Our latest e-Bulletin, sent out on 15 October, 2021.
One of our trustees, Professor Jo Phoenix of The Open University, speaking yesterday on talkRADIO.
Jo was talking about the unacceptable threats of violence and death faced by Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex. Professor Stock has been advised by the police to teach classes online, install CCTV outside her home, and be accompanied by bodyguards while on the university campus.
She has been targeted by activists because she argues that the rights and interests of women, and the rights and interests of males who identify as women (so-called trans women), might not necessarily coincide.
In the case of women's prisons, for instance, it is important to ask whether it is right to expect female prisoners – themselves often the survivors of grotesque male violence – to share their spaces with male prisoners who believe themselves to be, or claim to be, women. Or whether male prison officers who identify as women should be allowed to strip search female prisoners.
For too many of those who mouth the 'trans woman are women' mantra, even to consider such questions is tantamount to transphobia. The result can be an absolutist mindset that brooks no dissent. For some at least, it can justify threats and violence.
But as Jo Phoenix argued in her interview, all those involved in education have a duty to teach the next generation "how to have debate... how to encounter different ideas", and to do so in a way that does not degenerate into anger, shouting and threats. She went on to say that in the 1980s she was "a firebrand young feminist". But:
When I encountered highly sexist ideas, about why women get raped, I didn't sit there and try and cancel those people. We took those ideas to pieces, because the point was to challenge the idea, not to harass the people.
Jo is one of several speakers at our joint event with the feminist movement, Woman's Place UK, on London 27 October: a Woman's Place is not in prison. The Labour MP Rosie Duffield, our Chair of Trustees Charlie Weinberg, and Frances Crook, in her last speech before standing down as Chief Executive of the Howard League, are among the other speakers.
"I've been an academic for 23 years... and I have never seen anything like this".
As a charity working in the field of public education, we take seriously the importance of holding the space for dialogue, debate, reflection and the exploration of difficult and challenging ideas. Without it, ideas tend to ossify, knowledge stagnates.
In keeping with this, next week, in the latest of our 'Lunch with...' series, Pragna Patel from Southall Black Sisters and Suresh Grover from The Monitoring Group will be discussing the long struggle for racial justice and what the future might hold.
I can't wait. Hope to see you there.
Join us for the second episode of our 'Lunch with...' webinar series featuring Pragna Patel and Suresh Grover. If you're interested in the professional and personal experiences of two renowned advocates and campaigners in their respective fields, you won't want to miss this. Register here.
We're excited to announce that our guest for December's episode of 'Lunch with...' will be Joan Smith, noted novelist, columnist, essayist and campaigner for women's rights.
We also have new dates in the diaries for 'Last month in criminal justice' and will shortly announce our guest speakers who will join Richard Garside and Helen Mills for these webinars. Check out the series here.
News and commentary
We also held a stand-alone webinar featuring Richard Garside in conversation with Professor Rosa Freedman and Professor Jo Phoenix on academic freedom, professional ethics and their recent experiences with 'cancellation' in the academy. Watch the full video here.
On that note, Professor Jo Phoenix (who is also one of our trustees) appeared on talkRADIO yesterday to discuss the problem of so-called cancel culture with Julia Hartley-Brewer.
In Mike Guilfoyle's latest piece, he addresses the creeping enforcement-led approach to probation.
We're pleased to announce that we've begun a new project focusing on Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP). The immediate focus of the work is the House of Commons Justice Committee Inquiry, announced in late 2021. More broadly, we will highlight emerging issues over the coming period and make the case for a radical and far-reaching reform, with the aim of bringing to an end all existing IPP sentences.
Eye on criminal justice
We've frequently discussed electronic monitoring (EM), its expansion and questions as to its legitimacy, in this section of our eBulletin. It seems we have good reason to continue to draw your attention to EM, given the recent pledge by the Ministry of Justice to tag circa 23,000 people over the next three years. It's well worth reading both Mike Nellis and our own Roger Grimshaw on the intended and unintended consequences of EM's expansion. How does EM impact family members of those tagged? What are the possibilities for social re-integration given the stigma of tagging? Where does accountability lie when outsourced to private provision? On a more abstract note, the expansion of EM signals also the expansion of carceral frontiers into public spaces and the home. What are the implications of this? Read our back catalogue addressing these questions.
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