Finding social, not criminal justice, solutions to our problems

Richard Garside
Friday, 26 June 2020

At our final webinar on socially-distanced justice last week, Adam Elliott-Cooper of The Monitoring Group and the University of Greenwich spoke about the demands being made by the black lives matter protestors.

Contrary to some media portrayals, this is about far more than a mere demand "to remove some statues", he said. It is about "criminal justice reform and... on the more radical end... about what we might call 'defunding of the police'... premised on the idea that we can't solve our social problems through increasing the power of the police and prison system."

In place of extending the power of the police and prison system, he argued, what is needed is investment in community institutions such as youth clubs and mental health provision: services "that can help the most vulnerable people in our society before they come into contact with the criminal justice system."

You can watch Adam Elliott-Cooper's talk here.

Hot on the heels of our socially-distanced justice webinar series, we will be holding a webinar on Friday, 17 July on the prospects for short prison sentence reform in England and Wales.

Over 40,000 prison sentences for six months or less were handed out by the courts in England and Wales last year. Nearly 10,000 were handed out for prison sentences of one month or less. One recent example was Ken Marsh, given a two-week prison sentence earlier this month after urinating next to the memorial to PC Keith Palmer, the police officer stabbed to death in the 2017 attack in Westminster.

The pointlessness of jailing him for two weeks for his loutish behaviour was widely remarked upon, even if Mr Marsh's decision to attend the racist demonstration in central London that day made him a less than sympathetic figure.

Political support for the reform of short prison sentences in England and Wales has waned since last December's General Election. At the same time, the coronavirus crisis has placed a renewed focus on the large number of prisoners circulating in and out of the prison system: each one of them a potential infection carrier.

Now is therefore a good time to revisit the arguments for short prison sentence reform, and assess prospects and possibilities.

Find out more about the event, and book your place today.

Our latest coronavirus infographic offers an updated trend analysis on the number of positive tests in prisons among prisoners and staff. You can find it, and all our coronavirus infographics, here.

Next week, we will be publishing our latest annual report in the UK Justice Policy Review programme, covering criminal justice developments across the UK during the turbulent period between the summer of 2018 and the December 2019 General Election.