Men are encouraged to give up shaving for the month of ‘Movember’ - to cultivate their facial fluff in a bid to raise awareness and money for the cause of testicular cancer. ‘Dry January’ is all about abstaining from booze for 31 days in what Alcohol Concern say is a bid to ‘start a new conversation about alcohol’. And let us not forget ‘Stoptober’ (October) – the month to give up smoking.
So why go through the hassle of giving up a daily habit that you might consider essential or enjoyable? For the charities involved it is not just about awareness raising but an opportunity to challenge the public to reconsider their behaviour and routines. Importantly it also allows people to reflect on those habits that may be doing more harm than good. While this is probably more relevant to alcohol and tobacco than facial hair, it can help create a realisation that we are not as dependent on our ‘vices’ as we may think.
In the office this week we were talking about the Justice Committee’s Inquiry on ‘Prisons, planning and policies’ in relation to our Justice Matters initiative to downsize criminal justice and identify radical alternatives. The government is keen to drive down spending in criminal justice through redeploying staff, outsourcing ‘offender management’, restricting legal aid and scaling back support services for people caught up in the criminal justice system.
Implied in the government’s programme is a downsizing of certain elements of the criminal justice system. So shouldn’t we be applauding them? It is by no means inevitable that 'cheaper' will result in smaller, nor will 'tougher' result in more effective policies in creating a safer society. What we are witnessing is a significant reorganisation of a criminal justice system that is becoming more controlling, more repressive and allowing less recourse to due process, support and ‘justice’ whether you are a witness, victim, accused or convicted of an offence. A mix of repressive control and abandonment seems to be on the menu.
What bit of criminal justice could you live without?
Over the coming weeks we want to challenge people to think about a criminal justice practice, policy or institution that they would want society to abolish or abstain from. It could be stop and search, drug arrests, the imprisonment of asylum seekers. It can be conventional, weird, wacky – the choice is up to you.
The challenge isn’t just about abolishing something. We are keen to build alternatives – so we want to encourage people to put forward ideas for something positive.
What would you abolish?
Why would you abolish it?
What positive may come from it – and what would you like to see instead?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Or tweet your suggestions via @crimeandjustice
Read the responses we have posted online
Criminal justice harsher and more punitive than ever (8 January, 2014)