Thinking outside the criminal justice box

Richard Garside
Friday, 22 November 2013

It has been a busy month at the Centre as we continue to develop Justice Matters, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies' three year initiative to downsize criminal justice and rebuild inclusive policy and practice alternatives.

Justice Matters for women

In early 2014, under the auspices of the Justice Matters initiative, we will be launching a radical thought experiment, taking a system-wide look at women currently subject to criminal justice capture.

Rather than starting with their legal status as suspects, defendants or convictees, its starting point will be the experiences and aspirations of women who come into contact with criminal justice.

What would a holistic set of services to them look like? How would they differ from criminal justice responses? If we could think outside the criminal justice box, what kinds of policy and practice alternatives might be possible?

We are currently developing our plans for this initiative. If you would like to know more about them, or would like to contribute to their development, please do get in touch with the Justice Matters team.

Small changes

Last month we invited contributions to our website exploring how criminal justice might be downsized and policy and practice alternatives to it rebuilt.

Professor Kevin Haines and Dr Stephen Case took up the challenge, writing a piece on an innovative approach in Wales that treats young people in trouble with the law as "children first, offenders second". Much criminal justice diversion work, Kevin and Stephen write, 'has involved diverting young people to "alternatives" that remain in the Youth Justice System and/or that retain the flavour of criminal justice responses'. They continue:

'Whilst these various diversionary measures are often couched in a positive rhetoric... in practice they reinforce an offence and offender-based approach to interventions in the lives of children in conflict with the Law.'

Kevin and Stephen explain that the 'Swansea Bureau' approach diverts young people away from criminal justice, ensuring that they do not face prosecution or get a criminal record.

Earlier this month, Lord Adebowale, Chief Executive of Turning Point, called for an end to the use of police cells for those experiencing mental health related illnesses. Ed Davie, Chair of Lambeth Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee, wrote a piece for us describing the Council's recent work to develop 'better ways of preventing poor mental health, of enabling people to access services earlier and in the places and ways they feel comfortable and when they are in crisis of having a better experience of care'. This work has been developed against the background of recent deaths of mental health service users in police custody.

If you would like to write a piece for us highlighting an example of effective practice you can find out more on what we're looking for and how to submit a piece here.

It's good to talk

During the course of 2014 we will be organising a series of Justice Matters discussions: online and face-to-face. We will be publishing details of the first of these initiatives in December.

To receive Justice Matters updates click here.