An update on Community Sentence Treatment Requirement from Laura Knight

IPSCJ Director, Laura Knight, gives us an update on the IPSCJ’s evaluation of the Community Sentence Treatment Requirement and explains how work on the ground will help assess the long-term outcomes for women with underlying mental health issues who have pleaded guilty in court.

“We’re evaluating a project to increase the use of the Community Sentence Treatment Requirement, which is available to women who plead guilty in court to an offence, but who have an underlying mental health issue which may be a factor in their offending behaviour. So, rather than giving them a custodial sentence that probably won’t address their mental health needs – and may actually exacerbate them – a judge can sign them up for a course of sessions with a trained mental health professional. There’s an interest in whether or not this will work, obviously. It’s not new, either – it’s just massively under-utilised.

“In terms of what we’ll be doing on the ground, the national pilots are looking at it in a quantitative way at the moment, by assessing the practicalities of delivery including the numbers of women being given these orders and how many can be supported at any one time. We’re analysing the data they’re collecting for the local project from this perspective too, but we are also looking to capture the longer-term outcomes for the women, including the impact of the support service on their mental health, and whether this support helps to reduce re-offending.

“CSTR is a pathway that starts at court and involves the lawyers, court officers and judges before transitioning to on-the-ground delivery and support work. Think of it as the pathway of someone pleading guilty and then being taken on a journey to resolve the mental health issue which will hopefully prevent them from reoffending.

“We’re looking at that process to get some idea of what is and isn’t working during that journey; common barriers – that kind of thing. Often the support itself can be very helpful, but accessing the support, attending appointments, managing employment and relationships etc, all have an impact on how successful a project is. It’s a long term project.”