A call to action: Confronting penal excess

The footprint criminal justice occupies in our society has grown and continues to do so. We can see this simply by looking at the expansion of police, courts, prisons and probation and the number of people subjected to criminal justice sanctions. For example, the UK prison population has doubled over the last two decades to 94,000 and all the indications are that prison numbers will remain persistently high.

Criminal justice has cast its shadow over other institutions to include housing, employment, education where conditionality and punishment operate on criminal justice principles and feed into the formal penal system.

At the final event of our Reform Sector Strategies project in May 2012 a group of people came together and voiced their interest and commitment to confront penal excess.

This is an appeal to those who want to build a broad based coalition to confront penal excess in the UK focused on the long term goal of radically reducing the overall size and scope of criminal justice.

While we share a concern about poor conditions within the criminal justice system, this is not about improving community sentences or finding better rehabilitation and treatment programmes within criminal justice.

There is a significant layer of organisations and individuals who recognise that the path to a safer society lies outside of criminal justice. We want to work with others to deliver campaigns and projects that demonstrate true and long lasting alternatives to criminal justice. This isn’t about ignoring violence, theft and other harms – we need to develop policies for a safer society that do not resort to criminal justice.

This is about seeking out and promoting ideas and programmes that:

  • Expose the realities and failures of criminal justice.
  • Oppose and resist any expansion of criminal justice.
  • Promote a radical reduction in the size of criminal justice
  • Develop policies for a safer society that do not resort to criminal justice.

If you want to join us in building campaigns and activities please come to the event and also post your ideas, comments and messages of support below.

CCJS will be hosting a meeting on Thursday 13 September at 1.30pm to get this started.

If you are interested in making a contribution and helping us to build a coalition of individuals and organisations then please come along. The meeting will take place at 2 Langley Lane, Vauxhall, London, SW8 1GB.

You can register to attend by emailing penalexcess@crimeandjustice.org.uk

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10 Responses to A call to action: Confronting penal excess

  1. I have posted a comment suggesting that there are better ways of dealing with bankers and other corporate wrongdoers than imprisoning them. http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16861

  2. Robert Shaw says:

    We need a title which says something positive about the direction in which we want to go – downsizing also smacks of corporate speak with unfotunate overtones.

    • ccjsrebecca says:

      Good point Robert. This is something we aim to talk about at the event on the 13th. It is a real challenge to be clear about what we are camaigning ‘for’ and ‘against’…. Do you have any suggestions?

  3. Holly Dustin says:

    There is a huge question here about what reducing the size and scope of the CJS means for women who experience violence such as rape, domestic violence, trafficking and so on. Approx 60,000 women are raped each year in Eng/Wales according the Home Office and around 90% of these do not currently report to the police. If they all did, and if all perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence were brought to justice our CJS could not cope but our aim is surely not to deny victims justice, if they wish to pursue this?

    On the other hand some women may not feel the CJS does deliver ‘justice’, even if there is a conviction (if for example the whole process itself has been retraumatising, disempowering and revictimising).

    Moreover, the goal of society should be reduction and elimination of violence and abuse – hence the need for large-scale investment in programmes to prevent sexual, domestic and other violence and not just focus on penal responses. This is wholly absent from the government’s approach in reality and until we reach that goal the CJS has a critical role to play, not least in removing men who choose to be violent from the community and providing immediate protection for women/children.

    • Richard Garside says:

      Good points Holly. My own view is that downsizing criminal justice responses and upsizing more holistic social responses need to go hand in hand. Indeed, without an adequate and coherent alternative configuration of services, downsizing criminal justice will always remain a utopian aspiration. You are also right that the underlying cultures of violence and abuse need to be address as part of an overall package. Downsizing criminal justice while doing nothing to prevent violence in the first place does not strike me as a desirable or morally defensible approach.

  4. Zarin Sharif says:

    if the level of risk posed by the offender justifies prison as a punishment it should be applied at an appropriate time not as a first phase punishment except in certain cases where prison is the only punishment. Therefore resettlement should apply to everyone who is part of the criminal justice system in irder to deal with chaotic lifestyles that attribute to offending or reoffending. How do you resettle someone who has never experienced normal lifestyles due to some sort of disruption in their life? I hear a lot of people say to me we offer this and that but when you ask for it it’s all about cuts and so on but that money your getting is supposed to run out by spending it on us not looking after your livelihoods! They are the people who need to shape up and provide and start thinking of solutions rather than waiting for others, there’s too many backseat drivers for me.

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