The Investment Approach to Justice: Taking Integrated Offender Management to Police, Justice and the wider social sector

Tim Hughes
Principal Adviser, Ministry of Justice

Author biography:
Tim Hughes has worked in the Justice sector for ten years, including two years at Child, Youth and Family in a frontline youth justice team and four years at Corrections as a policy adviser. He is currently in Sector Group at the Ministry of Justice.


The Investment Approach to Justice was launched on 3 May 2016 by the Minister of Justice, Hon Amy Adams. The Investment Approach to Justice is part of the Government’s Social Investment programme, and builds on the Investment Approach to Welfare.

Since it was introduced to the Wellington policy lexicon in 2012 as the ‘Investment Approach to Welfare’, it has attracted both admiration and criticism.

For actuaries, social investment is a way to use life-course risk models from the insurance industry to improve social policy by focusing on long-term risks (Greenfield, Miller, Wolanski & McGuire, 2016).1 For labour economists, it is a version of cost-benefit analysis that focuses on private costs (Chapple, 2013). For the Minister of Finance, it is part of a broader suite of work to use data and evidence to improve Government services, alongside the NZ Data Futures Forum and the network of Science Advisers (English, 2015).

But for Corrections staff, the Investment Approach is perhaps best understood as a logical extension of “integrated offender management” to the rest of the Justice and Social sectors.

Integrated Offender Management

As recently noted in these pages by Peter Johnston (Johnston, 2015), the Department of Corrections introduced Integrated Offender Management (IOM) in 2001 as an evidence-based framework for reducing re-offending. IOM drew upon comprehensive reviews of research showing that programmes are most effective where higher-risk offenders receive higher-intensity treatment, when the programmes target change factors related to offending, and when the programmes are provided in a way that engages the participants.

As part of this framework, the Rehabilitation Quotient methodology was introduced and is still used to regularly monitor the effectiveness of Corrections’ treatment programmes. As RQ results demonstrate, IOM principles have led to consistent positive results from Corrections treatment programmes in line with international best practice.

In other words, three essential aspects of IOM are: focusing on the highest risk people, designing programmes for them based on evidence about what works, and continuously monitoring those programmes to ensure they are working.

In essence, this is what the Investment Approach to Justice is all about. The main difference is that rather than applying the framework only to people currently under Corrections management and only to corrections programmes, the framework is applied to everyone in New Zealand and to all crime prevention activity.

The Investment Approach to Justice

The Investment Approach to Justice is a project owned by Justice Sector chief executives and overseen by Justice Sector Ministers. The purpose of the project is to reduce the future burden of crime on society. Because no agency can achieve this alone, the project involves Police, the Ministry of Justice, Corrections, the Ministry of Social Development, and others. Funding has been released from the Justice Sector Fund to build the statistical models necessary to turn the framework into reality.

In the short-term, much of this funding will be used to create life-course models of crime-related propensities (either as victim, or as perpetrator) for every person in the country. By the end of 2016, we will be able to estimate the number of offences and victimisations likely to be committed or experienced by each resident of New Zealand between now and the end of their life. This will provide an actuarial tool similar to RoC*RoI, but that applies to non-offenders as well, and that considers risk over a longer time period. This will help us understand the relative risk levels of, say, people currently on home detention as against the most vulnerable 12-year olds in the country, to make sure that opportunities for early intervention are not overlooked.

These life-course risk models will be built on the Integrated Data Infrastructure at Statistics NZ. This powerful database hosts a very wide range of anonymised information about all New Zealanders, including records about tax, earnings and employment records, health, education, and welfare receipt. We will use factors such as age, and early CYF involvement, to predict future offending and victimisation for the resident population of New Zealand.

This will provide a much richer picture of the broader context of the lives of those people found to be at high risk of future offending or victimisation, and go some way towards understanding their needs as well as their risk level. This is where the Investment Approach to Justice blends into the broader Social Investment project, which can be understood as seeking to apply a version of the IOM framework to all social services.

The most important question, having identified people at high risk of future offending and victimisation, is what works to reduce their future crime experiences. The “what works” evidence for Correctional rehabilitation is well-organised and readily accessible, such as with the 2009 review ‘What Works Now’ (Department of Corrections, 2009). An important part of the Investment Approach is extending this accessibility to the much broader evidence base for crime prevention activity generally.

This requires gathering and summarising evidence about a wide range of programmes provided across multiple agencies, often not primarily for the purposes of reducing crime. The evidence for each area is summarised in a 5-10 page Evidence Brief that summarises the international and NZ research, as well as the current level of expenditure in NZ.Three evidence briefs are already available on the Ministry of Justice website, on Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, Restorative Justice and Correctional Alcohol and Drug Treatment.

This approach builds on the UK example of the What Works Centres, as discussed in a working paper by Jonathan Shepherd (Shepherd, 2014). The What Works Centres aim to make evidence about what works much more usable, accessible, and credible for those involved in policy and practice, in this case relating to crime prevention.

The final aspect of the Investment Approach is ongoing outcomes monitoring, similar to the RQ example. The Investment Approach is not a one-off policy or research project, but rather a permanent piece of analytical infrastructure. By combining life-course models with regular reviews of service effectiveness, the Investment Approach will allow a much richer understanding of why crime rates are going up, down, or remaining stable, which groups of people are becoming more or less important in the crime statistics, and the extent to which Government efforts are influencing crime rates (Raubal & Judd, 2015).

Who will the project be useful for?

Integrated Offender Management combined both analytics and service design in the one organisation. Given the scope of the Investment Approach goes across many agencies, the model is slightly different. The analytics will be managed separately out of Sector Group in the Ministry of Justice, and made available for all agencies to make use of.

The project is therefore designed to be useful to anyone involved in designing, delivering or funding services that may prevent crime. At the highest level are policy advisers, senior executives and Ministers, primarily in Police, Justice and Corrections, but also MSD, Health, Education and others.

A second vital group is frontline practitioners such as judges, police officers, probation officers, social workers, and teachers, as well as their practice leaders at a regional or national level, and supporting staff such as intelligence officers and administrative staff.

In future, this second group will benefit from the development of frontline tools using the life-course risk models as a base. For example, it will be possible with sufficient funding to provide automated risk prediction to frontline police to help them decide whether to refer a young person to a youth aid officer even if a presenting incident is relatively minor, if it is apparent that the young person could benefit from additional social support. Decisions about bail and parole could also be supported by new risk tools, with appropriate legislative authority and protections.

A third important group is fund-holders and providers outside of central government. Many services that do or may prevent crime are funded by local councils (CCTV, for example), iwi authorities (wilderness programmes, for example), and philanthropic organisations (youth mentoring, for example). And many services are provided by non-governmental organisations such as Presbyterian Support Services. To achieve the vision of reducing the future burden of crime on society, it will be important to support organisations outside central government to fund and deliver effective, evidence-based services to those in greatest need.

When will the project deliver results?

As noted, initial insights are already being disseminated and will be released steadily over the current (2016) year. The life-course risk models will be completed towards the end of 2016 and more detailed reports will be released subsequent to that. Additional products, such as a crime forecast, and policy simulations to understand the incapacitation effect of imprisonment, will be released in the summer of 2016/17.

Who do I contact for more information?

For more information, visit the Ministry of Justice website

For general queries, email Investment Approach

Within Corrections, Peter Johnston is the main point of contact for the project.

Chapple, S. (2013). Forward liability and welfare reform in New Zealand. Policy Quarterly, 9(2).

Department of Corrections (2009). What Works Now? A review and update of research evidence relevant to offender rehabilitation practices within the Department of Corrections.

English, B. (2015). Speech to the Treasury Guest Lecture Series on Social Investment.

Greenfield, A., Miller, H., Wolanski, K. & McGuire, G. (2016). Valuation of the Benefit System for Working-age Adults As at 30 June 2015. Ministry of Social Development.
Johnston, P. (2015). Twenty years of Corrections – The evolution of offender rehabilitation. Practice: The New Zealand Corrections Journal, 3(2).

Raubal, H. & Judd, E. (2015). Work and Income: 2014 Benefit System Performance Report for the year ended 30 June 2014. Wellington: Ministry of Social Development.

Shepherd, J. (2014). How to achieve more effective services: the evidence ecosystem. [Project Report]. Cardiff: Cardiff University.