Online conviction is a step too far in modernising our courts

Malcolm Richardson, retiring chairman of the Magistrate Association

As I step down from the Magistrates Association after 20 years in national leadership roles, I leave the Association in good health, with a committed and dynamic staff team and an ambitious programme of policy work. (more…)

Disturbing trends in stop and search

Peter Keeling, Policy Officer at the CJA

Home Office statistics just published for 2016-17 show that black, Asian and minority ethnic people are now nearly four times as likely as white people to be stopped and searched in England and Wales, up from three times as likely a year earlier. Black people in particular are now over eight times as likely to searched, up from six times. So while the overall number of searches continues to fall (down 21 per cent to 300,000 searches annually) this fall has disproportionately favoured white people, a trend that started two years ago. (more…)

Lammy Review is a wake up call for the youth justice system

Mark Blake, Project Development Officer at BTEG

This week's launch of the Government’s Race Disparity Audit coincided with the Ministry of Justice adopting a number of key recommendations from the recent Lammy Review. These included Lammy’s key principle of `explain or change’, rightly demanding that criminal justice agencies should in future either explain racial disproportionality or reform to address it. (more…)

Being in prison can be a preferable alternative to daily danger

Hazel Renouf, Griffins Society Research Fellow

Street sex working women occupy a marginalised position within society. Levels of homelessness and substance misuse are high and contact with the criminal justice system, including periods of imprisonment, are common. As a front-line practitioner, I’ve learnt that for this group, leaving prison is particularly challenging given the complexity of their needs. (more…)

Support for Young People Affected by Crime

Chloe Purcell, Director of SAFE!

Last year SAFE! - Support for Young People Affected by Crime - came second in the Criminal Justice Alliance Awards as Organisation of the Year. We won £2,000. The year leading up to winning our Award had seen us grow significantly, extending our services for young victims beyond Oxfordshire and into Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes and increasing our staff team from two to nine. (more…)

No respect – stop and search remains as corrosive as ever

Ben Summerskill, Director at the Criminal Justice Alliance

Almost exactly 30 years after the Brixton riots, history repeated itself in the summer of 2011 in cities across Britain. Once again, just as Lord Scarman had identified in the 1980s, one accelerant to that unrest was a perception among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) young people that they were being unfairly treated by police forces using stop and search. (more…)

Tackling Discrimination in Prison: still not a fair response

Khatuna Tsintsadze, Prison Programme Director at the Zahid Mubarek Trust

In 2008 NOMS conducted a comprehensive review into race equality in prisons. Since then, sadly, little has improved in the way the prison service handles complaints of racism and discrimination. Constant priority shifts under different Justice Secretaries and the introduction of the Equality Act 2010 have seriously impacted how race equality is viewed and delivered in prisons too. (more…)

Too many women at double disadvantage

Katharine Sacks-Jones, Director at Agenda

Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women in the criminal justice system are a minority within a minority, so highlighting their needs can be particularly challenging. Agenda’s new report Double Disadvantage, conducted with Women in Prison, shows powerfully why it’s so important to listen to them. (more…)

Time for everyone to back drug policy reform

Danny Kushlick, founder and Head of External Affairs at Transform Drug Policy Foundation

In a June 2014 open letter to David Cameron, more than 80 campaigners urged the prime minister to launch a review of Britain's drug policy. Amongst the organisations that signed it were the National Black Police Officers Association, the Prison Governors Association, Drugscope, the Howard League, Inquest and Reprieve. (more…)

Building trust among BAME people in the criminal justice system

Phil Bowen, Director at the Centre for Justice Innovation

‘My mistrust started with the police. I didn’t trust anyone. As for judges and magistrates, they were the last people I trusted - elderly, white English people and that’s not what I see in society outside.’ At 18, Suleman was sentenced to two years in prison. His story is not unique. In the CJI’s latest report, Building Trust, we outline the troubling racial disparities encountered by minority ethnic defendants in criminal court. (more…)

RJ – What’s not costed will never be paid for

Ben Summerskill, Director at the Criminal Justice Alliance

Something that's struck me in the two years that I've been lucky enough to work for the CJA is how often people delivering across the criminal justice pathway are resigned to a quiet desperation that things never change. I've never accepted that myself because I believe strongly that things don't change. People change things. However, sometimes in order to change things they need the right tools. (more…)

In 2016, Christmas came early …

Sharon Berry, Director at Storybook Dads

Just before Christmas, our charity was named Organisation of the Year at the 2016 CJA Awards. Storybook Dads lets dads, and mums, in prison record stories which can be played to their children. (more…)

On the stopping train to prison reform

Ben Summerskill, Director at the Criminal Justice Alliance

After 14 months of enthralling high-wire performances by an all-singing all-dancing Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss’s tenure in the role has thus far seemed to many to be muted in comparison. She evidently lacks her predecessor’s sense of absolute certainty about what should be done. (However absolute certainty, as any student of Chris Grayling’s stewardship of the role will note, does not always guarantee better outcomes.) (more…)

Involving young people is essential for the future of the youth justice system

Pippa Goodfellow, Policy Programmes Manager at Nacro

Nacro’s Beyond Youth Custody (BYC) programme aims to help young people turn around their lives by ensuring the right resettlement services are in place for them in custody through to the community. A fundamental principle underpinning our approach is the importance of giving young people with lived experience a voice – because nobody understands the challenges better. (more…)

Change is within our grasp

John Samuels, retiring Chair of the CJA

My involvement with the Criminal Justice Alliance began by a series of happy accidents. By chance I attended its 2007 launch and there I met Nick Herbert MP, a fellow believer in criminal justice reform. Later I began to attend members meetings on behalf of the Prisoners Education Trust and, because I believed in what the Alliance could achieve, I joined its Board in 2010. (more…)

The hidden victims of home raids

Katherine Copperthwaite, Children and Young People’s Advocate at Prison Advice & Care Trust

It’s well-documented that children with a family member in prison are significantly more likely to experience poverty, homelessness and educational issues. They are twice as likely to experience mental health problems and statistics also show that 65 per cent of boys with a convicted father will go on to offend themselves. It is therefore essential to ensure these children and young people are supported and do not turn to criminal behaviour themselves. (more…)

Seek out uncongenial company in 2017

Ben Summerskill, Director at the Criminal Justice Alliance

The painfully predictable riots at HMP Birmingham just before Christmas caused one prison reformer to share with Twitter the firm view that ‘everyone’ knows we need to reduce the population of Britain’s overcrowded prisons. It was a guileless insight into a worldview that made me sit up. (more…)

Is stop-and-search really ’intelligence-led’?

Peter Keeling, Policy & Member Support Officer at the Criminal Justice Alliance

Police in England and Wales conducted 386,000 stop-and-searches in 2015/16, a drop of over 60 per cent from the all-time high of 1.2 million in 2010/11. Drug searches account for more than three in five of all searches. And nearly 40,000 searches for a firearm or offensive weapon were conducted. (more…)

Into the blinding light

Paula Harriott, Head of Involvement at Revolving Doors Agency

When I speak about user involvement it's not only as Head of Involvement at Revolving Doors and previously at User Voice, but also as a former prisoner. I do so to illustrate how important service user involvement can be in bringing the hidden lived experience of criminal justice from the murky margins of stigma and shame into the blinding light. (more…)