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September 25, 2017
Joined-up justice: Mapping out an end-to-end customer journey through the criminal justice system
By: Allan W Fairley

If you look at any of today’s leading consumer-facing industries—retail, travel, personal financial services and more—they all have one common element at their core: an end-to-end customer journey, where the customer’s data and identity go with them through every step, and are amended and added to at each stage.

It’s a proven, efficient way of managing a customer’s progression along any multi-stage process. However, if you look at the criminal justice system in the UK, there’s little sign of such a journey existing. If it did, it would deliver huge benefits not only to the "customers" of the criminal justice system–the people passing through it—but also to all the participants involved and society a whole.

So, what’s the customer’s journey through the criminal justice system like at the moment? Well, at a high level the system involves four main components: policing, courts, prison and probation. Sadly, too many people pass right through all four stages only to end up reoffending and heading back to the start.

A key shortcoming of the process is that it suffers from a high degree of dislocation, partly reflecting the involvement of multiple stakeholders—most notably the Home Office running policing and Ministry of Justice running prisons, courts and probation, plus other smaller participants. With each stakeholder having its own priorities, agenda, and funding, it’s virtually impossible to create a smooth, integrated and efficient customer journey.

The challenges are exacerbated by an unwillingness of the parties involved to make sometimes significant investments where a big slice of the returns would end up going to other stakeholders. Add in shifting political pressures, and the barriers to end-to-end coordination and integration become even greater.

You may have noticed that I haven’t highlighted technology as barrier. The fact is that the tools and technologies needed to create a seamless end-to-end journey through the criminal justice system are all readily available today. All that’s needed are the will, vision and funding to implement them.

If such a journey were created, what would it look like? Picture the scene. An alleged criminal is arrested by the police, who create a digital arrest record and case file. An online link to the case file is passed to the court, which gains secure authorised access to it. As the case goes through the courts, the defendant’s file is updated and expanded accordingly.

If the individual is found guilty and is sent to prison, the same detailed digital record goes with them into the prison system and is updated throughout their stay. Shortly before their release, an alert is triggered to initiate the social care and support they’ll need once they’re back outside—be it accommodation, employment or healthcare to help with substance abuse, etc. This coordinated approach increases the chances that they won’t slide back into a cycle of crime, resulting in better outcomes for the customer, less demand for the criminal justice system and benefiting society as a whole.

None of this is rocket-science—and it’s certainly no more sophisticated or complex than the journeys created by the other industries I’ve mentioned. However, the UK’s criminal justice system has some significant (but not insurmountable) challenges to overcome if it is to create such a model.

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are pockets of innovation that may point the way to a more efficient and integrated future. If these pools of activity could be joined up, then the effect could be transformational.

One example is video-enabled justice (VEJ)—an approach that saves time, money and police resources, by enabling prisoners on remand to appear in court via a video link rather than having to attend in person. Not surprisingly, it’s a concept that’s taking off: in early September, Accenture were selected as the preferred bidder in a competitive tender to deliver a VEJ solution for Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, working on behalf of criminal justice partners across London and the South-East region.

It’s a visionary project—one that’s using advanced digital technologies to deliver real benefits to crime victims and witnesses, while also reducing costs. We’re proud to have been chosen to participate in it, bringing us the opportunity to help improve the delivery of justice to UK citizens.

But the fact is that more such projects are needed—and more linkage and integration between the emerging islands of innovation, to create truly joined-up justice. One day, I’m confident that the criminal justice system will be reinvented as a seamless customer journey. It’s in all our interests to help ensure that day comes as soon as possible.

Further reading: Joined up Justice: Building an integrated Criminal Justice System

See this post on LinkedIn: Joined-up justice: Mapping out an end-to-end customer journey through the criminal justice system

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