Our latest bulletin, sent out on 27 August 2021.
At the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, we believe that improved knowledge and understanding are a foundation for effective action and meaningful change.
Our experience tells us that standing for improved knowledge and understanding is not always without controversy.
For instance, when, more than a decade ago, we established the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs with David Nutt, we were clear that drugs policy was unlikely to be effective if it was not informed by the best scientific evidence. This standpoint, unremarkable in itself, was controversial because of the politics of drugs, then and now.
David Nutt had just been dismissed from his position as Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, after championing science-informed drugs policies. In contemporary parlance, he had been 'cancelled', and by the then Home Secretary no less.
The argument between David Nutt and the Home Secretary was not really about whether the questions being posed, the research agenda being proposed, could be pursued in any context. It was about whether it could be pursued by an official government advisory body. The Home Secretary concluded he could not accept that. The work continued independently.
This, in retrospect, rather civilised argument seems a long way from the toxic silencing tactics of today's so-called ‘cancel culture’, where certain questions, certain positions, are denounced in advance as bigotry and not worthy of a respectful hearing, in any context.
Earlier this week, the actor and veteran gay rights campaigner, Simon Callow, gave his thoughts on the subject publicly. “This is just tyranny and that’s what we’ve fought against all our lives,” he told The Times, “people saying, ‘this cannot be discussed’. Yes, it can be discussed. Everything can be discussed."
Our next webinar, on 9 September – ‘Shut the **** up ****’ – will go to the heart of this issue. Are there no limits to what can be discussed? Is there a right to offend, or to not be offended? Where does legitimate protest end, and cancellation and silencing begin?
We will be joined by two speakers – Professor Jo Phoenix of The Open University, and Professor Rosa Freedman of Reading University – whose no platforming at the University of Essex led to a highly critical independent review, which concluded that the University had breached its legal duty to ensure freedom of speech and the freedom to pursue controversial (to some) areas of knowledge and understanding.
The webinar is free to attend, but we are encouraging small donations to help cover the costs of running it by those who can afford to do so.
We're pleased to announce Whitney Iles as the latest guest to feature in our 'Lunch with...' series, the first of our webinars in 2022. Learn more about Whitney and register here. For the rest of our events, register to attend here.
Watch this space for more speaker announcements for 2022.
We hope you've had the chance to explore our interactive map of prisons in England and Wales. If you have any thoughts or feedback, get in touch with Matt Ford. We've had some great feedback so far.
Now we're interested in having a conversation about what better uses prison sites could be put to. What would you prefer to see on the land your local prison sits on? If you have any thoughts or ideas, or just want to start a conversation, click here. We'll get back to everyone who responds.
Over the coming months we will be publicising the After Prison project in areas with prisons and producing resources for local residents on how to start conversations on better uses for the land currently occupied by prisons. Then we'll be holding an event where people can learn more about the project and share their ideas.
An eye on criminal justice
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has released the outcome of a super-complaint submitted by the Centre for Women's Justice (CWJ) two years ago.
The super-complaint charged that the police were failing to implement appropriate measures to protect women in the process of dealing with domestic abuse. In a statement released this week, the CWJ acknowledges that the HMICFRS report admits that "abuse prosecutions have collapsed by 50% from 18% of reported cases in 2017 to only 9% in 2020".
You can read further commentary and access the report by the HMICFRS here.
The Guardian reported this week that prisoners in HMP Leeds were denied access to showering facilities as punishment during the pandemic. At the Centre, we have spent the pandemic documenting the ways in which lockdown in prisons has affected prisoners. Already sharing cramped cells, many prisoners have been forced into confinement for up to 23 hours a day with no real way to socially distance or maintain standards of hygiene necessary to keep the pandemic at bay. The latest news about HMP Leeds that prisoners were denied access to showers as punishment is the latest detail on the rights denied to prisoners during an already difficult period. If you're interested in reading a first-hand account of being in prison during the pandemic, read our Secret Prisoner post.
Hope Kent and Professor Huw Williams have published a report through HM Inspectorate of Probation on the relationship between those with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and the criminal justice system. The statistics on levels of TBI amongst both women and men in prison are stark. Evidence strongly suggests a high prevalence of TBI amongst those in custody.
If you're interested in reading more about related topics, we have previously published on young people, criminal justice and neurodevelopmental impairment, trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences and the increased likelihood of being in contact with the criminal justice system and psychiatric vulnerability amongst the prison population.
Working for a better future
It is time for a serious conversation about the land our prisons occupy, and for action to put that land to better use.
Can you help us build this movement by making a donation?