Justice system reinforces society's inequalities

Friday, 19 May, 2017

Our research on the link between imprisonment and poverty was cited this week in The Independent.

The research was referenced by columnist James Moore, in a piece about the case of Lavinia Woodward, the University of Oxford medical student likely to be spared a jail sentence after stabbing her boyfriend in the leg.

'There are good grounds for according Woodward mercy, regardless of her career prospects', Moore wrote. But he pointed out that such clemency is rather less common 'when the defendant is non-white, or poor'.

Citing our research showing that prisoners are disproportionately from poor and marginalised backgrounds, he writes:

For the record, I think Woodward's troubled background, and the struggles she has endured, are very relevant to her sentencing. But the fact that a promising career has been put at risk? That shouldn’t matter.

The same mercy should be accorded to another Lavinia Woodward, with a similar troubled background, who was simply attending courses laid on by Jobcentre Plus with the aim of becoming a care assistant. Or one who was a checkout assistant at Tesco with aspirations towards becoming a supervisor.

He also quotes our Director, Richard Garside:

Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said this to me in the course of researching this piece: “While we are all formally equal before the law, the justice system reflects and reinforces the great inequalities in wealth and power of British society.”

I fear that he is right about that.

You can read James Moore's article here.