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Work of renowned Professor cited in parliamentary debate

Criminology study held up as example in discussion of probation service

The work of a distinguished University of Leicester professor from the Department of Criminology, Professor Carol Hedderman, has been referenced in a parliamentary debate by Baroness Stern, regarding the probation service.

During a debate about the current state of the probation service, introduced by Lord Ramsbotham, Baroness Stern said: “I commend to your Lordships a paper by the very respected professor at Leicester University, Carol Hedderman, entitled, ‘How not to assess probation performance: Constructing local reconviction Rates.’ It suggests that at least that aspect of measuring performance is not sound at all. Professor Hedderman concludes that the data cannot be used as a measure of anything. The whole process of measuring the performance of criminal justice agencies is complex, and much of the information that we are given is highly questionable. Has thought been given to involving the UK Statistics Authority in assessing the validity of reconviction statistics and their use as a measure of performance?”

This is in reference to a paper written by Professor Hedderman following her independent examination of quarterly reconviction reports for individual probation areas for the East Midlands Region. Her study has revealed that the way cases have been selected and followed-up departs from the conventions employed in all previous reconviction studies in England and Wales.

Undertaken over a three-year period, the study led to the conclusions that it would be unwise to measure a probation area’s impact on reforming offenders.

Professor Hedderman said:

“Measuring probation performance inappropriately is counterproductive. It creates perverse incentives for probation areas, leading them to make changes which improve their results without actually making the public safer. I am pleased that my research is being used to help bring this issue to light.

“With the support of East Midlands probation areas I am currently conducting a further study to assess their impact using a more appropriate approach which also draws in local data to refine the results.”

To read the full transcription of the debate, click here <http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldhansrd/text/100121-0010.htm>.

Amy Cory

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