Can Gove fix criminal justice?

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A letter from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies is published today in The Independent. It calls for a 'whole-society approach' to preventing and reducing harm, rather than prison building and an expansion of electronic monitoring;

David Cameron and Michael Gove are right to call for a transformation in our approach to criminal justice. However, the solutions they offer address the problem from the wrong direction and may lead to an expansion of tagging and prison numbers, all driven in partnership with the private sector.

A whole-society approach should be the starting point. Social and economic conditions are key to preventing and reducing harm. Numerous studies demonstrate that more equal societies with lower levels of poverty and larger welfare states are healthier places and tend to have smaller prison populations.

For too long we have been over reliant on police, courts and prisons as the key mechanism for responding to harm. Victims need a comprehensive and universal social insurance scheme to shield them from the impact of violence and property crime. This would include well-resourced refuges, health and mental health services - all supplemented with direct financial and practical support. At a local and individual level we need to build skills and community solidarity to step in where possible, rather than use the police as the first port of call.

People need to be held accountable through well managed processes that protect both victim and perpetrator. High level police enforcement may be required – but only as a last resort.

The serious starting point for progressive policy lies not in the question, how can we fix criminal justice, but rather how can we transform society.

Rebecca Roberts, Senior Associate, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies has today published Discussing alternatives to criminal justice as part of our Justice Matters initiative. The report contains a series of short contributions from a range of authors offering alternative approaches to policy formulation.