Downsize, rebuild, transform

Richard Garside
Thursday, 25 July 2013

This month the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies launches a new initiative that will run over the next three years. We are calling this initiative ‘Justice Matters’.

The core proposition of the Justice Matters initiative is a simple one: the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom is far too big, far too costly, and far too intrusive and needs to be smaller in every way. This means fewer arrests; fewer prosecutions; fewer prisoners; fewer probationers. In its place we need the development of an alternative set of policies and practices that, collectively, are a proportionate response to the harms that people experience.

We launched Justice Matters because our work over recent years has led us to the conclusion that, over the course of the last generation, the United Kingdom has become over reliant on policing, prosecution and punishment. This over reliance is socially harmful, economically wasteful and prevents us from tackling the complex problems our society faces in a sustainable and socially just manner.

It is socially harmful because the criminal justice system is good at punishing certain individuals and groups, while failing to prevent social problems from arising, or to resolve those that occur. It is economically wasteful because billions of pounds are devoted each year to a system that, fundamentally, does not work. It prevents us from tackling complex problems because the large social footprint occupied by criminal justice crowds out other, more innovative, just and effective policies and practice solutions.

There are many excellent and inspirational individuals and organisations working to address specific criminal justice harms: challenging miscarriages of justice, discriminatory stop and search practices or harmful prison conditions for instance. Others are actively engaged in supporting those subject to criminal justice capture, or in promoting system reform.

We admire and respect those organisations and individuals doing this work. The Justice Matters initiative will not seek to duplicate nor compete with it. It has a different purpose:

  1. To develop ideas to downsize fundamentally the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom.
  2. To explore options to rebuild policy and practice alternatives to criminal justice.
  3. To develop an evidenced agenda to transform policy and practice and reduce reliance on criminal justice.

We will be producing a number of conventional reports and briefings, as well as developing innovative communications outputs to equip a range of audiences with knowledge about criminal justice harms and alternative policy solutions.

Over the coming three years we also want to build strong, sustained and significant partnerships with a range of like-minded individuals and organisations committed to fostering lasting and long-term change. We want to be the place where the facts about the harms caused by the criminal justice process are discussed and alternatives developed.

We hope that we will have the opportunity to explore these important policy challenges with as many people as possible during the course of the next three years.

More information about our plans is available on the Justice Matters page, where you can also sign up for regular updates.