Justin talks about his experiences of coproducing research with people who have been in the criminal justice system.

Hello. I'm Justin Williams. I'm a second year PhD student at the University of Brighton. Um, and I am looking at what employers can do to promote and support resilience in people with lived experience of the criminal justice system in the workplace

Um, and through my research, I wanted to involve people with lived experience in a co-produced way that was meaningful, not token because they will bring their lived experience to. And where I am with it is the analysis of the data. They were unable to be involved early on due to university ethics, academia throwing up barriers, saying It's not your work if you're involving other people, if you're writing their name on the paper, you know you're getting paid to do this

So I had to find a way to conduct co-produced research very, very conscious of the people I would be working with and mindful that they feel very often and it's been said to me a lot that they are used in research and set aside very quickly in a very token way. So I I was very careful not to in trying not to do that, so because I'd already got all the research questions and the interview questions, and I I had to from my ethics board conduct the interviews myself and anonymize them before the core researchers can see the data. Um, I recruited 10 people, um, which started as eight because two never even end of the first, which quickly became seven

And then the seven of us, unfortunately, had to meet online, which further hampered the feeling of working as a A group, but actually ended up being great because that none of them knew each other, and they were all in totally different locations in the country. So in one way, it helped doing everything online and the accessibility to people. But I would say it was harder to get the initial bonding as a group, bringing forward people that were being less talkative and giving them space to speak

And, um, we worked together to do thematic analysis of the data. Um, we worked together as a group on how we wanted to conduct the thematic analysis, which most of them didn't know what that was and, um or how to do it. So I had to conduct workshops with them again

Mindful of the language and, you know, pitching it to them in in a way that they understood what their involvement would be. And I very much wanted to take the and not bring my ideas to the full. So I had mine separately

Um, and once we've established all of their codes and how we were gonna code, um, how many transcripts, etcetera. Hm? I then brought in my codes and we discussed together What of these are the same? What could all be kind of lumped together? Um, always me sort of guiding, but not pushing m. Being aware of what knowledge I have that I can use, you know, to help us all and what knowledge they have that I just have to take because I don't have

And I didn't want to overshadow anything that they wanted to bring forward. And there were, um, some points within when I brought up some of the codes and and things that I have found and we just discuss um, an interview transcript. They collectively came up with an aspect of that that I hadn't thought of which have not registered with me at all

Hit all of them simultaneously. And it was about and it was an employer talking about. We've done this and we've done that for them, and they all picked up on this

It's kind of sense that the employer was very proud of what they were doing to this minority marginalised group of people. Almost a bit kind of like rubbing, patting themselves on the back for their their good work, which I hadn't picked up on at all. So absolutely they, when it came to Categorising from the codes to the categories, spent quite a lot of time for them to understand and to get how that was working

But from the categories to the themes moved quite quickly, and they very much took over. At that point, they very much were like, Oh, but if that one belongs to there, then that should be over there. And but those two should be in the So they took over then and that was great

And we now have four clear themes, So I do have to go back and do the actual data analysis and the discussion, and because I've only got three core researchers left, I've also got some extra budget left, so they were all a bit sad that it was ending, and I was mindful of not wanting to do that. Thanks. I've had what I need out of you

Goodbye. So, um, I said, Well, you know, I've got some budget left. Let's meet up

Once I start analysing the data and have, like, a report just to discuss and I'll feed back to you where I'm coming from based on the things that you've come up with and you feed back to me whether you think I've missed a point or I haven't spent enough time on an area that's more important or too much time on an area that doesn't really affect you because they've been in these situations and I haven't. So, um, I also took them. I took them

It was all virtual. I was presenting a a an abstract at a conference in Blackpool, which I'd submitted two years previously, and due to covid. It hadn't happened, and um was now happening

And even though it was work I've done without them because it was abstract from my literature review from my previous masters. But it's the same subject. I asked them if they'd like to be involved and the three remaining all chose to

So I spoke for, like, two minutes and let them and I I said, You know, how do you want to do this? Do you want to present slides? Do you want to talk about what you've done? Send me 100 and 50 words each of what it you wanna do just to make sure we don't all overlap each other and individually, they'd all decided they wanted to talk about how the whole process of being involved in it had made them feel they weren't interested in saying we categorised and coded and and that was great and they spoke from their hearts. One produced slides, and it was extremely powerful because they said things that they hadn't said to me in our meetings. And, um, each one of them said, You know, they did feel genuinely that they had been involved in a meaningful way

It's very important, I think, and they all believe that their opinions and their voice will matter what's going on here. Gosh, there's so much in that. It it's, um when you talk about their involvement in the in the research process and I hear the frustration of it not been right from the start, as you would have hoped

Um, do you Do you have any sense that if they hadn't been involved, the the outcomes of the research, um, in terms of those categories might have been different? Definitely. Absolutely. Because like I said about that one example, there were areas where they just highlighted things that I did

I wasn't seeing how they see it, and I think some of the things would have been more or less the same in that one of them is barriers to employment. So, you know, that's a very broad thing. But they highlighted within that barriers to employment that I hadn't of all wasn't aware of

One of them also brought up having a trauma informed approach. You know, this was something that I hadn't heard of before, and I've now been reading up and going to various workshops and stuff, and that doesn't just cover people who've been in prison. But people who have been in prison intersect with so many other areas, and the whole fact of being in prison is a trauma

So why wouldn't you expect someone who's going to employ someone from that background to have some kind of awareness of what a trauma informed approach would be. So they've definitely guided those themes and how those things will be Certainly. Hm

And then and then you touched on the impact on those I know you. Some you ended up. You know, not not everybody being being involved at at the end

Um, but but the impact on the people that did core, you know, who were your co researchers? You know what? What did that feel like for them? So the lady, um, said that it had given her the confidence to She's been in employment for 20 years after coming out of prison and then that employment finished and suddenly was faced with having to go through the whole process again, as if she had just come out of prison and will be judged in that same way. And so she had chosen to become self-employed. She had chosen she'd not done the career she wanted to do because she didn't want to be faced with saying saying no

Um, but it had given her a newfound confidence and a realisation that what she has done has been good and who she is now can be contributory and useful as a member of society. You know it. It helped to remove some of the self doubt, I think, and the same with one of the the guys

The other guy was very, is very confident and is part of a network that I belong to, which is, um, people who have lived experience and allies, Um, a networking group. And, you know, he he is the one who brought the slides and did this whole. But he was the one I was most conscious of not being to to with and that he brought and has experienced in previous research

And so conversely. Then what? What has the impact been? Um, if any on on the university and those who've supported you through the process, It has there been any learning? Um, yes, yes, yes. I mean, none of my supervisors have as much contact with the criminal justice system as me

So they've learned quite a lot of things along the way around that even the terminology for people. Um, my lead supervisor asked me to. There's a charity that runs out, and she asked me to challenge their or to investigate and then to challenge their, um, application recruitment process

So they sent me their form and it had the tick box on there. The do you have a criminal record? Had a big paragraph after after saying it won't matter, and we won't judge you on that. But people don't see that people have lived experience, don't see that they see the tick box and think, No, not even gonna apply because I know they'll say no

So I have been instrumental in removing that, Um, my next mission is the university itself. Um, I'm aware that if you want to be a student here, you do have to divulge, and that will impact their decision. If you have certain crimes, you're not allowed to live in halls

You know, these things need to be individually risk assessed. That's all I ask people to think about is you can't say a blanket. No, because you don't know the context and you don't know how long ago that was, and you don't know what's changed then and, you know, meet the person, discuss it and see what you can do instead of instantly saying what you can't do you You also You also mentioned, um, that there was a budget linked to the core researchers

Well, there was. I got one. I had to apply for an RT s G A research, training and support grant

Now I'm funded by the South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership, which comes under the E S R. C. Um, So my whole place was funded and had I known before I even started here that I wanted to do this

I was supposed to have put all that in my original application, but because I've done the Masters, it was OK for me to have developed and changed my mind on how I didn't know about Covid. So that came from me being here at this university. And so I put in a budget

And I've since been told the budget that they have in mind for people for their entire three year full time PhD course no more than £3000 um, per person. And I got six. I said no one's ever asked for as much as that before, but I justified all of it

Obviously, it was pre covid, so it wouldn't involve me getting all of the co researchers get train fares. And then when we were gonna go to the conference, they were gonna have to come on the train and pay for accommodation. And all those things haven't

And that's why I've got some money left over there and some of the core researchers have out. So so have the core. Have the core researchers given their time then or have they been remunerated for them? I was

I was very adamant that it was fair and that they should be paid for their time. How can I expect them to give me a day if they're in employment? And originally, I wanted to only have people that were in employment because and who's not in employment? And what's happened is I've got one who is not in employment and on benefit. He made the decision early on that he wanted to do it, even though he knew he couldn't get paid because it would skew his benefits

The others I went through multiple multiple emails departments, meetings about how can I fairly, because I'm not only going through the S CDT p funding, I'm also going through the university processes. Well, we can't put them on as a a zero hours person. We can't have them as a visiting lecturer we can't like, Stop telling me what you can't do

How are we going to pay these people? I cannot write a PhD about barriers to employment and difficulties faced by people with lived experience, and then expect them to do everything for nothing. So eventually we came up so HR and finance. I had a meeting and we came up with a system where I approached the employer, and I said to them, Can you let them have a day off work? And you invoice me for a day of payment for that person? So they're getting the same money that they would normally get in their job

The employer is not losing out. The person is not losing out. I wasn't able to give them anything extra, because then it was seen as incentive

And then I crossed over all the other lines and coercion and yeah, in a nightmare on that front, they've done it. Yeah, I I mean, yeah, good, good to be able to find a solution. But I I hear the frustration, um that that sits behind that

And then again, you make an interesting point about everybody's very quick to say, You can't do this, you can't do that. And actually, the whole point of trying to do co-production is to find ways that you can do things. Um, so, yeah, bake it in that way

It's quite it still didn't go as smoothly as it should have. And the first guy, loudest one, you know, hadn't got his payment in the right time. And it was a a collaboration of things that went wrong but not my fault and not their fault

And, you know, I've asked these people to do something and and Volt and said to pay them for their time. And then we haven't done that in the time specified. So in hair raising, Yeah, so So you're you're part way through half halfway, and it and the research and the work that you're doing, it already feels like it is having an impact in terms of the the differences

What what's next in terms of, you know, the research and coproduction, or is that part of it? Certainly the coproduction part of it. Some of the learning that's come out of that and hopefully will people through to the university is This is a university that has a lot of people who want to do coproduction and will want to pay their COPD producers for their time. We need to find a way around that

I'm not going to be the only one who's done this, but my supervisor's already said you might have to write a piece about this and you know, just to help and inform and smooth the way for others. But there's that, Um, I hope that once my once the actual PhD is finished, that that's not the end of my relationship with these core researchers. Um, I am thinking of doing a post doc

Maybe. And if I do, then I'd be able to involve much more heavily from the beginning with proper funding, um, and really work on the disseminating and get them involved in that much more where they would feel at home as well. So this would be their strong point, and I'd be letting them lead on that, Um, I want to challenge employment policy with it, Um, and I want to produce some kind of framework for employers to consider if they're thinking about employing people periods, Here's how to do it

Here's where to go. Here's the department in the government that you need to be connected with. Here are employment brokers who deal specifically with that takeaway or the worry

But these are things that you should consider before you ever even entertain the art and have because there isn't one out there at the moment. There's little pockets of information here and there and if you don't know where to go, and they've been very helpful telling me what's missing and I know what is needed. Mm, no, that's that's great

Um, I'll stop the recording in a minute. But before I do, is there anything else you'd like to add Or has come to mind that, um as we're all aware, co-production is a long, long game, Not a quick fix. Um, and I just hope that it does get more

It's got so much recognition in health sciences and mental health and services like that, and it just needs to kind of people need to embrace it a bit more on a on a wider level. Hm.

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