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Leading a ‘whole-system’ approach to criminal justice

Criminal justice leaders across the world are trying to build more integrated systems. But adopting a ‘whole-system approach’ is intensely challenging. What are the five steps to successfully transforming complex justice systems?

Criminal justice is often seen as a legal or administrative matter. But at its heart, crime is deeply human and personal. The circumstances that lead to crime are intimate, messy and complex. The consequences of crime are no less multi-dimensional.

Preventing crime, ensuring justice and supporting desistance are therefore not things that criminal justice agencies can do alone. Even co-ordinating a criminal investigation and successful prosecution is a multi-agency endeavour.

Leaders at all levels of criminal justice agencies are increasingly aware that they need to do more than simply improve existing processes to transform outcomes for citizens. Innovation during the pandemic has given leaders a glimpse of what is possible when leaders work together across organisational boundaries in a ‘whole-system’ approach.

While there is a growing theoretical understanding of the need for it, adopting a ‘whole-system approach’ to crime and justice is intensely challenging. Our experience suggests building collaborations and leading fundamental service redesign requires a number of critical steps.

This paper provides seven examples of best practices from across the world and a practical five-ingredient framework for successful criminal justice system reform.

Explore the full Future of Criminal Justice collection to dive into topics ranging from goals for justice systems to the lasting impact of COVID-19.

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