in our view, because offenders don’t care about the victims they abuse or don’t value being able to see their children whilst in custody (just two of the programmes mentioned in the Justice Lab), but because they have to keep re-offending in order to survive. Without a job these people cannot buy food or stay in accommodation for any length of time. Without housing, people cannot find permanent jobs or settle their families. It’s all just basic common sense.

We really think Justice Lab should be focusing on pilots which offer all the basics as well as the emotional support, like, for example SHE. Based over in East Lancashire, this enterprise is actually getting women off the street, away from custody and ensuring they hone the necessary skills to find and keep employment.  The programme also offers support for mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction and mentors to keep these ladies on the right path.

Now that’s a programme.

If you’d like to follow Justice Lab or other departments, you can find some useful info here.