08 Dec 2023
by Kevin Marshall

Giving users their time back through innovation

The Justice System in the UK is facing significant challenges today. The Prison Service is almost at full capacity, with 88,225 prisoners in 2023.

The challenges facing the Justice System today

The Justice System in the UK is facing significant challenges today. The Prison Service is almost at full capacity, with 88,225 prisoners in 2023. There are more than 65,000 cases waiting to be heard in Crown Court, with 28% of those cases waiting more than a year to go before court and 10% waiting over two years. Reoffending rates remain high, with 38% of adults released from prison between April 2020 and March 2021 reoffending in the 12 months after their release. Staffing across the Prison and Probation service remains at exceptionally low levels, despite the expected increase of 20,000 prison places. In the face of such mounting challenges, innovation can be critical to making tangible, immediate improvements in the Justice Sector.


What does innovation mean in the Justice Sector?

Discussions about innovation in Justice often leap to AI for identifying patterns and predicting risk of reoffending or IoT to help staff proactively intervene to prevent re-offending. However, technology alone will not solve today’s problems. The Justice Sector lacks joined-up, high quality data to identify patterns and Probation Practitioners already grapple with an ever-increasing never-ending workload before they can even think about proactive work. To tackle the challenges the Justice Sector is facing today, innovation must be user-led rather than technology-led.


Innovation must have impact

Since 2020, dxw has been working with the Ministry of Justice to build simpler, faster, and better digital services for Prison and Probation staff. Our goal is to give time back to staff and reduce administrative work they need to do. This means they can focus on more high value work, such as supporting people leaving prison and those on probation, support which is declining but is known to reduce re-offending.


Enabling Probation Practitioners to focus on what really matters

We have delivered a digital service that enables Probation Practitioners to refer a Person on Probation on to an intervention as part of their probation conditions. We focused on understanding users in their working context and what they were trying to achieve - a Probation Practitioner trying to find an intervention, refer someone to it, and monitor their progress; or an Intervention Provider trying to assess an often incomplete referral.

We designed and built a user-centred service that helped Probation Practitioners find all information on interventions in a central place, refer people to an intervention, and then monitor their progress through that intervention. We also ensured that Intervention Providers receive simple, complete, and standardised applications to support assessment and placing, reducing the back-and-forth between Probation Practitioners and Interventions Providers that caused delay and frustration.

This service, rolled out nationally in June 2021 now supports more than 10,000 referrals per month. Rather than spending their time finding information, completing forms, and making phone calls to chase referrals, Probation Practitioners focus on the needs of the Person on Probation and help guide their rehabilitation. This offers hope of better outcomes for People on Probation, reducing the likelihood of re-offending, and improving public safety. HMPPS also has a coherent, complete dataset on interventions, laying the groundwork to help solve tomorrow’s problems.

Innovation can have a significant impact in the Justice Sector and new advances in technology offer exciting possibilities for the future. However, to have the maximum impact today, innovation should be user-led and recognise that technological innovation won’t solve all our problems right now. By being user-led, dxw believes innovation can solve today’s problems in the Justice Sector and create the foundation for future technological innovation that can transform how the Justice sector operates.

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Kevin Marshall

Kevin Marshall

Client principal, dxw