The Justice DataLab, as I suggested when giving evidence, in my opinion is a world-leading example of how the government can help researchers, practitioners, the voluntary sector etc., explore and demonstrate the impact of their interventions/programmes in prisons. There are some inevitable methodological shortcomings, but as a relatively new initiative, the Justice DataLab has been a welcome addition to my work and others in this sector.
More information about the scheme (which looks at reductions in reoffending for those who participate in a given programme, using Propensity Score Weighting) can be found here: Accessing the Justice Data Lab service - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). We are in the process of preparing a submission to the Justice DataLab for the prison parkrun initiative that I also talked about during our session.
Regarding monitoring and evaluation, my review focused specifically on this and I argued that:
“HM Prison and Probation Service should create and implement a dedicated physical activity monitoring and evaluation strategy which supplements existing Ofsted and HM Inspectorate of Prisons monitoring” (recommendation 12 of https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/733184/a-sporting-chance-an-independent-review-sport-in-justice.pdf
This links with the point already made about Justice DataLab, in that we need to be able to identify the impact of sports-based programmes on reoffending (and other outcomes) but we also need to know who is participating in these programmes (not least to identify and challenge disproportionality in participation which relates to another of my recommendations (rec 8), which states that “Senior managers and the Ministry of Justice need to monitor physical activity participation and outcomes according to ethnicity, and ensure that any disproportionality is addressed”. At present neither of these things are being done consistently or effectively in prisons and that makes it very difficult to identify and celebrate the impact of some of the excellent work around sport and physical activity / physical education going on in prisons. It also makes it hard for us to hold prisons to account in the quality of their provision in this area. As well as looking at reoffending, other ‘intermediate outcomes’ (such as those me and my colleagues discuss here: Developing a toolkit to measure intermediate outcomes to reduce reoffending from arts and mentoring interventions (publishing.service.gov.uk)) are important. And other outcomes may be equally important, for example, reductions in violence while in prison, educational outcomes, mental and physical health status, etc. These should all be considered in a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation strategy.
With regard to the Active Lives survey, I welcome any systematic measurement of this kind – with the caveat that there will always be issues around ensuring representation of responses and therefore we should exercise some caution in drawing conclusions from those findings.
29 March 2021