Our September 2015 ebulletin is out now!

Thursday, 1 October 2015



Black Lives Matter
We've just published the latest issue of our magazine, Criminal Justice Matters, guest edited by our Deputy Director, Will McMahon. You can read Will's editorial and all of the articles, free to view, via our website. This edition, titled #BlackLivesMatter, focuses on racism, discrimination and criminal justice. It opens with Janet Alder's moving personal story of her brother's death in custody and the subsequent police spying she experienced. Articles by Rebecca Roberts, J M Moore and Aggrey Burke place ethnic disproportionality in the criminal justice system in the context of Britain’s colonial past. Jules Holroyd and Rebekah Delsol each discuss contemporary racism in criminal justice institutions. Anthony Gunther and Matt Ford map out the modern-day experience of racism from qualitative and quantitative perspectives. Also in this issue, Steve Tombs reviews Simon Pemberton's new book Harmful Societies: Understanding social harm.

This issue of cjm builds on topics raised at the Police Corruption, Racism and Spying conference from earlier this year. You can watch footage online (and you might also notice that the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, spoke at the conference).

Community sentences fail to cut prisoner numbers
Check out this really informative new report by our Research Associate, Catherine Heard, describing how community sentences work in the three UK criminal justice jurisdictions (England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) and why they have not cut prisoner numbers. Detailed annexes to the report explain how the key alternative measures work (with a particular focus on probation) and look at evidence of their impact across all stages of the justice process: pre-trial, at sentencing decisions and after release through measures such as home detention curfew. A wealth of statistical data is provided, on prisoner numbers, bail, remand, uses and types of community sentences, suspended sentences, probation and other alternatives to custody.

Thinning the blue line
Are cuts to police budgets and officer numbers really such a bad thing? Our Director, Richard Garside, continued to nudge the public discussion about cuts to police budgets and officer numbers along with two pieces published in The Guardian. Take a look at these other few pieces on our site about thinking critically about the police.

Crime-economy link broken down
Professor Will Jennings of the University of Southampton and Professor Stephen Farrall and Dr Emily Gray of the University of Sheffield presented new research about trends in crime, victimisation and social attitudes at an event we held at the Centre. Most notably, the new research challenged the assumption that rising unemployment means rising crime. Other findings suggest that successive right-to-buy policies from the early 1980s onwards have left social housing tenants far more vulnerable to property crime, and Stephen Farrall wrote a little piece on this for us. Check out media coverage surrounding the event.

Is stop and search really the answer to knife crime?
After being forced to revise stop and search strategies after the 2011 disorders, the police still don't seem to have learnt their lesson. They're now making a push for more stop and search activity as a response to a reported increase in knife crime. Our Research Director Roger Grimshaw questions this strategy.

Experiences of the ethnic penalty
We held an enlightening community consultation event in collaboration with the 2020 Change Foundation to find out what young black Londoners think about the ethnic penalty and their experiences of racism. We had a wide-ranging discussion with loads of different (and sometimes very polarised!) views. It helped us to make sense of some of the data on the ethnic penalty we’ve been looking at. If you would like to host a similar community event then please email Will McMahon

Will politics always trump evidence?
We explored this question at a roundtable we held in mid-September. It drew on research carried out by Dr Deborah Drake and Professor Reece Walters about the 2009 clash between David Nutt, at the time a government drugs advisor, and the former Home Secretary Alan Johnson over the role of evidence in drugs policy. Professor Nutt was also in attendance and gave his thoughts and reflections on the lessons learned from the 2009 events and the current prospects for evidence-informed policy. We know some of you missed out because it was such a popular event and we ended up running a waiting list, but you can now watch the footage here.

An eloquent protest against court charges
Catherine Heard discusses the case of Nigel Allcoat, the latest magistrate to resign in protest at unaffordable and arbitrary criminal court charges.


I would build...
Is penal reform as obsolete as the prison? asks Dr Bree Carlton in her piece, ‘I would build…radical strategies for resisting the harms of reform’. She will be discussing her work at a number of events during her visit to the UK this November

'Lackey intellectuals' and their troubled findings
Read Stephen Crossley's scathing critique of the call by the Institute for Public Policy Research for a ‘Troubled Lives Programme’. He says it’s based on the failed ‘Troubled Families’ policy and provides cover for the government to continue with unnecessary austerity measures. 

Policing in Scotland has become a political football
Former Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill writes about what impact the outgoing Chief Constable of Police Scotland had under the new policing arrangements in Scotland.

British Journal of Criminology
The September issue of the British Journal of Criminology is now available (subscription only). It includes, ‘Collating longitudinal data on crime, victimisation and social attitudes in England and Wales: a new resource for exploring long-term trends in crime’, by Will Jennings, Emily Gray and Stephen Farrall, which is available to download free.

In a league of his own
Former probation officer Mike Guilfoyle reflects on his time supervising Barry, who had completed a term of imprisonment with his involvement in a football-related disturbance.


Doing research in prisons: future challenges
At this event on 19 October the editors of the newly-published Palgrave Handbook of Prison Ethnography will lead a discussion on the challenges of undertaking prison-based research. Speakers include Dr Deborah Drake, Dr Rod Earle, Dr Jennifer Sloan (editors of the Palgrave Handbook of Prison Ethnography) as well as Dr Victoria Cooper, the co-director of the Harm, Evidence and Research Collaborative (HERC), The Open University.

Criminal justice and young people with clinical disorders
Starting with the observation that a highly disproportionate number of young people with neurodevelopmental impairments and clinical disorders are in the criminal justice system, this event on 13 November will consider how systems and services can better identify and respond to signs and symptoms of impairment and reduce criminal justice intervention.

Is criminal justice reform obsolete? 
We are co-hosting an academic roundtable on 19 November with HERC. Dr Bree Carlton (Monash University, Australia) and Dr Erica Meiners (Northeastern Illinois University, USA) will speak about local abolitionist struggles in Australia and the USA and consider the relationships between reform, decarceration and the longer term goals of achieving structural change and ending the use of imprisonment and criminal justice. Respondents include Dr Deborah Drake (The Open University), Dr Sarah Lamble (Birkbeck University), Andrew Neilson (The Howard League) and Professor Joe Sim (Liverpool John Moore's University). Places are limited, so book now to avoid disappointment.

Later that day Bree and Erica will be speaking at a larger public meeting, 'Abolition or Reform?' organised by the Reclaim Justice Network and HERC. Joining them on the panel will be, Stephen Akpabio-Klementowski (PhD Student, The Open University), Deb Coles (Inquest), Neena Samota (StopWatch) and a speaker from The Empty Cages Collective. 


Youth, welfare and the legacy of structural racism 
Read about how black and minority ethnic young people will be disproportionately hit by the government's intensive workfare programme in this article by Jon Burnett on the Institute of Race Relations website. If you haven't seen it already, take a look at some of the work we've been doing about how black and minority ethnic people are penalised.

Big dreams and bold steps
Take a look at this great piece by Rachel Herzing for truthout on building a police-free future. Here's a little taster: 'If one sees policing for what it is - a set of practices empowered by the state to enforce law and maintain social control and cultural hegemony through the use of force - one may more easily recognize that perhaps the goal should not be to improve how policing functions but to reduce its role in our lives.'


Met police criticised for gang call in letter
The London Metropolitan Police attracted criticism this month for arbitrarily sending a letter to a group of 24 young men in Brent telling them that if they didn't attend a community meeting they'd be treated like law-breakers. 

Exporting injustice around the world
This month David Cameron announced plans to build a prison in Jamaica to hold Jamaican nationals who receive custodial sentences in the UK, the BBC reports. In other news, prisons minister Andrew Selous announced plans to close Just Solutions International, the controversial commercial arm of the Ministry of Justice.


22 per cent - the proportion of the 7.3 million emergency and priority incidents that police responded to in 2013-2014 that were crime-related

550 - the number of deaths per day in the UK that Sir Michael Marmot estimates are caused by inequality, as reported in The Guardian

515 - the number of homicides in England and Wales in the whole of 2014, according to police recorded crime figures


“If this was caused by a pollutant, there would be people on the streets saying ‘stop it now’. The irony is that the cause is pin-pointable. It is the inequalities in the conditions [in which] we are born, grow, live, work and age, and it’s damaging the health of us all. It is costing us 550 lives a day in the UK alone.” Sir Michael Marmot speaking about the 200,000 premature deaths caused each year in the UK by social and health inequalities.

And finally...

The Centre is working hard to challenge the consensus around criminal justice. The evidence base we have accumulated over the last decade indicates that the UK needs a seismic shift in social and criminal justice policy to radically downsize a system that has become harmful to our society as a whole and too damaging for many of the people drawn into it. We need your support to make this shift happen.

Please support our work by joining the Centre as a member or support - or you can make a donation online. 

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This bulletin was compiled and edited by Matt Ford and Rebecca Roberts. We are always keen to hear from our readers. For comments and feedback email  

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