How to support offender rehabilitation through improving interagency collaboration in criminal justice systems?

Colab is a group of researchers exploring challenges related to poor mental health among criminals and prison inmates, something that might affect social security and the risk of new crimes.

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COLAB: Collaboration within Criminal Justice Services


EU Horizon 2020 MSCA RISE-project (734536)






10 institutions across 7 European countries



Academic practice partnerships are crucial in developing social innovations that serve the most vulnerable in society. Colab is such a partnership.

Professor Sarah Hean , Colab principal investigator and coordinator

About Colab

En ung mann kledd i jeans og svart genser går langs en vegg.
Photo: Unsplash

The research project studies effective collaboration between health, welfare and the criminal justice services, and its impact on prisoners' health, wellbeing and chances of remaining crime-free upon release.

Offender rehabilitation is a key strategy employed by criminal justice systems internationally to support education, employment, drug treatment and other interventions to aid offenders’ effective reintegration into society. The offender’s mental health mediates the success with which they engage in these interventions and eventually desist from further criminal behaviour. Most of the prison population suffer a mental health condition of some form, and this condition is a major challenge to maintaining the security of prisoners and prison staff. 

Addressing these needs of the prison population requires professionals from health, welfare and criminal justice services to collaborate effectively. The quality of integration and collaboration between services impacts on reoffending rates, the financial and emotional costs incurred by the offender, the victims, their families and the taxpayer in supporting prison and health services.


The researchers of Colab undertake a range of different projects and studies. These are organised in two research areas which you can explore below.

Research Area

Exploring collaborative practices in a variety of criminal justice contexts

In the various projects, different parts of the Norwegian and English prison models are studied, both within the criminal justice system and in the transition from prison to community. An Ethiopian study also explores how previously imprisoned mothers experience motherhood after prison.

En hånd holder på et nettinggjerde.

Full name of the research area: "Exploring collaborative practices in a variety of criminal justice contexts: substantive areas for organisational innovation and change". The area consists of nine studies developed in three countries.

  • Interorganisational collaboration in a case study Norwegian prison – challenges and opportunities arising in interagency meetings

This project explores the collaboration and expansive learning that takes place in interagency meetings in a Norwegian prison. The project contributes to research on challenges and opportunities for collaboration in complex organisational settings.

Contact: Päivikki Lahtinen

  • Exploring the compartmentalisation of practices in Norwegian prison life

The project explores the compartmentalisation of practices within and between different service providers in the Norwegian prison setting and the need to cross professional boundaries between these services. Multidimensional “mirrors” into prison life are collected with the intention of developing new models of interagency organisational boundary crossing.

Contact: Søren Walther Nielsen

  • ‘Living with’ interagency collaboration – three sustaining practices

The project draws on neo-institutional theory and sensemaking theory to explore how “the Norwegian import model” enables actors in the Norwegian criminal justice and welfare systems to make sense of their work and "live alongside each other".

Contact: Tine Murphy

  • The application of Norwegian humane ideals by front-line workers when collaboratively reintegrating inmates back into society

This project explores how the humane Norwegian policy principles and values impact on the work of professionals working in two case study Norwegian halfway house prisons and the implications of these for the collaborative work undertaken by front-line personnel.

Contact: William Dugdale

  • Collaborative learning in criminal justice settings

This is a MSCA individual fellowship project (Gapsle) affiliated with Colab that explores the state and development of collaborative learning in Norwegian prisons as a means of developing new innovative ways of working in these settings.

Contact: Heli Kaatrakoski

  • Exploring interprofessional collaboration in the transition from prison to community

This study explores the phenomenon of interprofessional collaboration in the transition phase from prison to community focusing on inmates with substance abuse issues.

Contact: Bjørn Kjetil Larsen

  • Exploring the historical development of the liaison and diversion service model for interagency collaboration.

In England and Wales, liaison and diversion (L&D) services work to facilitate integrated rehabilitative interventions orchestrated between criminal justice and welfare systems to improve health and social care outcomes. A new L&D national model was introduced in 2014 to unify practice across all L&D sites. This project analyses, in a case study site in England, the L&D service's historical activity before, during and after the process of implementation of this national model.

Contact: Paulo Rocha

  • Exploring mentoring in practice. Rebuilding dialogue between key actors in the criminal justice system

The project explores the utility of participatory methods drawn from change laboratory methods and clinics of activity within a UK based third sector organisation to help (re)build dialogue between stakeholders with the aim of promoting organisational learning and innovation.

Key contact: Laure Kloetzer

  • Experiences of motherhood after release from prison

The study explores how ex-incarcerated mothers in Ethiopia experience motherhood after prison.

Contact: Eden Begna

Research area

How can we promote collaboration, management and innovation when working with vulnerable groups?

The various projects explore different strategies and methods for rehabilitation work, risk assessment, user participation, collaboration and management within criminal justice and other institutions working with vulnerable groups.

Bildet viser ryggen til en ung mann med grå lue, jakke og hettegenser.

Full name of the research area: "Strategies and methods to promote collaboration, management and innovation". The area consists of nine projects.

  • Exploring models of workplace transformation in organisations working with vulnerable population groups

This project explores and develops different models of promoting organisational learning and innovation with potential application in criminal justice and other organisations working with vulnerable population groups. 

Contact: Sarah Hean

  • Facilitation of organisational learning and development in a finnish prison

The project explores the application of a novel method for developing work practices and enhancing professionals’ proactiveness through collective, participatory experimentation and evaluation. The method is applied in a low-security closed prison in Finland to advance prison staff’s rehabilitation work with prisoners. 

Contact: Laura Sepnnänen

  • Interprofessional collaboration concerning offenders in transition between mental health and criminal justice services. Using pincom as a framework for hcr-20v3 assessment.

This project aims to develop a novel framework for risk assessment and management by combining the Perception of Interprofessional Collaboration model (Pincom) and Historical-Clinical-Risk management-20, version 3 (HCR-20v3). 

Contact: Atle Ødegård

  • The early recognition method as a means of ‘opening doors’ in risk management dialogue between mental health and prison services

The Early Recognition Method (ERM) is a step-wise forward strategy aiming to identify, formulate and manage early warning signs of violence and allows a risk management dialogue to develop between professional and client. This project explores the potential of the erm to establish dialogue between prison staff and inmates. 

Contact: Frans Fluttert

  • People in contact with criminal justice systems as vulnerable citizens

This project explores conceptually the centrality of ‘voice’ in the criminal justice system, particularly in respect of service development and the inclusion of the voice of vulnerable service users.

Contact: Jonathan Parker

  • Avenues of opportunity: journeys of activities through third sector organisations

The study takes a social anthropological research approach to consider the place of third sector organisations in society, particularly for those who have been in contact with the criminal justice services.

Contact: Angela Turner-Wilson

  • Capturing the  service user voice through application of q-methodology

The project explores the application of q-methodology to capture ex-prisoners’ experiences of service provisions in an UK mentorship organisation and compare and contrast these with the views of their mentors

Contact: Siv Elin Nord Sæbjørnsen

  • Developing researcher/practice relationships in prison research

This project explores strategies through which relations between academia and practice organisations can be optimised in the interest of the prison research and the care and management of people in contact with the criminal justice system.

Contact: Sarah Hean

  • Developing a training programme for collaborative practices between criminal justice and mental health services 

This project explores the possibilities and challenges for developing learning and competences in organisational change, collaboration and innovation in the criminal justice system.

Contact: Atle Ødegård

Colab members at the University of Stavanger

Faculty of Social Sciences
Department of Social Studies
Pensjonert tilknyttet UiS
Faculty of Health Sciences
Department of Public Health
Associate Professor
Kjell Arholmshus. 2. etg
Faculty of Social Sciences
Department of Social Studies
Faculty of Social Sciences
Department of Social Studies
Postdoctoral Fellow
Faculty of Social Sciences
Department of Social Studies
Associate Professor
Faculty of Science and Technology
Department of Safety, Economics and Planning