Southwest Public Health and Criminal Justice Academic Network

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Southwest Public Health and Criminal Justice Academic Network


  • Helen Erswell (Consultant in Health Protection, SW Health Protection, UK Health Security Agency)
  • Rachel Campbell (Health and Justice Public Health Lead, Office of the Regional Director of Public Health Southwest, NHS England)
  • Kieran McCartan (Professor in Criminology, UWE Bristol)

On the 5th of October UWE Bristol hosted the 2nd Public Health and Criminal Justice network meeting at UWE. This was a hybrid event with 60 participants attending in person and online. The event was a great success and highlighted the growing recognition that public health, health, and criminal justice need to be working together to understand the causes, consequences, and responses to criminal behaviour. The network is a collaboration between national Health Service England, UK Health Security Agency, and UWE Bristol.

The event started off with a reminder of why the network was formed and its guiding principles, which are to better aligning criminal justice inputs, processes, and outcomes with public health framework, language, and policies. Over the past 5-10 years in the UK there has been a growing recognition that criminal behaviour is linked to health and wellbeing, therefore enforcing the need for health, public health, and criminal justice systems to work together. We can see this professional and policy recognition through the creation of community safety partnerships, violence reduction units, changes in policing, probation, and prisons to be more trauma informed; as well as significant shifts in policy and practice levels at City/region level (i.e., Bristol looking to be a trauma informed city and Plymouth taking a placed based approach to combat and prevent child abuse). From an academic perspective this is rooted in Epidemiological Criminology (EpiCrim) which unites and synthesises public health and criminal justice theories,, practices, and policies across the socio-ecological perspective (Individual, interpersonal, community, and societal) as well as the preventive remit (primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary), while in practice this means multi-agency, collaborative working and a shared vision for service delivery that is service user informed and supportive  (in the case victims and preparators of crime). Which can be a challenge, for although the values of public health, health, and criminal justice are similar the language, measures, processes, and delivery are often not. The network is a place for people from across the board (we had attendees from health, public health, prison, policing, education, and academic) to discuss these issues, upskill, change the nature of the conversation, and learn new, and hopefully, good, practice.

The workshop speakers included:

Professor Hazel Kemshall (Emeritus Professor, De Montfort) University) discussing an upcoming collaborative HMI Probation with Kieran called ‘’Desistance, Recovery, and Justice Capital: Putting It All Together’’. In the talk Hazel focused on the importance of a rounded approach to understanding desistence and risk management, highlighting the important of professional engagement (Justice Capital) in delivering pro-social outcomes it a trauma informed, compassionate way. View her presentation below:

View the recording of her presentation.

Marie Cunningham (Senior Clinical Manager NECS) then discussed work she had been involved in as part of the ‘’Neurodiversity review across South West Health & Justice services’’, which highlighted the need for early identification of need at the first point of contact with the CJS. This would be supported by consistent standardised comprehensive professional training. Marie suggested that mandated easily accessible, succinct screening and diagnostic tools that could be used in situ would aid frontline professionals in identifying service users with neurodiversity issues sooner, and support their rehabilitation, desistence, treatment and risk management. View her presentation below:

View Marie’s presentation

Following on from Marie we had Dr Lucy Wainwright (Director of research at EPIC) & Paula Harriott (Head of Prisoner Engagement – Impact and Influencing, Prison Reform Trust).   Lucy and Paula spoke about their observations of neurodiversity in prison, sharing a video of a colleague discussing his lived experience of neurodiversity and the challenges that presented him within a prison setting. Their colleague highlighted that in their experience the prison system was not set up to respond effectively to people with neurodiversity and that they were often seen as challenging by staff, that they had to prove their neurodiversity and related experiences (they discussed having to prove that they had a university degree in spite of their neurodiversity) at every stage and requests for additional support were either not met or incorrectly met (i.e., getting the incorrect reading filter and staff assumptions, rather than engagement).  Support was given for more training and awareness of neurodiversity across the whole criminal justice system, and consideration given to the challenges facing policy makers, HMPPS staff, and prisoners at the current time in terms of resources. View their presentation below:

View Lucy and Paula’s presentation

The final talk of the day was by Professor Debbie Stark Regional Director for The Office of Health Improvement & Disparities South West (OHID) and NHSE Regional Director of Public Health South West, who discussed ‘’Public Health Approaches-Health & Justice’’ and emphasised the importance of this network in breaking down some of the language, communication, and practice barriers between public health, health, and justice. In doing this Debbie reinforced the importance of partnership working, especially in challenging and difficult times. View her presentation below:

View Debbie’s presentation

The event was a great success, with many people talking in the break and afterwards (online and in person) to make connections with each other. We have already started planning for the next one, in February 2023, and if you would like to know more, join the network, attend the event, get involved with the steering group or present at an event please do reach out. Please complete the online form to join the network.

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