‘You are what you read’

Nina Champion, CJA Director

For those of you looking for an addition to your summer reading list, I have a strong recommendation – ‘You are what you read’ by Jodie Jackson.[i] Jackson, a partner at the Constructive Journalism Project[ii] and one of this year’s CJA Media Awards judges, has spent the last decade researching the psychological impact of the news, finding a negativity bias in reporting that leads to a sense of ‘crisis’ and lack of hope amongst readers. (more…)

It’s time to #OPENUP women’s futures

Claire Cain, Campaigns and Public Affairs Manager at Women in Prison

On Wednesday 26th June women affected by the criminal justice system, staff and volunteers from Women’s Centres, support services, and other supporters will join together to meet with MPs in Parliament and call on them to #OPENUP Women’s Futures. (more…)

Why removing reasonable grounds for stop & search is not the answer

Nina Champion, CJA Director

We are all horrified by the now frequent news of tragic deaths from stabbings. Demands for an urgent response to ‘do something’ are understandable. But we must avoid unevidenced knee-jerk reactions that can actually do more harm than good by further damaging the trust and confidence of BAME communities in the police and criminal justice system. (more…)

Legal aid for inquests: Now or never!

Rebecca Roberts, Head of Policy at INQUEST

Whether it is the death of a child in a mental health setting, a prisoner who has taken their life, or a death as a result of neglectful state services, families need answers and assurances that everything is being done to stop similar deaths in the future. (more…)

New prison education contracts create challenges and opportunities

Francesca Cooney, Head of Policy at Prisoners' Education Trust

In April, we’ll see the biggest changes in prison education for many years.  As with all major change, this brings risks and challenges, but it also brings a real opportunity to make prison education more relevant, more effectively coordinated and more flexible. (more…)

EQUAL – Action for Race Equality in the Criminal Justice System

Nina Champion, CJA Director

This week I was honoured to speak at the launch of EQUAL, which is taking forward the recommendations of the Young and Lammy Reviews to tackle inequalities for BAME and Muslim communities across the criminal justice system. I talked about the CJA’s work in this area including on stop and search and emphasised that our new strategy, to be launched next year, has race equality as a vital golden thread. (more…)

Happy #RJWeek2018 from the CJA

Peter Keeling, CJA Policy Officer

Restorative Justice Week has been a catalyst for a welcome flurry of awareness-raising activities across the country as Police & Crime Commissioners, the Victims Commissioner, CJA members including Restorative Justice Council, Restorative Solutions, Catch 22, Wales Restorative Approaches Partnership and many others celebrate the transformative power of restorative justice and restorative practices more widely. Cleveland PCC have used the opportunity to launch a new RJ service and our member Victims First Northumbria have published a new magazine on RJ – Restorative Round Up. (more…)

Black people over 9 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched

Peter Keeling, CJA Policy Officer

The Home Office released statistics yesterday on the use of stop and search for the year ending 31 March 2018. While stop and search fell to a historic low of 280,000 in 2017/18 the recent trend in declining use is slowing and in some areas has reversed. And while its overall use has slightly declined, this decrease has disproportionately favoured white people. Stops of white people fell by 13 per cent from the previous but stops of black, Asian and minority ethnic people fell by just one per cent. This means that a BAME person is now four times as likely to stopped and searched as a white person. Black people, in particular, are now 9.5 times more likely to be searched than white people. (more…)

Stop and Scrutinise

Nina Champion, CJA Director

Six weeks into my new role and I am enjoying re-familiarising myself with parts of the criminal justice system outside of prisons.  Last week I attended a meeting in Croydon organised by two local community organisations, Croydon Community Leaders and Another Night of Sisterhood (ANOS), together with officers from Croydon Metropolitan Police. The room was packed with members of the community, including many children and young people, who had come to discuss stop and search. (more…)

CJA Award winner DIVERT goes from strength to strength

Inspector Jack Rowlands

When the Criminal Justice Alliance awarded DIVERT Outstanding Organisation in 2017 we were both surprised and proud that our work was recognised as a programme that works. But the best part about being shortlisted was the awards evening – it’s always a real pleasure to meet so many new people working within criminal justice who are finding new ways of helping people change direction. (more…)

Prison reform must go hand in hand with reducing the population

Nina Champion, Director of the Criminal Justice Alliance

As made clear by the Justice Secretary in today’s speech, the problems in our prisons need urgent attention. They are increasingly unsafe places to live and work. With record levels of self-harm and violence, it is unfortunately not surprising that 1244 prison officers – one in 16 – resigned over the last year.  And for the prisoners who live there, there is no choice but to endure these increasingly dangerous conditions.   (more…)

Pathways to employment – what works?

Steve Freer, CEO and Founder of Tempus Novo

CJA member Tempus Novo was founded in 2014 by two serving Senior Prison Officers at HMP Leeds.  Tempus Novo operates within prisons to identify offenders committed to transforming their live and help them to gain employment after release through mentorship and support for a minimum of 6 months. One of the Founders, Steve Freer, shares his thoughts with the CJA on the recent Education and Employment strategy announced by the Government: (more…)

Encouraging diversity in stop and search scrutiny panels: Hertfordshire’s journey

Lydia Massey, Community Safety Policy and Project Officer at OPCC for Hertfordshire

In August 2014, Hertfordshire Constabulary signed up to the Best Use of Stop Search Scheme to ensure better scrutiny of stop and search. Following this, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) introduced an independent county-wide scrutiny Panel in 2015 made up of volunteers who live, work or study in Hertfordshire. (more…)

Should universities ask about applicants’ criminal records?

Christopher Stacey, Co-Director of Unlock

For the past two decades, access to higher education in the UK for people with a criminal record has been perceived as very difficult, deterring many people from even applying. Last week, UCAS took a significant step forward by removing the requirement for applicants to declare relevant unspent convictions when applying to university. The higher education sector now has a unique opportunity to question whether criminal records should feature at all in admissions. (more…)

Durham and Cleveland buck the national trend on restorative justice

Peter Keeling, Policy Officer at the Criminal Justice Alliance

Victims’ experiences of the criminal justice system are often confusing and alienating. While victims play a crucial role, both in terms of reporting a crime and then providing evidence, the criminal justice process is too often an unsatisfactory vehicle for providing healing and closure to the harm created by a crime. (more…)

Message to CJA Members from our new Director

Nina Champion, CJA Director designate

I'm really honoured and excited to be becoming the new Director of the Criminal Justice Alliance. I know I have some big shoes to fill, particularly around the recent growth of the membership. (more…)

Short prison sentences are Short-Sighted

Burcu Borysik, Policy Manager at Revolving Doors Agency

At Revolving Doors, we’re proud to bring together policy, research and lived experience to support solutions for people who are caught in the revolving door of crisis and crime. In shaping our strategy, people who have been through (and often failed by) the criminal justice system told us we need ‘to improve sentencing to support both reduced offending and better outcomes for people in the revolving door of crisis and crime’. (more…)

Knife crime and stop and search – missing the point?

Katherine Copperthwaite, Policy Officer at the CJA

The recent rise in knife crime has led to wide public debate about how best to tackle the issue. Stop and search is once again in the limelight. Critics of the recent reduction in stop and search (from well over a million to 300,000 searches per year) claim it has contributed to the increase in knife crime.  (more…)

Changing someone’s life story

Mentoring Project Manager HMP Wandsworth at Trailblazers

‘Coming to HMP Wandsworth was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I’ve never had so much support before. Things never used to get done. Now I’m walking out feeling like I am not coming back to jail.’ (more…)

Four decades of capturing hearts and minds with theatre

Lucy Perman, Chief Executive at Clean Break

I was thrilled to receive the Criminal Justice Alliance’s Lifetime Achievement Award last November. I’ve led Clean Break for 20 years and when I accepted the Award I acknowledged that, for many of us, working together to transform the criminal justice sector is a lifetime’s work and something we’re hugely passionate about. (more…)

Violence needs a public health approach

John Poyton, CEO at Redthread

ONS data released last week showed violent crime across England and Wales had risen again, with knife crime and gun crime both up by 20 per cent. The tragic loss of four young lives on New Year’s Eve in London has led to an urgent call from politicians, community groups, the police and young people themselves for the UK to adopt a ‘public health approach’ to violence. (more…)

It’s relationships built over time that help people turn their lives around

Sam Boyd, Policy & Impact Manager at Switchback

After 36 months in prison, 24-year old George was released three days before Christmas with nowhere to live. His probation officer advised that the local council would be able to find him accommodation, but on arrival at the council office it was closed for the holidays. With the support of the Switchback Mentor he had met in prison, George found accommodation in a B&B for a few nights. (more…)

Too many innocent children become victims themselves

Edward Lowe, Policy & Communications Coordinator at Commonweal Housing

It is a sad and unjust fact that across England and Wales many innocent children become victims of the criminal justice system. Some 17,000 children a year are separated by their mothers’ imprisonment. Shockingly, only five per cent will remain in their family home during that imprisonment. (more…)

Is Universal Credit a danger to people with substance misuse problems?

Steve Moffatt, Public Policy Officer at Addaction

Universal Credit (UC) has been in the news continuously in recent months as parties debate the claimed benefits it brings and hardships it causes. UC does offer some possible benefits to people in drug/alcohol treatment, particularly by incentivising individuals to move into work. But there are serious concerns about its potentially negative impact on those individuals’ recovery and general wellbeing. (more…)

Restorative justice is a good thing, but not enough people know about it

Peter Keeling, Policy Officer at the CJA

Restorative justice (RJ) is a voluntary process that brings together victims and offenders to better help repair the harm caused by a crime. It's has been proven to increase victims’ satisfaction with the criminal justice system, reduce their anxiety and fear, and - moreover - increase the likelihood of restitution and apologies from offenders. (more…)

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…)