As our name implies, Get the Data is concerned with collecting and understanding quantitative empirical data. At the expense reprising scholarly debates about objectivity and truth, it is the Western empirical tradition that informs our research and the work of our clients who are engaged in criminal justice policy and practice. In other words, we want to measure things that can be touched, seen and realized by our senses.
Since the early 90s, much of my work has been the production of empirical data on the operation of the criminal justice system. As a young Home Office researcher, I cut my teeth in the back row of Sunderland magistrates’ court counting the reasons for cracked and ineffective trials. And it continued from there: reviewing police counting rules, measuring youth re-offending, tracking the attrition of DNA evidence from a crime scene to conviction in court.
The development of criminal justice policy demands the rigor of these empirical measures. So, I am proud of my colleagues who provide cutting-edge social impact analytics to a range of clients, from the Ministry of Justice and Sodexo Justice Services to smaller not-for-profits who work with offenders, such as Street Soccer Academy and Best for Pets.
That said, I was struck by two guest blogs that we published earlier this year. Both Ilham Askia and Prof. Darrick Joliffe wrote about the growing interest in understanding the importance of the relationship between public defenders and offender managers and their respective clients. Understanding the importance of these relationships is a departure from the measurement of objective outcomes that are recorded in either a police custody suite or pronounced in the court, and I am delighted that GtD is at the forefront of this innovative work.
A few years ago, I read “More Than Eyes Can See”, Rhidian Brook’s account of his nine-month journey in Africa, India, China and the U.S. to detail the Salvation Army’s response to the world-wide AIDs pandemic. By his own account, Brook was initially critical of the efficiency and effectiveness of local efforts to bring relief to those with HIV/AIDS and their families who were often ostracized by the community. Slowly he realized that for many there could be no “good” outcome: there is no cure and palliative care is too expensive for the most vulnerable. So, in his words he admitted that, “I was slow to spot it really – focused as I was on empirical ways of measuring success – but [it was] the small acts of kindness that were holding things together. They weren’t the added extra, the bonus; they were it … After a while I stopped trying to measure the efficiency of these visits and see them for what they were: self-giving, sweaty acts of love”.
Relationships matter, even if just for their own sake. If the relationship between your organization and its clients is important to you, then please contact either Jack or me. We will be happy to discuss our ground-breaking approaches to measuring those things “that the eye cannot see”.