Making an impact

Richard Garside
Monday, 17 June 2013

At the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies we are widely respected for our varied and significant reports, events and initiatives. To name but a few recent examples include

  • The My Story project , which told the stories of traumatised young people found guilty of committing serious violent acts;
  • UK Justice Policy Review, an annual publication that tracks criminal justice and social welfare developments;
  • Our quarterly magazine, Criminal Justice Matters;
  • Our various events, including the annual Eve Saville lecture, with speakers such as Susie Orbach, Pat Carlen, David Nutt and Danny Dorling.

We are proud of this and the many other important pieces of work we have undertaken over recent years. We also think that if all we do is continue with a series of individual initiatives we will be missing an opportunity to maximise our impact.

We are therefore committing to a strategic three year initiative that will run from July 2013 to June 2016. This initiative will promote awareness of the social harm caused by the criminal justice process and identify real solutions to the harms caused by it as well as harms left by our over reliance on criminal justice responses.

What do we mean by social harm? We mean harms to people linked to the way society is organised. The death of an elderly person who dies peacefully after a life well-lived is an individual loss to those they leave behind. If they die from hypothemia because they can not afford to heat their home, that is a social harm. Since 2005 we have been working with activists and researchers developing this perspective on social harm. With this initiative we want to bring the social harm perspective to bear on the operations of the criminal justice system.

So what are we planning to do?

First of all, we want to collate and disseminate information about the harms of the criminal justice process. This includes:

  • harms caused directly by the criminal justice process, such as deaths in custody, police brutality or miscarriages of justice;
  • harms caused indirectly by the criminal justice process, such as unnecessary prosecutions or punishment;
  • harms that result from the structural position of criminal justice within society, a position that crowds out other more innovative, just and effective solutions.

But we don't just want to analyse and collate. We want to work with others to identify real solutions to the harms caused by the criminal justice process itself and the harms the criminal justice process regulates, but does not resolve. In short, we want to the place where the facts about the harms of criminal justice are discussed and solutions developed. We'll 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 harm and solutions to it.

To demonstrate our commitment to the project we are devoting a portion of our unrestricted income over the next three years to making this project happen. We also want to work with a growing network, nationally and internationally, of individuals and organisations committed to exploring the harms of criminal justice and developing real solution.