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Catherine Bisset. reducing reoffending Evaluation Pack. Brief advice for criminal justice interventions, inspectorates and funders. The purpose of this pack. The purpose of this evaluation pack is to help interventions carry out a 4-step evaluation. The aim of this approach is to ;

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Reducing reoffending evaluation pack

Catherine Bisset

reducing reoffending Evaluation Pack

Brief advice for criminal justice interventions, inspectorates and funders

The purpose of this pack
The purpose of this pack

  • The purpose of this evaluation pack is to help interventions carry out a 4-step evaluation.

  • The aim of this approach is to;

  • Emphasise the importance of using the evidence-base to design interventions.

  • Promote a rigorous 4 STEP approach to evaluation which interventions of ALL SIZES and at ALL STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT can conduct.

  • Help interventions carry out a realistic and rigorous alternative to impact evaluations which are very difficult to do in Scotland

  • Describe how to structure an evaluation report to increase consistency and quality in report writing

  • To provide advice to funders on how to judge the merit of interventions in Scotland.

Background why a 4 step approach

Background: why a 4 step approach?

Mitigating the challenge of measuring impact

The challenges of measuring impact in scotland
The challenges of measuring impact in Scotland

  • Over the last few years, Justice Analysts have become aware that policy colleagues and criminal justice interventions were being asked the following questions

  • What outcomes have been achieved?

  • What has the impact been on reoffending?

  • Have the benefits outweighed the costs?

  • What cashable savings have been made?

  • To answer these questions, we realised that we would have to use a particular type of evaluation that is based on an experimental design. It is called an impact evaluation. Robust impact evaluations are rare in the criminal justice field for a number of reasons. The lack of impact evaluations has made it difficult to provide robust answers to important questions like these.

Impact evaluations why are they so hard to do
Impact evaluations – why are they so hard to do?

  • Why are impact evaluations hard to do?

  • Impact evaluations require a large control group with very SIMILAR CHARACTERISTICS to the users (the

  • counterfactual). Scotland is a relatively small nation with a proliferation of small interventions so the

  • numbers of offenders using services is typically relatively small. This service landscape makes doing a

  • quantitative assessment of impact very difficult.

  • How do you do an impact evaluation?

  • The most robust method to measure impact is a randomised control trial or, if this is not possible, a

  • matched pairs design. Once numerical data on outcomes is collected for both groups, you need to use a

  • statistical test to see if observed differences are large enough to conclude that the intervention made a real

  • difference.

  • Are control groups really needed to see if an intervention as made a real difference to users?

  • Yes. Without a control group the outcomes you observe could have happened by chance or

  • because of other factors that have nothing to do with the intervention.

  • What kind of a control group do I have to use?

  • You have to make sure they have the same characteristics and risk of reoffending as your users.

  • Only then will you be able to infer that any differences in outcomes MUST be down the intervention

  • and not because they were different from each other in other ways. In particular groups have to be

  • matched on previous convictions, age, gender, disposal type, index offence and sentence length.


CONTROL AND COMPARISON GROUPS – which characteristics need to be similar?


The users and the control group must be similar in terms of numbers of previous convictions, age, gender, disposal type, index offence and sentence length (strong risk factors).



Control group

The control group acts as the ‘counterfactual’ – they show what would have happened to your users without the intervention

So if measuring impact is so tricky what can we do
So, if measuring impact is so tricky, what can we do? to be similar?

  • Because of the pressure to respond to questions relating to the impact on interventions on reoffending and any

  • associated cost savings, we have come across some evaluation reports that either misinterpret (or over interpret)

  • numerical information or rely on anecdotal evidence. In an effort to demonstrate the impact a service or

  • intervention is making. This could lead to misleading conclusions about the value or merit of an intervention in

  • achieving outcomes which in turn could result in poor funding decisions.

  • To get around this problem, we could simply insist on more impact evaluations which use robust control groups

  • an statistical techniques to compare outcomes. However this is not always feasible due to methodological,

  • technical and / or ethical constraints.

  • Another solution is to find an alternative approach which can partially offset the lack of impact

  • evaluations in Scotland without giving up too much rigour. The aim of this new approach is to occupy a

  • middle ground between the ‘gold standard’ impact evaluations and poor quality anecdotal evidence. A

  • single approach may also help to standardise criminal justice evaluations so that one evaluation report may

  • satisfy all funders needs, saving valuable time and money.

  • So, rather than conduct a weak impact evaluation which will deliver meaningless results, Justice

  • Analysts advise that evaluators combine 4 elements when designing, evaluating and when funders are

  • judging the worth of a service or intervention. These 4 steps are as follows,


Interventions should be clearly structured and designed using robust evidence so it is important to be familiar with the results from the ‘what works’ and desistance literature. This knowledge should be used to evaluate the extent to which the intervention is grounded in strong and consistent evidence. The evaluation should also be explcit about how much it cost and how the funds were spent.

Review the evidence

Draw a logic model describing how your intervention works in practice by describing the links between inputs, outputs and outcomes. The logic model forms the basis for evaluating the whole intervention so this may provide better clues as to why

an intervention acheived it’s outcomes or why it did not.

Draw a logic model

Identify Indicators

and collect monitoring


Use this logic model to identify indicators for inputs, outputs and outcomes and collect data using relevent methods

Then analyse the data (and collect more if necessary) to find out the extent to which your intervention was evidence-based and if it worked as the logic model predicted it would. Put as much emphasis on describing and evaluating inputs as well as outputs and outcomes

Evaluate logic model

The 4 step approach

The 4 step approach to be similar?

4 step approach to evaluation overview
4 step approach to evaluation - overview to be similar?

  • Review the evidence

    Because it is difficult to conduct our own robust quantitative evaluations it makes sense to embed the results of robust impact evaluations from elsewhere into interventions. Therefore, this evaluation approach puts a deliberate emphasis on using evidence as an important input and the evaluation should measure the extent to which your service is based on evidence. Therefore, the first step is to gain an understanding of the results from robust studies found in the published literature.

    Summaries of key evidence and links to full reviews can be found on slides13-30 and links to some key reviews and texts are on slides 70-71. A slide on designing interventions is on slide 36.

  • Draw a logic model of how your service works

  • The logic model is an explicit description of how the intervention has been designed to achieve outcomes. It will be tested using data to see if things happened the way it should have. So, clearly set out how your service will achieve your outcomes . It should describe how evidence, funds and staff have been used to design and deliver activities and how these activities should lead to short, medium and long term outcomes. Examples of logic models can be found onslides 30-40 and a template and excellent guidance can be found here

  • Identify indictors and collect monitoring data

  • Using the logic model as a guide, identify indicators that will test whether the intervention actually worked as the logic model predicted. Collect data on inputs (including what the evidence says and how it was used), outputs and outcomes.

  • Evaluate logic model

  • You need to analyse data to test whether intervention worked in accordance with the logic model. To what extent was it evidence-based, how were resources mobilised to set up activities and you should assess how well activities were delivered. You could measure level of user engagement and whether offenders criminogenic needs were met by the service (outcomes). Case studies can be used to illustrate examples of who the service worked for and did not work for and why that might be.Comprehensive advice on evaluation can be found at the link below

Step 1 review the evidence

Step 1: review the evidence to be similar?

The use of international evidence and local knowledge

What does the evidence say
what does the evidence say? to be similar?

  • Using evidence is an important INPUT because consistent results that show that certain activities or approaches help certain users to desist from offending means that the intervention SHOULD work. The focus can then be on implementing the intervention to a high standard. Evaluations should include a discussion on the extent to which each element of the intervention was based on strong and consistent findings from the literature. To do this, the evidence must be read and understood.

  • To make the results from robust studies more accessible, we have summarised some of the key evidence from the ‘what works’, desistance and best practice literature. Full reports and other evidence resources are included on the Helpful resources slide (70and 71). The following slides summarise some core topics.

  • Factors associated with offending

  • Table of needs, and ‘what works’ to achieve desired intermediate outcomes

  • Desired intermediate outcomes based on criminogenic needs

  • What works to reduce reoffending

  • Best practice: throughcare

  • Best practice: mentoring people who offend

  • Best practice: women offenders

  • Best practice: working with people who offend

What are the factors associated with offending

  • Criminal history (previous convictions) , age, gender , disposal type, index crime, age and sentence length are all strong static predictors of reoffending. Although they are unable to be changed by interventions, this information can be used to target intervention resources towards medium-high risk offenders who require the most support to desist.

  • If an intervention aims to reduce reoffending, it needs to target dynamic criminogenic needs. These are characteristics that have been found by a number of research studies to be associated with reoffending.

  • • Research has consistently found that the strongest dynamic criminogenicneeds that can be changed by interventions to reduce reoffending are

    • Criminal attitudes

    • Criminal peers

    • Lack of employment

    • Substance misuse

    • Anti-social lifestyle

    • Poor social /problem solving /emotion management skills

    • Homelessness

    • Low motivation to change and a lack of confidence that they have the skills to change

  • Offenders usually have multiple needs and thus interventions that tackle a range of problems will be more effective. The extent that needs have been addressed can be defined and measured as INTERMEDIATE OUTCOMES.

  • Women’s criminogenicneeds overlap with men's although women prisoners are more likely to also experience non-criminogenic needs such as depression, anxiety and learning difficulties. They also are more likely to face accommodation problems, financial crisis , trauma arising from abuse and self-harming behaviour than male prisoners

What are the Factors associated with offending?


T disposal type, index crime, age and sentence length are all strong static predictors of reoffending. Although they are unable to be changed by interventions, this information can be used to he following table describes the findings from the international ‘what works’ evidence.The results are generated by quantitative randomised controlled trials of programmes and interventions.Links to full evidence reviews can be found onslides 20, 70 and 71

Desired intermediate outcomes disposal type, index crime, age and sentence length are all strong static predictors of reoffending. Although they are unable to be changed by interventions, this information can be used to

(based on criminogenic needs)

Develop pro-social networks, positive relationships and leisure activities

Find and retain housing and employment

Tackle substance misuse

Increase motivation, hope and self-efficacy to achieve positive goals

Develop non-criminal identity. Improve social skills, problem-solving skills, emotion management and pro-social attitudes


What works to reduce reoffending
What works to reduce reoffending? disposal type, index crime, age and sentence length are all strong static predictors of reoffending. Although they are unable to be changed by interventions, this information can be used to

  • The Reducing Reoffending Evidence review published by Justice Analytical Services in 2011 found that,

  • Community sentences are more effective at reducing reoffending in the long term than short term prison sentences.

  • Respectful, skilled, participatory and flexible contact with a supervisor can trigger positive changes in offenders.

  • The effectiveness of prison-based interventions is enhanced when aftercare support is provided following release.

  • Holistic interventions that target offenders’ multiple needs and involve work with offenders’ families and the wider community (e.g. employers) are more likely to be effective at reducing reoffending.

  • Interventions for women offenders are more likely to be successful if they target financial and family needs.

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) programmes have proven effective in reducing reoffending.

  • Stable and quality employment protects against reoffending especially is accompanied with other forms of support.

  • Drug treatment programmes have, on average a positive impact on reoffending

  • Three full reviews of ‘what works’ to reduce reoffending are available here -

  • Strengthening Transnational Approaches to Reducing Reoffending – University of Cambridge


  • Reducing Reoffending Review


  • Transforming rehabilitation – A summary of evidence on reducing reoffending – Ministry of Justice



T disposal type, index crime, age and sentence length are all strong static predictors of reoffending. Although they are unable to be changed by interventions, this information can be used to he following summaries describe the findings from qualitative research and theoretical perspectives e.g. desistance theory

Best practice effective throughcare
BEST PRACTICE: EFFECTIVE THROUGHCARE disposal type, index crime, age and sentence length are all strong static predictors of reoffending. Although they are unable to be changed by interventions, this information can be used to

  • Although there is very limited evidence on ‘outcomes’, an international review found that features of effective throughcare were perceived to be based on the following features, according to users and practitioners and some research studies.

  • Targeting the ‘right’ people

  • Key workers should be consistent to enable trusting and flexible relationships to develop

  • Pre-release plans are crucial and prisoners should be involved in devising these plans.

  • Practitioners believed that services need to be available and accessible at the point when a service user is ready to make changes in their lives.

  • The intensity of supervision needs to be relative to risk of reoffending – the greater the risk, the more intense the support should be.

  • Effective partnership working

  • Multi-agency working that takes a holistic approach is important. Agencies shouldhave distinct functions, shared objectives, adequate resources and a strong working relationship

  • A liaison officer can help agencies work together

  • Opportunities should be created to share ideas and to understand functions and remits of the agencies involved e.g. Link Centres

  • The statutory monitoring role and support role should be separated to avoid tensions arising.

  • Addressing release gaps

  • There should be continuity in service provision on release, especially for short term prisoners and those on remand.

  • Early contact is crucial and should start at the point of sentencing.

  • Day release to go to jobs and temporary accommodation are important for motivating users and avoiding disruption on release. Access to welfare provision and housing is crucial but can be extremely difficult due to bureaucratic barriers.

  • Services should be NEEDS LED rather than service led.

  • Short-term funding and heavy case-loads can create fragmentation, instability and decrease the quality of services.

  • Staff selection, remit and skills

  • A strong relationship between users and providers is key to changing behaviour but not enough in isolation. Needs have to be addressed too.

  • Mentors may be an effective way to support service users but only as part of a wider network of services.

  • Interpersonal skills and the ability to be flexible as well as practical was important according to practitioners.

  • Service users response better to workers who identify individual strengths and positive features.

  • Practical issues should be addressed before more complex needs as this maintains motivation.

  • Addressing practical basic needs is important but is not sufficient to trigger change. More complex needs such as attitudes, social skills and emotion management are also important to address.

  • Desistance is more likely if throughcare includes work with families and forges links with the wider community e.g. employers.


Best practice mentoring people who offend
Best practice: mentoring people who offend disposal type, index crime, age and sentence length are all strong static predictors of reoffending. Although they are unable to be changed by interventions, this information can be used to

  • Mentoring schemes should have in place robust working links with existing and developing interventions in their area of operation. Where feasible, these links should be underpinned by written protocols and/or care pathway agreements.

  • The mentoring schemes should sit alongside cognitive restructuring treatment (changing destructive and anti-social attitudes) and cognitive skills (social and problem-skills) training and behaviour modification. These interventions have the strongest evidence in reducing reoffending because they internalise change in the offender so they acquire the skills to desist after the external support is withdrawn.

  • The mentoring schemes should be designed around clear objectives and intended outcomes. These should be the outcomes which the evidence suggests mentoring can help offenders to achieve

  • Mentors and mentees should be carefully matched.

  • Mentors should undergo at least 20 hours of training prior to matching, and should be provided with ongoing training.

  • To underpin the development of a strong, meaningful, supportive relationship between mentors and mentees they should meet at least once a week, and the mentoring relationship should last for at least six months.

  • Mentoring projects should have a quality assurance system, a strong structure and overall coordination of the programme. A coordinator should help with selecting appropriate mentors, ensuring that mentors receive training, providing on-going monitoring of mentoring relationships and monitoring effective networks of organisations and services.


Best practice women offenders
Best practice: women offenders disposal type, index crime, age and sentence length are all strong static predictors of reoffending. Although they are unable to be changed by interventions, this information can be used to

  • Women desisters say they have strong social support from others and employ strategies for avoiding situations which could lead them back into offending. Reductions in reoffending are unlikely to occur unless the offender is motivated and intends to change, believes they have the skills to change and is supported by others to change.

  • Interventions should be delivered by interpersonally skilled staff who build a consistent and trusting relationship with offenders.

  • Supervision that is not accompanied by some form of support in addressing criminogenic needs is unlikely to lead to reductions in reoffending.

  • To reduce reoffending, interventions should help women improve their financial situation, establish loving bonds with children, change anti-social attitudes, tackle drug abuse in a residential setting and move women away from criminal associates.

  • Interventions are most effective if they start in prison and continue when women are released, address criminogenic and non-criminogenic needs simultaneously and are well targeted and sequenced.

  • Women offenders value help to solve practical problems such as accommodation, childcare and welfare benefits. These short-term needs may have to be addressed before women are ready to engage with interventions or address longer term needs such as education or employment.

  • Some social conditions that promote desistance in women are outside the control of some formal interventions – maturation, support from family and friends and establishing healthy personal relationships.

  • Most of the studies on women’s needs and effective interventions derive from the US or Canada so this may limit how transferable the studies are to offenders in the UK as offenders in these countries may have different demographic characteristics.


Best practice working with people who offend
Best practice: working with disposal type, index crime, age and sentence length are all strong static predictors of reoffending. Although they are unable to be changed by interventions, this information can be used to people who offend

  • Some research is beginning to shed light on the process of desistance from crime, and (to a lesser extent) on the potential role of criminal justice social work supervision in facilitating that process. Although there has been relatively little empirical research on the latter subject, a body of theorising has emerged which, follows the idea that probation practice should become ‘desistance-focused’ seeks to interpret desistance research for practice. Reviewing the available research , these efforts to interpret desistance research for practice tend to stress (albeit to varying degrees) eight central themes:

  • Desistanceis likely to involve lapses and relapses.  There is value, therefore, in criminal justice supervision being realistic about these difficulties and to find ways to manage setbacks and difficulties constructively. It may take considerable time for supervision and support to exercise a positive effect.

  • Since desistance is an inherently individualised and subjective process, approaches to criminal justice social work supervision must accommodate and exploit issues of identity and diversity. One-size-fits-all interventions will not work (Weaver and McNeill, 2010).

  • The development and maintenance not just of motivation but also of hope become key tasks for criminal justice social workers (Farrall and Calverley, 2006).

  • Desistance can only be understood within the context of human relationships; not just relationships between workers and offenders (though these matter a great deal) but also between offenders and those who matter to them (Burnett and McNeill, 2005; McNeill, 2006).

  • Although the focus is often on offenders’ risks and needs, they also have strengths and resources that they can use to overcome obstacles to desistance – both personal strengths and resources, and strengths and resources in their social networks. Supporting and developing these capacities can be a useful dimension of criminal justice social work (Maruna and LeBel, 2003, 2009).

  • Since desistance is in part about discovering self-efficacy or agency, interventions are most likely to be effective where they encourage and respect self-determination; this means working with offenders not on them (McCulloch, 2005; McNeill, 2006).

  • Interventions based only on developing the capacities and skills of people who have offended (human capital) will not be enough. Probation also needs to work on developing social capital, opportunities to apply these skills, or to practice newly forming identities (such as ‘worker’ or ‘father’) (Farrall, 2002, 2004; McNeill and Whyte, 2007).


T he following shows an example of an evidence based justification for a fictitious intervention
T disposal type, index crime, age and sentence length are all strong static predictors of reoffending. Although they are unable to be changed by interventions, this information can be used to he following shows an example of an evidence-based justification for a fictitious intervention

An fictitious example of an evidence-based rationale for an intervention (using only the evidence summaries in this pack)

Rationale for the service (why is this service needed?)

There are 2 clear reasons for providing this service

1. There is a gap in current provision

The Scottish Prison Servicehave identified a gap in services aimed at improving prisoners’ social, communication and emotion-management skills. There is currently no prison-based service available to address these needs in prisoners.

2. There is strong and consistent evidence that this intervention should help contribute to reducing reoffending

We have drawn on robust research evidence to demonstrate how our planned activities should lead to prisoners developing better communication and emotional skills which should help them deal more effectively with people, achieve positive goals (such as finding employment) and desist from crime after liberation. We have drawn from reviews of the evidence rather than single studies which can be biased or unreliable. We have drawn on the following sources:-

  • Systematic and literature reviews on ‘what works’ to reduce reoffending to provide justification for throughcare and the needs the service will address

  • A range of qualitative research studies which suggest how the service should be implemented to achieve outcomes

  • Data provided by the Scottish Government on prisoners’ reconviction rates.

Outcomes (evidence for our intervention targets)

Evidence - what factors contribute to reducing reoffending?

The findings from international systematic reviews of ‘what works’ to reduce reoffending provides strong and consistent evidence that in order to reduce reoffending services need to target criminogenic needs which have consistency found to be correlated with reoffending (reference).

A systematic review published by the Ministry of Justice identified several robust studies which found a clear association between poor social and emotion management skills with reoffending, therefore they are both justifiable targets for interventions aimed at reducing reoffending. Other dynamic criminogenic needs have been found to be criminal peers, drug use and criminal attitudes.

There is fairly strong evidence that that better outcomes are achieved if services are holistic, well-structured and continue after release (reference).  

What outcomes will we be trying to achieve?

This intervention will focus mainly on improving offenders social and emotion management skills. To ensure that this intervention forms part of a wider holistic service which will address multiple needs, this intervention will link into existing throughcare processes as one of the range of services that prisoners can be referred to in prison and in the community.

The community-based part of the intervention will also encourage liberated prisoners to join sports and leisure groups which should help ex-prisoners build pro-social networks.

Therefore this intervention will focus on addressing 3 needs that have been found to be associated with reoffending

  • Improve Social skills

  • Improve Emotional management

  • Develop networks with prosocial peer groups (once back into the community)

Activities to achieve outcomes intervention

Evidence for linking this intervention with existing throughcare processes

Although there is a lack of controlled experimental studies which show that throughcare reduces reoffending, there is a growing body of evidence that throughcare plays an important role in helping short term prisoners reintegrate back into the community and that throughcare can enhance the effectiveness of prison-based interventions (add reference). With particular relevance to social skills and emotion management, some research studies have shown that throughcare can enable prisoners to practice skills they have learned once they return back to their communities which will help them deal with real life situations, seek work, control aggression and engage positively with non-offending peers (add reference).

As there are existing throughcare processes, we have designed this intervention to align with the processes and with the main tenets of effective throughcare which are listed below. According to an international review of throughcare published in 2013 by SCCJR,

  • Throughcare should start as early as possible following sentencing

  • Pre-release planning is important and prisoners should be involved in devising these plans

  • There should be continuity of provision through the gate

  • Supporting prisoners to practice their skills in the community embeds more positive behaviour.

How will our service link with throughcare?

In accordance with this evidence, this service will engage prisoners who are referred to us as early as possible and we will also offer one-to-one support available to prisoners on an appointment basis. Once liberated, prisoners will be able continue to improve and practice their social and emotional management skills in the community through the provision of a community-based structured programme.

As there is strong evidence that criminal peers place offenders at a high risk of reoffending, once released the users will be encouraged to find work, join local sports or social clubs of interest to the users so they can forge relationships with non-offending peers. Where possible, links to clubs and employers will be made prior to release to smooth the transition. The community-based service will support prisoners for at least 6 months after release or until a time they are confident in using positive social skills without further support.

Evidence on effective techniques to improve social skills and emotional management

There is strong and consistent evidence from systematic reviews that show CBT is the most effective technique at improving social skills, managing aggression and reducing reoffending (add reference).

What approach will we use in our sessions?

Specialist workers who are trained and experienced in motivating offenders using CBT techniques will run structured interventions within the prison and in the community. These will improve communication and emotion management skills though using CBT approaches, participatory role play within peer groups.

Within the prison, peer groups will be used to practice holding conversations, allowing prisoners to learn from each other how to express ideas and develop effective techniques which help them deal with anger and frustration. As stated above, it is important that once released, prisoners also start to build relationships with pro-social peers.

Evidence on required intensity of support intervention

Risk, Needs and Responsivity principals show that the intensity or ‘dosage’ of supervisions needs to be relative to the risk of reoffending (add reference).

Our approach to the intensity of support

As this group are at a high risk of reoffending (see participants section), this project will provide intensive support. This will take the form of one-to-one support on an on-going appointment basis and two, one hour sessions per week designed to improve social and emotion management skills. This frequency will continue in the community as appropriate to individual users.

Evidence on what increases motivation

Research also shows that targeting this group may present problems with lack of motivation and engagement as the target group may be extremely resistant to receiving support. However research has found there may be rational reasons for a lack of motivation (e.g. poor experiences of interventions in the past, chaotic life-styles which act as a barrier to participation, being forced to own up to their offending, guilt, fear of ridicule from others and a lack of self-efficacy etc).

Our approach to motivating prisoners

Therefore our staff are trained in evidence-based methods to motivate reluctant offenders by developing trusting relationships, showing willingness to focus on and discuss life goals and discuss how they could achieved, agreeing shorter term treatment goals, explaining processes and activities that will be fully explained and by using enjoyable tasks. This should help prisoners to feel motivated and sustain engagement with the programme.

Participants (who will we reach?)

Evidence on selecting appropriate target groups

RNR principals suggest that offenders with a medium-high risk of reoffending are most likely to benefit from structured interventions compared with those who are low-risk or very high risk.

Offenders who at a high risk of reoffending tend to have the following characteristics,

  • They have a number of prior convictions

  • They are serving short term sentences

  • They have multiple criminogenic needs

    Data on the Scottish prison population provided by the Scottish Government confirms that prisoners serving short term sentences (6 months or less) who have multiple prior convictions have the highest reconviction rate out of all prisoner groups. Approximately 70% of prisoners under 30 serving under 6 months with more than 10 prior reconvictions were reconvicted within a year compared with 50% of all prisoners serving short term sentences.

    Which target group will we reach?

    This project will therefore target the most prolific male prisoners who are

  • Serving sentences of under 6 months

  • Have over 10 prior convictions

    The total number of prisoners across the whole estate who should be eligible for the service per annum is based on figures for 2010-11 cohort which suggests 1264 prisoners would fall into this category. As this is an intensive service, which requires considerable time spent with prisoners we aim to target 30 offenders per annum.

Step 2 draw a logic model showing how the service or intervention works

Step 2: draw a logic model showing how the service or intervention works

Show clear links between resources, activities and outcomes

What are logic models
What are logic models? intervention works

Logic models are simplified diagrams of an intervention, project,

programme, policy or organisation’s work which explicitly show the

logical relationships (clear links) between resources invested, the

activities that take place, and the outcomes or benefits of those


Describe how your intervention actually works, whether it is

evidence-based or not.

What logic models can do
What logic models can do intervention works

  • Monitoring and Performance management – checking progress and links

  • Planning – linking policies or projects to outcomes, or outcomes to policies

  • Transparency and cohesion – clear line of sight between activities and intended outcomes for external and internal audiences

  • Evaluation – it’s a tool for identifying process and outcome measures and then collect data to see if outcomes were achieved as defined in the model.

A very simple evidence based logic model
A very simple evidence-based logic model intervention works

E.g. Logic model for headache:

Over 300 controlled trials have demonstrated paracetamol based medicines

reduce headache pain more than alternative drugs

Evidence for this model is….

A logic model template to use
A Logic Model Template TO USE intervention works

This blank template can be found here

Logic model column content quick guide
LOGIC MODEL COLUMN CONTENT – quick guide intervention works

  • Input column What you invest (e.g. how may staff volunteers, how much time and

  • money, what evidence was embedded, materials, equipment, venue, technology,

  • partners)

  • Outputs /Activities column What you do (e.g. conduct workshops, meetings,

  • sessions, develop products , develop resources, assess, facilitate, provide one

  • to-one support)

  • Participation Who you reach (e.g. users, clients, agencies, decision-makers,

  • customers, short term prisoners)

  • Short term outcomes What change happened in the short term? (e.g. awareness,

  • learning, knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivations, aspirations, opinions)

  • Medium term outcomes What change happened in the medium term – ACTION (e.g.

  • Practice and demonstrate new skills, behaviour, decision-making, policy change, social action)

  • Long term outcomes What is the ultimate outcome? (e.g. social change,

  • economic change)


The importance of designing a structured intervention
the importance of designing a structured intervention intervention works

  • Evaluating any intervention will be extremely difficult unless the intervention itself is run in a structured

  • way, is focussed on outcomes and delivers clearly defined activities that should achieve those outcomes.

  • Therefore funders should ask bidders to set out how the intervention will work ‘on the ground’ from the

  • outset. If the intervention structure and design lacks structure and is implemented without clear and explicit

  • outcomes in mind then there will be very little to base an evaluation on.

  • A well designed intervention has the following key features,

  • Evidence-based activities, ways of working with users and outcomes

  • A clear understanding of the people they are targeting and why

  • Knowledge of how many people are eligible for the intervention , a record of user profiles , how many participate and how many complete and drop out.

  • Staff with a shared understanding of the objectives and outcomes they want to achieve (e.g. what needs are being addressed)

  • A record of costs and how the money is spent

  • A clear understanding of the skills the practitioners need and staff that have the right skills

  • Enough staff to make progress towards achieving outcomes

  • Structured activities that clearly are designed to improve outcomes based on what the evidence says should work.

  • Data collected on inputs (e.g. costs, staff numbers) , outputs (e.g. activities, participation) and outcomes (e.g. before and after scores)

  • All applicants for funding should be asked to demonstrate each of these features

An evidence based logic model reducing reoffending
An evidence-based logic model –reducing reoffending intervention works

  • The following logic model was generated from International evidence on

  • ‘whatworks’ to reduce reoffending. It shows clear links between ‘what you

  • do’ and the expected outcomes, based on what research studies tells us. It

  • draws on the collective results from robust published evaluations and

  • research, not on anecdotesor standalone studies.

  • This model is quite general, so interventions should be a bit more detailed

  • about the evidence they have used to design and deliver the intervention

  • and also describe the content of activities in more detail.

T he reducing reoffending evidence model

Short and medium term outcomes are also known as ‘intermediate’ outcomes or criminogenic needs which should be addressed

the Reducing Reoffending Evidence Model

An example a simple supervised bail logic model
An Example: a simple Supervised Bail Logic Model ‘intermediate’ outcomes or

Use the logic model to identify indicators
Use the datalogic model to Identify indicators

  • Once the logic model of the intervention is complete, you need to address the following questions

  • What will be the evidence – are things happening the way the model described and if not, why not?

  • What are the specificindicators that will be measured to test whether the service worked in accordance with assumptions in the model?

  • Which indicators need to be expressed as a number and a percentage?

  • Do I need have qualitative indicators as well as numerical indicators? If you do, they still have to be observable and measurable, for example an increase in knowledge, confidence, skill or a change in perceptions or motivation

Use logic model to set evaluation questions to identify indicators. This will guide the collection of data: Parenting skills example

Parents increase knowledge of child dev


Develop parent curriculum

Parents identify appropriate actions to take

Reduced stress

Parents better understand their own parenting style


Parents of 3-10 year olds

Deliver series of 8 interactive sessions


Improved child-parent relations

Parents gain skills in new ways to parent


Parents use effective parenting practices

Facilitate support groups

Parents gain confidence in their abilities

Strong families


What amount of £ and time were invested?

What evidence was used?

How many sessions were held? How effectively?

#, quality of support groups?

Who/how many attended/did not attend? Did they attend all sessions?

Supports groups? Were they satisfied – why/why not?

To what extent did knowledge and skills increase? For whom? Why? What else happened?

To what extent did behaviors

change? For whom? Why? What else happened?

To what extent is stress reduced?

To what extent are relations improved?


#,% demonstrating increased knowledge/skills

Additional outcomes

#,% demonstrating changes

Types of changes

#,% demonstrating improvements

Types of improvements

#,% attended per session

Certificate of completion

# Staff

£ used

# partners


that were



# Sessions held

Quality criteria

SOURCE: University of Wisconsin

Example indicators for outputs activities and outcomes prisoner skills example
example indicators for indicators. This will guide the collection of data: Parenting skills exampleOutputs/activities and Outcomes prisonerskillsexample



Prisoners practice new techniques

Prisoners ability to communicate effectively increases

Intervention implemented



Prisoners learn

Number of referral protocols set up and percentage of total eligible group referred

Number of workshops held

Quality of workshops and quality of relationship between prisoners and practitioners

Prisoner characteristics

Using eligible group as baseline, what are number and percent of prisoners attended and completed?

Number and percent who increase knowledge

What have they learned?

Number and percent who practice new techniques

What techniques?

Number and percent reporting ‘real life’ goals achieved through effective communication

Reduced reoffending

Data collection
Data collection indicators. This will guide the collection of data: Parenting skills example

  • Relevant and accurate data collection is crucial both to the implementation of interventions, and to the evaluation of individual projects. This is the data you will collect to test your logic model of the intervention.

  • Use the indicators that will measure inputs, output and outcomes to guide the collection of either numerical or qualitative data. Ensure data is collected to measure inputs, outputs and outcomes

  • Data can be collected at unit level i.e. for each individual or at intervention level. Unit level data is powerful and could be aggregated level to provide data at intervention level, if required.

  • Data should be collected consistently using standardised and validated tools where possible.

  • Data should be collected at different stages of the intervention to identify different aspects of implementation or to monitor progress.

  • Quantifying responses to questionnaires is very useful as it will give you numerical information (# and %) pertaining to information on, for example user characteristics, throughput, participation and numbers of making progress/not making progress on outcomes. This can be combined with deeper, more qualitative information to capture user experiences.

Data capture and analysis

  • Data capture

  • You could input monitoring data into an Excel spread sheet (or any database that allows the data to be analysed rather than just recorded).

  • Some data could be simply recorded as raw numbers such as costs, number of staff or age. Where there are a number of possible responses or answers, drop-down menus could be used to record data such as user characteristics (ethnicity, male/female,) referral protocols set up (yes/no), response options in questionnaires or progress made on particular issue (got better, stayed the same or got worse), for example.

  • Other data may be more qualitative in nature such as interviews and focus groups which need to be recorded using transcripts or detailed notes.

  • Data analysis

  • Tick box questions can be analysed by adding the numbers who chose each response, you should also present these as a percentage but make sure you also give the numbers, especially where the number of respondents is under 100!

  • If you report on the findings of open questions, go through all of the responses and highlight where common responses have been made by different people. These common responses can be reported as ‘themes’, to summarise the kinds of things people have said in their answers.


An example of a data collection framework for a criminal justice intervention
An example of a data collection framework for a criminal justice intervention

A data collection framework is really useful for evaluators as it clearly sets out:

  • The data that needs to be collected to test each phase of the logic model

  • From whom or what do you source the data

  • Where to record the data (e.g. on a database)

  • How to enter the data into a database for analysis to test whether the intervention worked as the original logic model described.

    The data collection framework can also help you decide what questions you need to ask and what method you will use to collect the data. For example, you could decide to capture evidence of outcomes/change by observing particular skills before and after the intervention or perhaps coded questionnaires are useful so user responses can quantified and averaged etc.

    The next 6 slides show an example of a fictitious data collection frameworkwhich is designed to test a logic model for a generic criminal justice intervention. It’s ‘bell and whistles’ so may not fit your intervention exactly but could be a useful starting point. The colour coding shows how the data you need to collect corresponds to each stage of the logic model - see logic model section for template and examples. Inputs (yellow), activities and the characteristics of participants reached by the intervention (green) and short, medium term and long term outcomes (red).

    When collecting data from users it might be easier to collect and record as much data as possible on paper first, for example on a questionnaire (for each participant), then code the responses and enter them into a database.

    Qualitative data doesn’t need to be entered into a database so could be analysed separately.

Step 4 evaluate logic model

Step 4: EVALUATE LOGIC MODEL intervention

How to choose the right design based on what question you need to answer


Did the intervention work as it should? Look back at the research questions and see what the data tells you about each question. The data (quantiative and qualiative) will tell you whether the service worked as the model predicted. The following are example questions you could answer using the basic monitoring data you collected.




  • Who were the target group was the intended target group reached?

  • What was the size of the target group/ their characteristics?

  • What were their needs?

  • What were the activities/content?

  • How many referral protocols were set up and who with? How did it work? Did it work?

  • How many of the target group participated, how many completed and how many dropped out?

  • How many sessions were held

  • How long was an average session

  • Did staff have the right skillset to deliver the content?

  • Which aspects of the service were / were not evidence based?

  • How much money was spent on activities? Was it sufficient?

  • How many staff were employed and at what cost?

  • What was staff/user ratio?

  • What did the staff do?

  • How many staff were trained

  • What was the training?

  • Were there enough staff to deliver the activities as planned?

  • What other resources were required?

  • How many improved or made progress/did not improve or make progress?

  • What were the characteristics of the users who made progress?

  • What were the chaacteristics of the users who did not make progress?

  • What type of progress was make e.g. skills, learning?

Measuring and reporting logic model outcomes before and after measures
Measuring and reporting logic model Outcomes – before and after measures

  • Outcomes:Outcomes are about CHANGE. This type of evidence measures if positive or negative things are happening as

  • expected by the logic model.

  • However, it must be noted thatwe can’t determine what might have causeddifferences in outcomes by merely observing

  • them. You would need a comparison group or counterfactual to make attributions for changes in outcomes.

  • Example measures:

  • Outcomes could be changes in crimininogenic needs (intermediate outcomes) . However, just measuring outcomes after the

  • intervention is not sufficient. For example, measuring the attitudes of prisoners towards victims after seeing a mentor does not

  • tell you anything about how effective mentoring was because prisoners could have started the intervention with the same

  • attitudes as at the end, so they may not have changed at all. You at least need a ‘before’ measure (a benchmark) to compare

  • an after measure with.

  • If you cannot obtain a large matched comparison or control group, a better measure of outcomes would be to use the prisoners

  • as their own control. In other words, you would measure prisoner views before and then after an intervention has finished

  • (making sure the time periods are the same). Before and after measures could be a state, a situation or an attitude measured

  • before, during and after an intervention (direction of travel) or a comparison of scores on a standard scale (distance travelled) .

  • Limitations to note: Even if observed changes in a state, situation or attitude look positive, these outcomes cannot be safely to

  • attributed to the intervention (rather than to other factors) without a control or matched comparison group to compare user

  • outcomes with. Outcomes could have occurred without the intervention - this is especially true for longer term outcomes.

  • This limitation should be made explicit in evaluation reports and taken into account when judging what real difference

  • (impact) an Intervention has made on its users.

Measuring and reporting impact
Measuring and reporting impact after measures

  • Impact: This type of evidence measures the extent to which theinterventionhas contributed to achieving

  • outcomes. For example, if it can be ‘proven’ that an intervention has reduced reconviction rates, or intermediate outcomes

  • such as attitudes, peer group or drug use. The logic model assumes the intervention will lead to outcomes but you have to

  • use a special design to ascertain whether it has or not.

  • Example measures:

  • The starting point when assessing impact is to assume that the intervention has had no real effect at all–in other words that

  • even if users have improved outcomes compared with a control group, that this improvement would have happened anyway. If

  • you want to see if you had a real impact on outcomes you have to use an experimental design.This method compares

  • quantitative outcomes of users (such as reconviction rates or scores on an attitude scale) with a randomised control group or

  • matched comparison group. The control group could be seen as a ‘twin’ sample who share the same characteristics of users

  • but didn’t use the intervention. This control group shows you what would have happened without the intervention being there.

  • You have to make sure that the characteristics of users and the control MATCH or in other words – both groups

  • must have the same RISK of reoffending .

  • Key ‘matching’ variables are type of disposal, sentence length, index offence, previous convictions, age and gender. If people in

  • both groups are not matched, you could be comparing your reconviction rates with a group that had a much LOWER risk or

  • much HIGHER risk of being convicted than your sample group - this will make your results look artificially bad or artificially

  • good. Numerical data must then be subjected to a statistical test to see if any differences are statistically significant

  • or could have just occurred by chance or fluke.

Caveats to measuring impact
Caveats to measuring impact after measures

  • It is important to bear the following in mind

  • Large samples in the user group and in the control group are required

  • If users have volunteered themselves into the intervention and the control group have not, there will be ‘self-selection’ bias mainly because volunteers are likely to be more motivated than the control group. One way to overcome this is to randomise the volunteers into different interventions or into a treatment and control group.

  • Some providers and funders might be concerned that it is unethical to allocate volunteers into a control group which prevents them from accessing an intervention. However, if the intervention is experimental or is not supported by strong evidence (and could cause more harm than good) then random allocation should not be unethical.

  • If random allocation isn’t feasible, then matched pairs is the next most powerful method to use. Each user is matched on key characteristics with either one or several non-users from a database, such as the Scottish Offenders Index.

  • In order to avoid further selection bias, the measurement and analysis of outcomes needs to be carried out on the entire eligible group which includes non-starters, drop outs and completers.

Subjective measures of impact

  • If you are unable to use an experimental method of measuring impact you could ask people if they

  • thought the intervention made a difference by

  • Reporting the percentage of users who improved on outcomes and those who did not.

  • Asking users who improved on outcomes whether they received other forms of support.

  • Asking users to rate the extent to which each form of help contributed to their success, for example, did they say it was the intervention, their family, friends, another intervention or their own desire to succeed? You should always tell users that the research will also seek views from staff, mentors, family etc. This reduces some of the self-serving bias which can undermine the reliability of this method – see below.

  • Limitations:

  • We cannot get around the fact that using a randomised control group or well-matched comparison group is

  • the most reliable and objective way of measuring whether the intervention has made a real difference for

  • users but it is very difficult to do robustly.

  • Asking users to judge the extent to which an intervention has helped them is an alternative but this method is

  • vulnerable to ‘self-serving bias’. This is the well-established tendency take the credit for success and

  • underplay external factors so it is not as reliable as quantitative methods but could be used as an

  • alternative if these limitations are acknowledged.

A note on cost benefit analysis
A note on Cost benefit analysis after measures

  • Cost benefit analysis:

  • Economic assessment places a monetary value on the costs and benefits of an

  • intervention– it is another way to determine the value of an intervention and

  • convince others that it has public value.

  • Example measures:

  • CBA usually builds on a rigorous impact evaluation and typically measures a wide range of

  • outcomes. It usually measures the public benefits to society but may also consider benefits

  • to individuals and families. It is both an art and a science –especially when assigning

  • monetary values to benefits. CBA allows for comparisons across interventions , policies, and

  • other types of interventions.

  • Estimates may be based upon well-documented impacts (i.e. evidence-based interventions)

  • Estimates may be based upon well-documented impacts and future projections upon these documented impacts

  • Estimates may be based on undocumented assumptions that the intervention works and hypothetical projections or ‘what if’ analysis –but no hard data is available

  • Excellent guidance on CBA can be found here and Justice Analysts are happy to provide advice:

Structure and content of the report
structure and content of the report after measures

  • SECTION 1: Executive Summary

  • Provide a brief overview of the intervention itself and it’s purpose

  • Summarise the main findings and recommendations from the evaluation

  • SECTION 2: Intervention description

  • Explain why the intervention was required/funded. For example was there a gap in provision?

  • Describe the intervention being evaluated including intervention costs, target group and intervention objectives.

  • Describe in more detail how the intervention works using the logic model of the intervention

  • Write a clear accompanying narrative that describes the model to the reader. The narrative should explain how funds were spent on the content of the intervention (in detail) and how the international literature of ‘what works’ elsewhere and good practice has been embedded into the intervention in terms of target group, activities they undertook, the skills of the practitioners and how the intervention was delivered to maximise engagement and learning. Also set out the short, medium and long term outcomes that should materialise.

  • SECTION after measures3: Evaluation questions and methods–

  • First, set out your research questions using the logic model as a guide. Set out questions that relate to

    • Inputs - for example how much did the intervention cost and how funds were spent? To what extent were different components of the programme based on the results from robust and consistent studies?

    • Outputs - for example were activities carried out as planned, was the target group obtained, how many of the eligible group completed and what did activities consist of?

    • Short and Medium term (intermediate) outcomes - for example how many/ percentage of users increased motivation and had their criminogenic needs met?

  • Describe what data was collected (quantitative and/or qualitative) in order to answer each evaluation question and describe HOW the data was collected, for example by questionnaire.

  • Describe how the data was analysed

  • SECTION 4:Findings /Results

  • Results should be set out to answer each of your research questions and must AT LEAST include the following results as a MINIMUM

  • The cost/resources used and how the money was spent and was it sufficient to run the activities?

  • Which aspects of the service were evidence-based and which were not?

  • How users were selected and was this effective at reaching the target group?

  • Characteristics of the eligible group and eventual users (not just completers)

  • Throughput – how many of the eligible group started, dropped out and completed and what were there characteristics?

  • Whether activities were carried out as planned , their specific content and how many participated in them

  • Before and after analysis of outcomes. How many made progress, who did not and what were their characteristics?

  • If an impact evaluation was conducted, the results of the statistical test would be included in this section

    • SECTION after measures6: Interpretation and recommendations

    • Draw on your results to comment on the successes, challenges and lessons learned

    • Reflect on which aspects of the logic model were supported by your results and which aspects were not and why.

    • List suggestions for modifying or supplementing the intervention the future to improve its ability to meet its own objectives

    • Conclusions MUST to be backed up by your results

    • TIP

    • Short chapter summaries are extremely helpful for readers who don’t have time to

    • read the full report or who want to get a sense of the evaluation before reading it in

    • detail.

    • This summary was drawn from excellent guidance on what to include in an

    • evaluation report which can be found here.


    Judging the worth of an intervention

    Judging the worth of an intervention after measures

    Judging an evaluation

    Assessing an evaluation report
    Assessing an evaluation report after measures

    • The extent to which an organisation has undertaken these 4 steps could be

    • judged using an objective scoring scale which would standardise the way

    • interventions are judged

    • A standardised, objective and transparent scoring system could be developed to

    • assess the extent to which these 4 elements have been addressed in the report,

    • namely,

    • To what extent is the intervention based on strong and consistent evidence drawn from the results of sound research studies?

    • Is there is logic model that shows clear, evidence-based and logical links between each activity and the outcomes?

    • Has an independent and robust evaluation been carried out?

    • To what extent did the evaluation show a) that the resources (inputs) and been spent on evidence-based activities, that b) the target group were obtained c) that most completed the intervention and d) that the anticipated outcomes for users were achieved?

    Features and advantages of a scoring system
    Features and Advantages of a scoring system after measures

    • A scoring system could be developed in collaboration with Justice Analytical

    • Services, funders and interventions.

    • Criteria could be weighted according to the importance of each criteria

    • A total score could be worked out for each intervention and assessed – it even provides a basis for making objective and transparent comparisons between interventions.

    • There is a precedent for this type of scoring system – ‘formal’ criminal justice programmes seeking accreditation are assessed using a similar scoring system and Analytical Services use a similar system of criteria to assess bids for research projects





    • Inclusive – all interventions of any size should be able to conduct this type of evaluation

    • Giving credit for evidence-based approach and a sound model of change can offset problems with conducting ‘gold standard’ impact evaluations

    • Funders could rate the quality of evaluations on a scale which allows weighting to help compare programmes

    • A transparent and consistent scoring system would support and enable a process of ‘certification’ (similar to accreditation of formal programmes) which could raise the quality of interventions which in turn should reduce reoffending in the longer term.

    • The approach is already endorsed and used to commission change fund projects.

    • Not everyone is familiar with logic models, how to embed the evidence or evaluations so evaluators and funders might need support

    • It falls short of a quantitative and objectively verifiable measure of impact on long term outcomes

    • In order for interventions to conduct a robust logic model evaluation, they must have sufficient time for medium term outcomes to materialise. Short funding cycles may act against this although this approach does allow other aspects of the process to be evidenced sooner, for example evidence-based practice, a clear logic model, sound implementation of activities and short term outcomes.


    Helpful resources
    Helpful resources APPROACH

    Evaluation Plan Worksheets

    Logic model guidance, templates and flowcharts

    ‘What works’ reviews of the evidence –full reports

    Reducing Reoffending Review- Scottish Government -

    Strengthening Transnational Approaches to Reducing Reoffending – University of Cambridge

    Transforming rehabilitation – A summary of evidence on reducing reoffending – Ministry of Justice

    Campbell Collaboration Systematic Reviews (e.g. on mentoring and prison-based drug interventions)

    Key practice skills research

    Practitioner skills and attributes

    Motivating Offenders to Change

    Helpful resources continued
    Helpful resources continued.. APPROACH

    • Recent key texts


    • Writing an evaluation report.


    • An example of commissioning using key elements of the 4 step approach

    • ReducingReoffending Change fund guidance


    • management/changefund/changefundguidance