"What Works" in the United Kingdom

By Evans, Donald G. | Corrections Today, July 1998 | Go to article overview

"What Works" in the United Kingdom


Evans, Donald G., Corrections Today


In the United States, the recent work of the National Institute of Corrections and the International Association of Community Corrections has increased international interest in an evidence-based community supervision practice and demonstrated the need for developing research-based correctional policy. However, one major obstacle faces administrators who seek to implement programs based on "what works," or conclusive research, namely, how to ensure the continuance of the program when the organization changes leaders or the second generation of program workers inherits the program.

Last February, I visited with Graham Smith, Her Majesty's chief inspector of probation for the Inspectorate of Probation in London, to discuss some of the issues raised by the "what works" approach. During our time together, he related the results to date of the Inspectorate of Probation's "What Works Project."

Smith noted that one of the major goals of the project is to get the 54 probation services in the United Kingdom to work together in addressing the problems of community supervision of offenders. However, efforts to improve community supervision have been left to the probation agencies. Probation agencies impressed by the "what works" literature have attempted to implement programs reflective of that research.

The 54 probation services in the United Kingdom employ 15,000 staff and supervise 180,000 offenders in the community. Smith suggested that a unique opportunity presents itself to his office. The local probation services could be used as a laboratory to test the introduction of "what works" programming to a large population of offenders. The project consists of four stages, and only the first stage is completed.

During the first phase of the project, the plan was to survey the achievements of probation services operating since October 1992. based on this analysis, the project team then examined the more promising programs, looking for effective designs. The first result was the development of a best practices guide for use in assessing programs. The principles of effectiveness identified by the project team were:

* implement practices based on evidence;

* use designed methods;

* commit to learn and develop practices;

* work for quality and consistency;

* commit to evaluate;

* use cognitive and behavioral perspectives;

* engage offenders in a change process;

* develop personal and social responsibility;

* work for community integration; and

* emphasize staff's personal impact. …

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