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Criminal justice

Academia and third sector partnerships in the criminal justice sector

A researcher working on a laptop in the library smiles at the camera.

Academic research can provide third sector organisations, like Catch22, with effective and evidence-based approaches to best support their service users. In today’s blog, Jody Audley, Academic Partnerships Lead at Catch22, explains how.

At Catch22, we deliver a range of services across the Criminal Justice System (CJS), from victim support services to violence reduction programmes and from resettlement schemes to training packages.

The support we deliver to individuals who use these services is based on a large selection of interventions: a structured session based on a specific area of need a service user may have. They comprise of key concepts, reflective and progressive exercises that explore past choices, offer a new perspective on analysing thoughts and behaviours, and provide goals for the future. But, how do we know that our intervention delivery works, and how can we tell when it needs adjusting?

Catch22 uses a multitude of models, theories, and evidence to underpin the interventions we develop. However, we also use academic partnerships, which act as external eyes to inform these interventions and support with continuous improvement.

The aim of this blog is to share insight into the existing partnerships Catch22 has formed with organisations and outline how successful academic input has supported the services we deliver in the criminal justice system, by driving improvements, innovation, and impact.


Plymouth, Greenwich, and Kingston University have all made contributions to our intervention delivery. Catch22 has developed a subject matter expert relationship with lecturers from Plymouth University, specifically with Gypsy, Romany and Travellers (GRT), and transgender subject experts. Subject matter experts have informed our approach to inclusion, including by helping with the selection process of an Inclusion Lead. They helped with the development of training packages for GRT and Trans inclusion, as well as delivering Hate Crime Awareness to staff. Furthermore, Plymouth University is in the process of developing evaluative research into Catch22’s use of Trauma Informed Care when delivering an intervention.

Greenwich University currently holds a placement student recruitment pathway, meaning that we are an approved organisation advertised to Greenwich students looking to complete a placement within our interventions team as part of their undergraduate degree. Previous students who have joined our interventions team have written literature reviews to underpin our interventions, evaluated our intervention content, and supported in developing real intervention manuals and resources. For example, the Greenwich placement student of 2022/23 worked on the soon-to-be live intervention Relationship Matters.

Kingston University partnered with Catch22 and produced research activities for MSc students, asking them to produce presentations and toolkits to ameliorate staff learning and interventions in the following areas:

  • trauma informed care approaches,
  • resettlement challenges for prison leavers and effective support for community reintegration, and
  • the role of wellbeing practices within criminal justice system rehabilitation


Secondly, Catch22 uses academic partnerships to help us to effectively harness the input, expertise and experience of those with lived experience. This ensures that our services cater specifically to the needs of those they serve.

For example, our collaboration with Public Service Design Practice (PSDP) helped to co-create frameworks with Prison Leavers and others with lived experience to ensure service user voice was incorporated into our interventions. Catch22 utilised PSDP to pilot and deliver our Achieving Compliance and Engagement (ACE) service. Specifically, Catch22 staff worked closely with PSDP during the design and mobilisation phase of the Pilot to carry out collaborative workshops with those with lived experience both in custody and in community settings, to ensure the content of the interventions was effective and relevant to the target cohort. The insights drawn from these workshops supported the design process and informed our delivery model, interventions, and entire approach to engagement with people on probation.

Catch22 also worked with students from the Royal College of Art (RCA) to help inform the ACE service, who were doing a Master’s course in Service Design, as part of their Social Impact module. Their brief was:

“Using component assets provided by Catch22 and primary user research that you will undertake, design a new service to support men upon leaving prison to better encourage compliance with their license. Paying special attention to how that service can be tracked by the service users on the journey, in a visual and informative manner.”

 As a result of this collaborative process, including workshops with people on probation, probation practitioners and Catch22 staff, the students were able to design innovative prototypes which we incorporated into our service delivery. They also provided advice, suggestions, and guidance around approaches to optimising service delivery.


Finally, research partnerships are hugely beneficial when it comes to assessing the impact of criminal justice services. They provide an independent evaluation that can be reliably used as evidence of successful delivery.

For example, Dr Nicole Adams-Quackenbush, a Legal Psychology and Criminological Researcher from Newcastle University, independently evaluated Catch22’s Wolverhampton Violence Reduction Service. Since this evaluation, Dr Adam-Quackenbush has taken on other projects, such as the evaluation review of the Gangs training package delivered to our staff. She delivered advice and guidance on developing the Q&A framework currently used, underpinning it with an evidence base used by existing evaluation teams and therefore aligning with national standards of effective intervention principles.

Catch22’s Victim Services have also collaborated with De Montfort University to better shape how we record the impact of the restorative justice (RJ) work we do. We know from experience that recovery for a victim doesn’t always come in the form of an “end outcome” like a conference meeting or shuttle mediation. As a victim-led service, sometimes providing restorative solutions and answers is all a victim needs to heal, restore balance and move forward. De Montfort University have supported us to reshape how the impact of different restorative justice practices, processes and principals are recorded, such that we can monitor and evaluate the impact of our work with greater focus on the victim’s journey rather than the end outcome.

Be it by making improvements, facilitating input or evaluating impact, Academic and third sector partnerships have added outstanding value to our services. They have enabled us to make tangible adaptations to our training packages, build our basis of evidenced best practice and challenge the quality of interventions, all of which works to improve service delivery and support service users to achieve the best outcomes.

The next steps with Catch22’s partnerships are to build on our existing relationships and form new ones! If you are interested in learning more about our academic partnerships, please reach out.

– Jody Audley, Academic Partnerships Lead at Catch22