Individuals – Brennan et al. (2018)

Study Reference:

Brennan, I. R., Green, S., & Sturgeon-Adams, L. (2018). Early diversion and empowerment policing: Evaluating an adult female offender triage project. Policing and Society28(5), 570-586.

Location in the Matrix and Methodological Rigor:

Individuals; Focused; Highly proactive; Moderately rigorous; No evidence of an effect*

*One of the three findings (median numbers of arrests) indicates a backfire effect.

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined the effect of an early-diversion pilot program targeting low-severity female offenders in Hull, England. The program was limited to those who committed minor offenses such as common assault, drunk and disorderly, or shoplifting. The police screened arrestees, and any arrestee with a caution in the past two years or any conviction was ineligible for the referral. Eligibility was further determined through a standard interview, followed by an assessment by a youth justice worker or Drug Intervention Program worker to understand the arrestee’s offending history, previous or ongoing involvement in the criminal justice system, and personal circumstances related to prostitution, drug and alcohol misuse, abuse and violence, mental health, housing problems, and poverty. The referred arrestees were then interviewed by workers from Together Women Project (TWP), a nonprofit organization, to identify the risk factors that need to be addressed. The services provided included counseling, access to a drug or alcohol therapist, debt and money advice, tenancy support, and various courses on parenting, confidence building, computer and other basic skills, anger management, and domestic violence awareness.

How was the intervention evaluated?

This diversion program was evaluated with a quasi-experiment. Of the 643 female offenders arrested between December 2012 and July 2013, 44 were assessed by the triage team and were referred to the intervention. These 44 females constituted the treatment group. Of the remaining offenders, 114 were eligible for the intervention but were not seen by the triage team or referred to the intervention due to limited organizational resources. These 114 women were the comparison group and did not significantly differ from the intervention group on ethnicity, deprivation, exposure to crime, or arrest offense type (although the intervention group was younger, which was subsequently controlled in the analysis). Three outcomes were compared between the treatment and the control groups to assess the effectiveness of this referral program: the proportions of subjects who were rearrested during the year after the initial arrest, the length of time between the initial arrest and the first rearrest, and the numbers of subsequent rearrests during the 12-month follow-up period.

What were the key findings?

The intervention had no statistically significant impact on the risk of being rearrested and the time to rearrest. In terms of the numbers of rearrest, the median number of rearrests was higher for the treatment group than for the control group (2 versus 1, respectively). The actual attendance at TWP appointments among females who were referred was only 41%.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

This study provides no evidence that this police-led diversion program prevented low-severity female offenders from being rearrested. The nonsignificant effects on reducing recidivism might have resulted from the low rates of rearrest and the small number of treated arrestees. The authors also stress the need to replicate this study with a larger sample.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?