Good Lives Model

Netto et al. (2014) conducted a systematic review of literature to look for evidence of the effectiveness of interventions based on the Good Lives Model (GLM) for rehabilitation programmes (both within prison and in the community). The review articulates a definition for GLM-based interventions and focuses on high quality research with recidivism as an outcome. The reviewers screened 1157 papers with 11 being retrieved in full. However, none of these papers were eligible for inclusion in the review. As a result, the reviewers conclude that there is insufficient research into the impact of GLM-based interventions.

Studies reviewed

Average impact

Certainty of impact


System readiness


Effectiveness not measured


Not evaluated

No evidence/5

What is it?

The Good Lives Model is a general theory of rehabilitation, initially articulated by Ward (2002). GLM is a strengths-based model of rehabilitation in that it focuses on the core needs of human beings to live a fulfilling and satisfactory life. To do this, GLM proponents argue that rehabilitation interventions ought to focus on strengths and capabilities. As a general theory, GLM does not offer a specific intervention but, instead, a perspective from which an intervention can be built. In this paper, Netto et al. describe GLM programmes as those programmes that

a) Incorporate risk management to target criminogenic needs

b) Assess basic needs important to the offender

c) Identifies internal and external obstacles to meeting those needs

d) Develops skills/capabilities to meet those needs


The review also focuses on studies that consider the outcome of recidivism. The reviewers therefore exclude a range of programmes because they either do not meet the above specific criteria for GLM or because the study focused on interim outcomes. As such, along with quality of methodology criteria, the reviewers found no reviews that satisfied their criteria. To compensate, the reviewers offer an insight into four relevant papers that focus on interim outcomes or offer a weaker research design.

Should it work?

The GLM was developed in response to criticism of the Risk-Needs-Responsivity model that has taken precedence in the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales. RNR focuses heavily on risk with critics arguing it focuses too heavily on the deficits of the individual as opposed to their strengths. Proponents point to the wealth of high quality studies that point to a reduction in reoffending. However, the GLM articulates a broader rehabilitative model, focused on the whole person and working more towards a desistance-perspective of reducing criminal activity.

The reviewers do not engage with the question of how the GLM perpsective might be operationalized but do offer a specific set of criteria that they deem to constitute GLM based programmes. The mechanisms of such programmes, with regards to their connection to the outcomes, is not discussed in this review. In theory, interventions that focus on the strengths of the individual and seek to build positive activities have the potential to work. However, the operationalization of the theory is questionable and there is a clear lack of research that effectively tests the theory in practice.

Does it work?

There is insufficient evidence to draw conclusion regarding the efficacy of GLM based interventions. This review constitutes an empty review which typically refer to systematic reviews that find no studies eligible for inclusion. Empty reviews may either offer no conclusions, or make conclusions based on a number of sources, such as excluded studies, other evidence, or no evidence. One potential reason for this being an empty review is the strict criteria the reviewers applied to interventions for them to be articulated as GLM interventions. More general programmes such as educational or faith-based programmes could be considered to be strengths-based GLM but would not incorporate specific risk management issues to target criminogenic needs. Indeed, some proponents of GLM would argue that there ought to be very little focus on specifically criminogenic needs or at least no explicit focus within a programme.

How strong is the evidence?

The purpose of the review was to identify and synthesise ‘trustworthy’ evidence, as the basis for making causal inferences about the effect of GLM based programmes on reoffending. The Systematic Review sought to evaluate existing empirical evidence, examining the effectiveness of GLM approaches. Despite initial searches identifying 1157 articles for screening, this number was reduced to 11 studies that were ultimately excluded from the review. The overall finding therefore was that there is a dearth of evidence with regard to the effectiveness (and cost-effectiveness) of in GLM interventions. At present, based on the findings of this review, there is a lack of evidence pertaining to the use of the Good Lives Model.

Is it worth it?

The review did not address the financial costs or benefits of GLM approaches.

Can it be implemented?

The review described here did not consider implementation or potential barriers to effective implementation.

What’s missing from the evidence?

Based on the review process and findings, this topic is not currently suitable for evidence synthesis due to the lack of evidence pertaining to the use of GLM based interventions.