Melanie, a single mother from Porthcawl in Wales, who was in poor health and in financial difficulties, read the article while she was in prison. She was serving a sentence of 81 days of imprisonment for owing council tax.
Through our collaborations, locally, nationally and internationally, we take practical steps to achieve this vision in the here and now.
We also acknowledge the significant barriers we face.
Yet there are major holes in our maps of need which affect our understanding of the current scope and impact of services. The Justice Committee’s recent call for evidence about needs and services highlights the uncertainties and points to a worrying future if the picture remains unchanged.
Begging is a recordable offence under section 3 of the Vagrancy Act 1824 (as amended). Anyone found sleeping in a public place or begging for money can be arrested. However, begging, while illegal, does not carry a jail sentence under the Act.
Ex-prisoners struggle to access accommodation on release. They often lose their homes while in custody, sometimes being accused of having made themselves ‘intentionally homeless’.
So why have we only begun to hear about this recently?
This week commemorates the 100th anniversary of the ‘Tulsa Race Massacre’ in Greenwood, north Tulsa, Oklahoma, which took place between 30 May and 1 June 1921. Greenwood, which was a prosperous Black community (known as the ‘Black Wall Street’), was decimated by three days of officially sanctioned terror.
Her book also offers the reader insightful and comparative examples drawn from her visits to Nordic prisons, which point towards better ways of working, healing and treating the 350,000 mentally ill people incarcerated in US jails that go beyond the reflexive urge to impose ever harsher punishment.
Some jails are even older. Brixton Prison in south London opened in 1818. The Covid-19 crisis is prompting a major rethink of how we will live and work in the future. Yet prisons remain stuck in the past: a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.
The resulting policy inertia is palpable. The per capita prison population across England and Wales is far higher than comparable European countries. Our imprisonment rate is almost twice Germany’s.
Here I give a bit of context about why we’re doing this work now.
Our work so far
Five years ago, we published a seminal report on joint enterprise.
Dangerous Associations: Joint enterprise, gangs and racism was a collaboration between CCJS, academics and the campaign organisation JENGbA.
Prisons do not magically become safe, healthy and decent places merely as a result of inspection. Inspectors can identify problems, but they do not have any enforcement powers. Implementation of inspectors' recommendations is at best patchy, as we pointed out a few years ago in one of our UK Justice Policy Review reports.
Joint enterprise refers to legal principles on the use of the law of complicity. Through these principles, multiple individuals can be convicted for an offence without taking into account their differing roles or even whether some individuals were present.
The support charity JENGbA estimates it is currently in contact with around 1,000 prisoners convicted through joint enterprise, many of whom are subject to very lengthy prison sentences.
Most recently on how comparative prison regimes operate to maintain order, David Skarbek's latest book achieves this aim admirably.