Matt Ford looks at the dynamics behind the sharp fall in the prison population.
The memorably alliterative phrase used was 'punitive passions pulsate' and the unsettling emotions evoked by this telling expression centred on an encounter whilst undertaking a weekly office duty.
At the time, probation officers were allocated a weekly office duty, which meant dealing with a myriad of possible casework challenges and this particular office duty seemed fated to encompass the full range of troubled and troublesome client contacts.
As my colleague Matt Ford points out in this piece, the latest announcement is something of a repackaging and enhancement of a pledge made several years ago, during David Cameron's premiership, though with a difference.
The negative individual and societal consequences of our current use of short-term imprisonment are well documented. The system of short sentences is summed up in a recent Justice Inspectorate report as keeping individuals, “locked in an expensive merry-go-round of criminal justice processes”.
Matt Ford reflects on the implications of the announcement that four new prisons are to be built.
When it finally overpowers us, it will not be by CCTV alone, but by ambient and interactive sensors scraping our data, and algorithms ceaselessly scanning for anomalies, with facial recognition tech maybe bridging the two. Will the pandemic bring this Orwellian moment closer?
Contrary to some media portrayals, this is about far more than a mere demand "to remove some statues", he said. It is about "criminal justice reform and... on the more radical end... about what we might call 'defunding of the police'... premised on the idea that we can't solve our social problems through increasing the power of the police and prison system."
PSPOs give local authorities the power to apply restrictions on the use of public space, which can result in criminal convictions. The implementation of a PSPO is based on two conditions: that the activities the order aims to restrict have a detrimental effect on the quality of life for those nearby; and that the activities are likely to be persistent.
In my monthly reflection pieces for this website, I evoke vignettes drawn from my past probation practice, reflections prompted in part after delving into some of the books that critically explore criminological inquiry.
The following account is however drawn exclusively from my own direct personal experience of having entered the criminal justice system as a defendant during the 1980s.
Does the coronavirus, and the extraordinary measures currently being taken by governments around the world, offer an opportunity for a progressive rethink of many of our assumptions about criminal justice?
Or are we on the cusp of an authoritarian turn: a more aggressive policing of our public spaces; a more punitive approach to those deemed disruptive or out of place; longer prison sentences in ever more austere and oppressive prison conditions?
The economic impact of the current pandemic measures is likely to increase the risk of violence in domestic settings; the financial crash of 2008 was followed by a rise in incidents.