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Criminal Justice Services

Too many people pass through the criminal justice system without their mental health needs being recognised. With more than 70 per cent of the prison population having some kind of mental health problem, it’s crucial that specialist services exist to ensure that people get the care and support they need to break the cycle of offending.

Since 1993, Together’s Criminal Justice Services have successfully broken this cycle for thousands of offenders. The people that benefit from our services have backgrounds and circumstances that are highly complex and characterised by multiple disadvantages. They may have experienced all or some of the following:

  • Mental distress
  • Substance misuse
  • Poverty and debt
  • Homelessness
  • Learning disability
  • Domestic violence and abuse
  • Speech and language problems

Women and people from BAME backgrounds may also require a carefully tailored approach to take account of their particular needs. 68% of the people supported within our Liaison and Diversion services are from BAME communities and 23% are women. This is in both cases a higher proportion than would generally be found within the criminal justice system.

“I am rebuilding my life. I have taken part in a parenting course to rebuild my relationship with my children, received specialist debt advice and avoided eviction from my home. I am immensely grateful for the support.”

Together service user

Our approach

Together takes a collaborative learning approach to working within the criminal justice, health and social care systems. We share our expertise to bring about change with people in mental distress, with the services supporting them and with the systems surrounding them.

Our approach is underpinned by the following principles:

  • We embrace vulnerability as a starting point for recovery, growth and change.
  • We focus on building people’s own resilience and resources. We see the whole person rather than a collection of discrete problems to solve.
  • We have a thorough knowledge of how to apply clinical and psychological practice within Criminal Justice settings.
  • We are continually adapting to our changing environment. Learning from the people who need our services is at the heart of everything we do.
  • We build effective partnerships that will stand the test of time. For us, partnerships must change lives for the better. (Register your interest in partnering with us.)
  • We give people choices when choice seems impossible.

Together supports the NICE quality standard for the mental health of adults in contact with the criminal justice system, which we were also involved in the development of.

Awards

Our work has been highlighted as a good practice example in the Bradley Report (2009) and Reforming Women’s Justice (2011) and our services have won or been shortlisted for a number of awards including the Howard League’s Community Programme Awards.

In 2018 our Chief Executive, Linda Bryant, was awarded the Criminal Justice Champion Community Award by the Howard League for Penal Reform, for her years of dedication in her previous role at Together as Director of Criminal Justice Services.

Our Peer Support service, part of the Community L&D service, was shortlisted and commended at the Marsh Awards on Mental Health Peer Support in 2019, in the category of Peer Support in Marginalised Communities.

We are a member of various influential forums including the Bradley Report Group and the Care not Custody Coalition. Together has also been supporting the work of the national Liaison and Diversion Programme led by NHS England.

Continuous learning and improvement

We continually seek ways to monitor and improve our practice and service design, and a number of independent studies have explored the impact of our work. A team of data analysts supports our criminal justice team to use and interpret information from our services so as to adapt and improve our approaches. In addition, a panel of people with lived experience of the criminal justice system gives feedback and advice to the team, using their own experiences to inform future practice and project delivery.

Training and expertise

We provide specialist training to professionals working in criminal justice healthcare settings, to enable them to better support individuals with a variety of vulnerabilities. Our expertise includes training around mental health awareness, dual diagnosis, personality disorder and how to support vulnerable groups such as women who are engaged with criminal justice services. This has led to the development of two ‘common sense’ guides (see links at the top right of this page), which are designed to be used to support the development of further training.

Areas of work

Our areas of work:

Liaison and Diversion in  court settings

We identify and work with people of all ages passing through the criminal justice system who have mental health needs and other vulnerabilities to support their access to appropriate services in the community.

Early identification and prevention

We work alongside police, emergency and community services to provide support to individuals at the earliest possible opportunity.

Peer support

Our Peer Supporters draw on their own experiences of emotional distress and the criminal justice system,  to support others overcome similar challenges.

Our work with women

Women who come into contact with the criminal justice system may often have experienced issues such as trauma, domestic abuse, trafficking and sex working. Nearly half of women in prison have suffered domestic abuse, and over half have experienced childhood abuse. A woman’s offending is usually a sign that these issues have not been identified, and that her needs relating to these experiences have gone unmet.

We look at all the circumstances and vulnerabilities a woman may be experiencing and work to understand what the underlying causes are that have brought her into contact with the criminal justice system. We then take a collaborative approach, working alongside the woman and local organisations that can support her in tackling the difficult things in her life.

In January 2018, the Prison Reform Trust published an evaluation of the training that we delivered to criminal justice professionals on the specific needs of women. We were delighted that the evaluation found that 88% of participants said that the training helped them to effectively develop an understanding of how the needs that women have can affect them while detained in custody (police and/or court), with 71% saying that their knowledge of the support structures, pathways and services for female service users had increased.

In 2013, Together published a guide offering professionals working within the criminal justice system the tools to recognise and respond to the health and wellbeing needs of women.

Our partnership working

Our criminal justice services are delivered through both formal and informal arrangements with partners, including NHS Trusts, Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunal Service, police forces across the country and a range of other voluntary sector organisations.

“Our partnership with Together plays a vital role in ensuring that people with mental health problems are directed to treatment and support rather than prison. We provide assessment, diagnosis, treatment and psychological interventions to clients whose mental ill health has led to them breaking the law and coming into contact with the criminal justice service.”

“This is complemented by Together’s work to provide first-level mental health assessments and direct clients to a range of practical and social support. This joint approach supports people by involving them in the world around them, taking control of what happens to them and helping them to develop resilience to the knocks, shocks and demands of everyday life.” 

Dr Paul Gilluley, Head of Service for Forensic Services at East London NHS Foundation Trust

Our funders

Our criminal justice services are commissioned and funded by a variety of organisations, including:

  • NHS England
  • Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation service
  • Southwark Council

Commissioning and partnering

If you are interested in commissioning us to deliver a service in your area, or in partnering with us, please contact Matina Marougka, Head of Operations and Development (Criminal Justice and Advocacy Services), on 020 7780 7424.

Enquiries

For general enquiries about our criminal justice services, please call us on 020 7780 7394 or email criminal-justice@together-uk.org