Is swift and certain justice really the road to success for the [UK]?
A review of SCF and what is necessary to make it work.
Our initial research suggests that ‘swift and certain’ principles interact with a number of other factors, for example communication between agencies, victims, and the changing profile of offenders, when determining the effectiveness of interventions. We believe that the severity of a punishment also interacts with the offenders’ and the public’s perceptions of ‘certainty’. Furthermore we suggest that there is an additional critical factor missing from the picture – quality assurance. For example, while CRCs [N.b. Community Rehabilitation Companies—private probation] generally meet timeliness targets, the quality of interaction has often been decried as inadequate in inspection reports.
How swift and certain principles can impact outcomes in the [UK] criminal justice system
An analysis of SCF in the United Kingdom.
Scope of the project: We have conducted an initial review of how swift and certain justice is currently embedded in the system and we set out in the following slides how a frenetic policy development process has lead to the widespread imposition of (primarily swiftness) targets, which are achieved to varying degrees. We have also looked at the state of the criminal justice system generally and assessed elements of swift and certain performance across the core criminal justice agencies (police, crown prosecution service, courts, and probation services). We found the focus and impact and swift and certain focuses varied between agencies. Through this initial scoping review we have identified gaps in the current evidence and have set out research parameters for further investigation under four key themes – domestic violence, restorative justice, anti-social behaviour, and prolific offenders.
The developing [UK] criminal justice landscape
Is SCF/HOPE the right answer?
On prolific offenders, the 2015 Tory manifesto promised “a new semi-custodial sentence …allowing for a short, sharp spell in custody to change behaviour”. Briefings afterwards revealed that so called flash incarceration will mean “persistent vandals, shoplifters and drug addicts will spend two nights in a police cell under Conservative plans”. Despite it’s impracticality, is this “swift and certain punishment” back on the cards? Or can we hope for something more measured building on the public health approach?
Think tanks Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Justice are each likely to claim the role of midwives for any policy of “swift and certain” with Crest Advisory currently working on proposals. The first two as least have extolled the virtues of Hope Probation, a tough love programme piloted in Hawaii which involves probation supervision accompanied by frequent drug testing. Failures lead to immediate but short terms of detention. Research has found impressive outcomes in terms of reduced drug use and jail time. Because of its success, the short terms of detention imposed on programme failures require fewer prison beds in Hawaii than do the longer sentences served by those who fail normal probation supervision.
Despite the research, I have been a bit sceptical about the wisdom of importing the approach in the UK. Some observers at least, while acknowledging the impact that Hope has had in Hawaii, question whether that is enough to justify its “correctional popularity” Frank Cullen and colleagues at the University of Cincinnati point to “uncritical acceptance and importation of the programme to the U.S. mainland” and argue that several uncertainties about the programme may potentially compromise its effectiveness in other jurisdictions, thus offering false hope as a new paradigm.