Lewisham – No Ordinary Criminals


No Ordinary Criminals


Client: Lewisham Council

Project: Reducing Reoffending: No Ordinary Criminals 

Insight: At the point of release many ex-offenders were feeling positive about getting their lives on to a new track. However, a lack of basic support at this crucial time meant that they fell back into their old offending ways. 

Outcome: Services are being reconfigured to ensure better support at the point of release, investing early to prevent high future costs associated with recidivism.

Winner – MRS Social Policy Research Award (2011)
Highly Commended – AQR Prosper Riley-Smith Award for Qualitative Effectiveness (2011)


‘The ethnography presented real life stories that engaged the multi-agency team in the complex and inter-related factors affecting the risk of re‑offending… The real life story of an individual person seemed to engage people more creatively than standard statistical representations.’

Lewisham Strategic Partnership: Total Place review of Offender Management

Lewisham Council was investing £10m every year to support offenders leaving prison and ensure they didn’t return to a life of crime. Funding cuts, however, meant they needed to spend money more effectively – while still reducing reoffending and protecting communities. 

ESRO researchers recruited ex-offenders at the prison gates and shadowed them as they re-entered society, understanding their experiences and how services were currently working. The team saw the offenders quickly become disillusioned about how possible it would be for them to stay on the ‘straight and narrow’ - a process which began immediately, when they walked out of prison in their old shoes. Basic needs like housing were often being neglected, and prison-leaving offenders were being needlessly re-exposed to crime and bad influences. 

Inspired by this new evidence, Lewisham pioneered a ‘payment by results’ model – the first of its kind in criminal justice – which unified services around the common goal of reducing reoffending. 

Lewisham’s pilot has been trialled by other councils across the county, with the Ministry of Justice passing resultant savings back to the council.



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