Does criminal justice work? The 'Right for the wrong reasons' debate

Edited by Richard Garside and Will McMahon
Monday, 30 October 2006

Following the publication of Right for the wrong reasons in July 2006, the Crime and Society Foundation requested responses to the arguments in the essay. Does criminal justice work? contains the original essay plus responses from a number of key figures, including Nick Clegg MP and Edward Garnier MP. While offering distinctive perspectives and proposals, the seven experts are agreed than an effective approach to crime reduction must look beyond the criminal justice system, to the wider social and economic policies that lie behind crime trends.

In the leading article, Richard Garside, Acting Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, argues that because the criminal justice system only resolves a tiny fraction of the offences that are committed, it is largely irrelevant as a means of controlling crime. This means that attempts to improve the functioning of the system, including the kind of crisis management measures recently announced under the Government's 'Operation Safeguard', can only have a marginal impact on crime rates.

Richard Garside said:

'The simple fact is that the criminal justice system only has a marginal impact on levels of crime. The Home Secretary's depressingly predictable response to the latest prisons crisis - build more prisons, deport more foreigners, tinker with early release - is just the latest instance of the Government's blinkered approach to dealing with crime.

'It is time for a fundamental reassessment of how we can best reduce crime and enhance safety and security. Crime is the result of social and economic policy, and that is where we must look for an effective response.'

The compises a series of articles by the following authors:

  • Richard Garside, Acting Director, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies;
  • Professor Ian Loader, Director, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford;
  • Geoff Dobson, Deputy Director, Prison Reform Trust;
  • Rob Allen, Director, International Centre for Prison Studies;
  • Professor Joe Sim, Liverpool John Moores University;
  • Edward Garnier MP QC, Conservative Shadow Home Affairs Minister;
  • Professor Ian Loader, Director, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford;
  • Nick Clegg MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary.