Breaking the offender cycle is one of the biggest challenges the criminal justice system faces. According to the UKRI, 40% of ex-inmates reoffend within 12 months of release. That figure increases to 75% after 9 years of release. It is clear that the majority of ex-inmates rely heavily on the state asWhen leaving prison, only 25% of men and 20% of women have some form of employment lined up when leaving prison, which can lead to an increased risk of reoffending. To tackle this, offenders need to be supported by the probation service, integrated management teams and volunteer groups as they reintegrate into local communities. By working in partnership, these organisations help reduce violence and the likelihood of reoffending.

The Surrey Checkpoint Programme

In 2019, the imprisonment rate in Surrey was just 9 per 100,000 women according to the Prison Reform Trust; the lowest rate in the country. This low rate can be attributed to the Surrey Checkpoint plan and Checkpoint Plus.

Based on Durham Constabulary’s Checkpoint plan, and building on the Women’s Justice Intervention scheme, the Surrey Checkpoint Programme was launched in 2016 as a broader scheme aimed at all eligible adults. It is a deferred prosecution scheme for lower-level offences and aims to reduce reoffending with targeted interventions.

A green map of Surrey county with the words Surrey Checkpoint in red underneath the map.

We heard from Craig Jones, Policy and Commissioning Lead for Criminal Justice at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, about the implementation of the Checkpoint and Checkpoint Plus programmes. Craig shared how the programmes have created holistic support packages for offenders and have helped divert them away from the formal criminal justice system through short-term interventions.

Interview

MGC: What are the Checkpoint and Checkpoint Plus programmes?

MGC: How did you work together with Surrey Police and the Women’s Centre in Woking to develop Checkpoint Plus?

CJ: We were really lucky with that partnership. Before I go any further though, I must say the Checkpoint scheme wasn’t initially devised by us here, at Surrey Police. It was initially a scheme delivered by Durham Constabulary where it has been in place for a few years now.

The initial task for myself and a colleague was to go around the country and look at the various out of court disposal systems in place in other counties. With this, we went to see the Checkpoint scheme being delivered by the Durham Constabulary in County Durham. We chose to base our out of court disposal scheme on Durham’s for a number of reasons:

  • The scheme had reduced reoffending rates by approximately 10%
  • It had been assessed regularly and had a few years of data supporting the reduction in reoffending rates
  • We thought it would fit best with Surrey Police’s existing structure

MGC: What were the challenges you faced when setting up the programmes and how did you overcome these?

CJ: With these schemes, funding is always going to be an issue, especially if it’s a scheme that’s starting from scratch.

Setting up out of court disposal schemes is expensive and it’s one of the reasons we had to conduct extensive research into the scheme, to confidently say Checkpoint was the right fit for Surrey Police. […] Before we set off to complete the research into offender management schemes, the Chief Constable of Surrey told us we had no budget to work with. It’s never easy setting up an almost entirely new scheme, let alone one with next to no budget. Fortunately, I had the support of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office who provided us with some financial backing there.

Even now, Checkpoint Plus is almost entirely funded by the Office for Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) so it’s an OPCC project. Specialist navigators are funded by the OPCC, and we also provide them with money for any other specialist resources that might be needed to deliver the tailored support people need.

[…] In the past, the scheme received some government funding which helped cover the cost of the specialist homeless navigator. To help set up the navigator, we had a year’s funding to prove the concept of a homeless navigator worked. Since then, it has been funded by the OPCC.

Funding often comes from people seeing the positive results of the Checkpoint scheme. Just last year, the work we do with the Women’s Centre received a sizeable amount from the Probation Service. They saw the value of the scheme in reducing reoffending rates and supporting women with low-level offences. 

Funding will always be an issue though, it’s something you have to remember. Any authority looking to set up a similar scheme needs to carefully examine what everything might cost before implementing the scheme.

[…] One of the other things I would advise is to get people to support the scheme from the beginning. To deliver an effective scheme, every stakeholder must be in support of it.[…] At quite an early stage in the development of Checkpoint, we formed a working party strategic group to move the project forward. The party ensured that all relevant stakeholders were involved from the beginning and had input into what would happen and what offences we would or wouldn’t work with.

This is important when discussing magistrates, so we did involve them as well as the Crown Prosecution Service. This all supports how important it is to get every stakeholder onside when developing the scheme.

The only other big challenge I would highlight is introducing the scheme to the police force, as this poses two key issues. First, you need to get the officers inside the force to support the scheme as they will be the ones delivering and referring individuals to the scheme. The other problem is the training element of the scheme, which comes with a lot more detailed issues.

If you want to train a whole police force in something new, it needs to be planned in advance. Police have their training programme set out a year in advance so officers know when training is and what is coming up in their calendars. We had to make sure all training on the Checkpoint Programme fit into existing training schedules so all training could be completed in time with the rolling out of the scheme.

We had to consider whether to deliver the scheme across the entire force at once or incrementally across certain departments at a time. Delivering it incrementally was the route we chose to follow and delivering it in this capacity allowed us to identify any teething problems with the scheme. We could then improve the delivery to each group thereafter. It took 12 months following training the initial group to introduce the scheme to the entire police force.

MGC: How have you been able to develop and offer training sessions to navigators in the checkpoint programme?

MGC: How are Checkpoint sessions tailored to individuals?

CJ: When the navigator first meets with the person coming onto Checkpoint, they conduct a full assessment of the individual.

[…] Every contract is bespoke and tailored to the assessed individual. The entire process is about them and why they offended. By having such a detailed assessment process, we can start to solve the puzzle and help people find the solutions they need to avoid reoffending.

MGC: What ongoing support is available to offenders following the 4-month checkpoint intervention?

CJ: The maximum length of a checkpoint contract is four months. There is no longer contract than that and it’s after this contract where we have some differences in the scheme.

The differences being that we have a Women’s Centre but we don’t have a men’s centre. No one in the country does. Women who come onto Checkpoint benefit from this as they can access whatever programmes are being delivered by the women’s centre once they’ve completed their Checkpoint contract.

For example, the OPCC fund a free counselling service which is delivered through the Women’s Centre. Women can access this service both while they are completing their Checkpoint contract and once it’s finished. They have access to this in addition to many other services and resources once they have finished the four-month contract. Here are some of the other services women have access to at the centre:

  • Cooking classes
  • Support for women who have experienced domestic abuse
  • Substance misuse project
  • Informed 1-1 meeting to provide support with housing and benefits

[…] We’ve established a relationship with a third sector organisation too, who provide access to permanent employment for those with an offending history. This is available to both men and women and can be ongoing after the checkpoint contract. That’s only one thing though, and while women have a lot of ongoing support from the Women’s Centre, men don’t have this support following their checkpoint contracts. That lack of support is an ongoing challenge and it’s one we’re continually looking to address.

[…] Another service we have set up with colleagues in public health is to support people who are involved in the criminal justice service with drug or alcohol misuse issues. This service supports them throughout the Checkpoint contract and is ongoing after the contract too.

MGC: What can other authorities learn from how you have developed the Surrey Checkpoint scheme?

Key Findings:

• As a result of Checkpoint and Checkpoint plus, Surrey has a reoffending rate of between 4-6 %
• Authorities looking to develop court disposal schemes need to closely examine the costs of what the scheme might be.
• Training navigators provide a service based on the individual needs of the offender and are a key part of delivering Checkpoint programmes
• Thorough assessments conducted by navigators are vital in ensuring the Checkpoint scheme is tailored to an individual’s needs.
• The best way to learn about court disposal schemes is to speak to other councils with pre-existing schemes

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Breaking the offending cycle is one of the biggest challenges the criminal justice system faces. Organisations need to work together to support and engage with offenders and help prevent them from reoffending. We heard from Craig Jones of the Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner’s office about how the Checkpoint Programme has helped reduce reoffending rates.

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