Evaluation of the User Voice Prison and Community Councils: Final Report

Monica Barry, Beth Weaver, Mark Liddle, Bethany Schmidt

Barry, M., Weaver, B., Liddle, M., and Schmidt, B., (2016) Evaluation of the User Voice Prison Councils: Final Report. NESTA

User Voice commissioned Monica Barry and Beth Weaver of the University of Strathclyde – in association with Mark Liddle, ARCS Ltd, Bethany Schmidt, University of Cambridge, and with input from Shadd Maruna, Rosie Meek, and Judy Renshaw – to assess the implementation, operation and short-term outcomes of the Council model of prisoner/service user participation/integration. These Prison and Community Councils were located in six prisons and three CRC areas across England, namely HM Prisons Durham and Northumberland and the Northumbria CRC; HM Prisons Oakwood and Birmingham and the Staffordshire and West Midlands CRC; and HM Prisons Wormwood Scrubs and Pentonville and the London CRC.

These sites were at different stages of implementing Councils; some Prison Councils had only been operating for months whereas others had been operating for four or more years, and the Community Councils had been operating for between a year and five years. These differences in stages of implementation – influenced as they were by the effects of systemic, organisational and operational changes heralded by the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda – necessarily affected the progression of the Council model and at the time of writing, the ‘Through-The-Gate’ approach to offer continuity between Prison and Community council membership had not been fully implemented.

The research had five objectives:

  1. to evaluate the effectiveness of the Councils in addressing the outcomes and goals delineated in the Theory of Change and participant journey;
  2. to evaluate the success of the Councils in meeting commissioners’ objectives and priorities;
  3. to identify consistent and rigorous data collection methods across the projects and across time which can measure performance, impacts and outcomes as outlined in the Theory of Change;
  4. to evaluate the Council model and operational and administrative processes used;
  5. to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the pilots, in order to assess their ability to offer added value and efficiency to prisoner engagement and community reintegration.
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Developing and Designing Women’s Centres: Sharing Learning from the Development Phase

Beth Weaver and Claire Lightowler

This project was designed to document and analyse the process of developing and designing Women’s Centres, funded by The Robertson Trust and inform that learning. The project commenced in May 2015 and concluded in February 2017. This report by the Beth Weaver and Claire Lightowler, University of Strathclyde provides a summary of the learning from this project with the intention of informing the early stages of development of these projects but the lessons learned are transferable to other community-led, coproductive projects of this nature.

http://Developing and Designing Women’s Centres: Sharing Learning from the Development Phase

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Co-producing desistance from crime: The role of social cooperative structures of employment.

Beth Weaver

Weaver, B (2016) Co-producing desistance from crime: The role of social cooperative structures of employment. The Howard League for Penal Reform, ECAN Bulletin 28 – February 2016

This briefing paper, published in The Howard League for Penal Reform, ECAN Bulletin 28 – February 2016, explores some of the early findings of this study into the role of through-the-gate social cooperatives from the phase of research undertaken in Italy in 2015. It argues that social cooperatives do more than simply providing a route into employment; this paper shows how social cooperatives can help overcome the stigma of a criminal record and discrimination in the labour market by providing access to work for some of those who are disadvantaged in this arena and supporting integration into ‘mainstream’ work. Social cooperatives provide a protected environment that puts people before profit. In this vein, the cooperative culture, the relational environment, is as important as the provision of paid work in contributing to the outcomes. Moreover, people can work at their own pace and their needs as a person, rather than the needs of the employer, are prioritised. They provide holistic and individualised resettlement support for both former/prisoners and their family – people also receive a range of supports from financial assistance, family mediation, access to legal support and so on. The networked and cooperative culture and practice provides a range of concrete opportunities for social integration. They are embedded in and inclusive of their community – they create opportunities for social participation.

Beyond contemporary concerns with risk and recidivism, the integration of marginalised persons, the provision of opportunities to engage in [active] citizenship and the maintenance or emergence of significant and reciprocal relationships is at the centre of social cooperative principles and practices. If we, in the UK, are serious about supporting social integration and desistance, we also need to develop collaborative approaches that engage constructively with and invest in the communities that we are trying to support integration to – but those approaches need to be grounded in particular values, principles and practices if they are to generate the experiences and achieve the kinds of outcomes detailed in this briefing paper.

To cite: Weaver, B (2016) Co-producing desistance from crime: The role of social cooperative structures of employment. The Howard League for Penal Reform, ECAN Bulletin 28 – February 2016

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Coproducing Desistance: How Social Co-operatives Can Inform Innovations in Social Justice

Beth Weaver

Weaver, B (2015) Coproducing Desistance? How Social Cooperatives Can Inform Innovations in Social Justice. Paper delivered at the European Society of Criminology Conference, Porto, 04/09/15

Desistance research recognises a significant, albeit contingent, relationship between participation in employment, desistance and social integration. Yet, with notable exceptions, developments in social policy and penal practices across Europe have made little progress in addressing barriers to and creating opportunities for employment for serving and former prisoners. This paper reports on an exception to this norm in the form of Italian through-the-prison-gate social cooperatives. Discussing the findings from the first phase of interviews undertaken with key stakeholders (including serving and former prisoner employees) in different cooperatives across Northern Italy, this paper discusses how social cooperatives can enable social integration and encourage desistance. In so doing, it raises important questions about what coproducing desistance and supporting reintegration might really mean for innovations in penal policy and practice.

The full presentation can be read here –   ESC_2015


The Relational ‘We’ in Social Morphogenesis’

Beth Weaver

Centre for Sociology Ontology seminars (2014/15); Warwickshire on 3rd Februrary 2015

The Relational ‘We’: Centre for Social Ontology, Warwick This paper discusses my empirical application of a relational realist analytic framework to illuminate the role of social groups or collectives, as social relations, in shaping and affecting outcomes for individuals and for groups. Using the morphogenetic sequence developed by Archer, to illustrate the conceptual schema progressed by Donati (2011), this framework affords equal recognition to individual actions, social relations and social systems. To empirically capture the relational ‘we’ in social morphogenesis, however, requires taking the social relation as a central unit of analysis. This means empirically conceptualising the social relation as both context and as interaction, and it means analysing the shifting dynamics and influences on the form and shape of a given social relation. Such an analysis can reveal what triggers reflexivity, what different forms of reflexivity entail, and how social relations can shape and influence outcomes for individuals and groups as well as how such processes shape and alter the relations themselves. Using examples from my own research examining the dynamics of desistance from crime, I will show how both individual and relational contributions are interconnected, and how the manner of relating and the reciprocal orientation of individuals-in-relation towards the maintenance of a given social relation are significant in understanding the relational ‘we’ in social morphogenesis.


Co-producing change: resettlement as a mutual enterprise.

Beth Weaver and Dave Nicholson

Prison Service Journal 204: 9-16

In this article, we consider the potential of an old idea in a new context: that is the use of social cooperatives and mutual structures as a mechanism for supporting the resettlement of prisoners. We review what this means in a criminal justice context and share some exciting developments in how this idea is being put into effective practice.

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