ADR UK Data First Evaluation Fellowship

Lead Research Organisation: University of Surrey
Department Name: Sociology


Until recently, the large amounts of administrative data routinely collected about offenders as they are moved through the Criminal Justice System have been inaccessible to research. Instead, our understanding has largely been restricted to static insights into particular points in the journey. The Ministry of Justice ADR UK linkage project has transformed this picture, allowing offenders to be tracked across all stages of the Criminal Justice System. This opens up vast potentials for cutting edge research that recognises the complex interconnections that exist between different parts of the Criminal Justice System. For example, this could help us to understand how and why some of those people that are sentenced by the courts return quickly (and repeatedly) following the completion of their sentence, whilst other offenders are never seen again. The effects of more complex criminal justice histories including multiple transitions back through the system can also be examined as well as the impacts of particular interventions on particular types of individual.

But the complexity and scale of this new wave of linked data necessitates new working approaches and understanding of new analytic techniques. The fellowship is an unrivalled opportunity to work directly alongside Ministry of Justice analysts to realise the full potential of this linked data. Working collaboratively, I will identify a number of clearly defined research questions that meet Ministry of Justice priorities and can be addressed with this data. In particular, the opportunities afforded by linking information from across different Criminal Justice stages will be exploited. The specific questions will be guided by my own academic understanding of individuals journeys through the Criminal Justice System built up over more than 15 years as an empirical criminologist. They will also appropriately reflect the structural complexities inherent in the linked data sources including correctly engaging with the role of context (the effect of being dealt with in a specific court and/or prison) and the fact that prior experiences shape subsequent ones.

Research questions will be refined in consultation with Ministry of Justice analysts in an interactive workshop. This will be informed by some initial 'proof of concept' data analysis exercises with the available data. Here the emphasis will be on providing a rapid evidence base for further discussion rather than on selecting the most technically sophisticated analysis solutions. These rapid data deep-dives will help to highlight specific data challenges, clarify the central research question, and facilitate further discussion and question development. The most promising questions would then be worked up into full-scale empirical projects supported by more statistically robust analytic approaches that appropriately reflect the patterns that emerge in the data.

Crucial to the fellowship is ensuring a legacy for future research. To achieve this, in addition to the more standard publication of key findings in academic and policy outlets, all work will be written up within data analysis worksheets. These worksheets link directly to the raw data and will run the computational code required to complete the data analysis, whilst also including explanatory text and publishable outputs. Keeping all elements of the data processing, analysis, and reporting within the same worksheet will ensure fully replicability of the empirical work, whilst also allowing new users to quickly adapt the code and/ or text to generate new reports. I will also run workshops for Ministry of Justice analysts where relevant.


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