Director’s update: Keeping up the pressure on policy makers

Nina Champion, Director - 12 November 2020

Dear Members, 

As this challenging year continues, we have been working hard to keep up the pressure on policy makers. Our two reportsRoutes to Recovery and Responding Restoratively to COVID-19, highlighted the tenacity and creativity of our members throughout the pandemic, along with their recommendations for recovery in the short and longer term. The recently announced shortlists of the CJA Awards and Media Awards feature shining examples of individuals and organisations going the extra mile, overcoming hurdles and achieving systemic change. I look forward to seeing many of you at our online award ceremony later this month. 

Here is my regular update, outlining progress on our ‘Connecting for Change’ strategy: 

Responding to the COVID-19 outbreak 

Following the launch of our two reportswhich members contributed to via virtual cuppa meetings and expert groups, we have disseminated the recommendations to key policy makers and stakeholders. HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) is using the reports to learn lessons from the first wave of the pandemic. CEO Jo Farrar wrote: ‘I really value the insights and challenge provided by the Criminal Justice Alliance, and your member organisations, at all times but especially in the context of COVID-19. HMPPS will be responding in full to the recommendations. I have since been in contact with Gill Attrill, the Deputy Director for HMPPS Insights, and we are planning an event for CJA members to talk directly to her in December. 

Effective Scrutiny and Accountability 

We were delighted that the College of Policing published updated guidance on community scrutiny of stop and search, drawing heavily on the principles and recommendations in our Stop & Scrutinise reportWe are now looking at ways to ensure this is embedded fully in practice.  

Members of our Stop and Search Expert Group contributed their views on the concerning Home Office proposals to introduce Serious Violence Reduction Orders. We also held a valuable focus group with young people from Voyage Youth Advisory Board to inform our consultation response. We have been working with a PhD candidate who has helped us to analyse our Freedom of Information requests relating to section 60 suspicion-less searches. Our Policy Officer, Amal Ali, will be producing a briefing on the issue shortly and has also contributed to JUSTICE’s working party on policing of children. 

Our work with the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA) and the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMB) is off to a great start. We have had regular steering group meetings for these projects, which focus on improving the monitoring of equality issues in police and prison custody, with a focus on race and gender, as well as improving the diversity of volunteers involved in monitoring. Following my paper to the ministerial Advisory Board for Female Offenders (ABFO), there have been a number of positive initiatives proposed by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to look at the specific needs of black, Asian and minority ethnic women and foreign national women. I also highlighted the need to focus attention on this group of women at recent roundtables with the shadow justice team.  

We held a meeting with our Scrutiny Expert Group, which fed into our response to the MoJ consultation on Strengthening the Independent Scrutiny Bodies through Legislation. We called for greater independence, increased resources and stronger teeth for scrutiny bodies to improve outcomes for people in the criminal justice system. We also raised our concerns at the lack of community scrutiny for probation services and courts. I am also pleased to have been invited to sit on the Advisory Panel for Dr Tomczak’s research project on participatory prison regulation.   

A Restorative Criminal Justice System 

Further to our response to the Victims’ Code consultation, we have been involved in discussions with officials about rewording aspects that we had raised concerns about. We were able to work with our Restorative Expert Group to comment on an updated draft of the Victims’ Code and are hopeful the final version will take our views into account on issues such as Restorative Justice and equality of access to services for victims from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.  We are planning to promote our Responding Restoratively to COVID-19 report during #RJWeek (15-21 November 2020) and we are continuing to work on the second report in our Responding Restoratively series, which will focus on dismantling the schooltoprison pipeline.   

A Fit for Purpose and Diverse Workforce 

Following our event and roundtables in June, we are busy writing up a final report on improving racial diversity in the criminal justice workforce, focusing on recruitment, retention, progression and impact. We look forward to publishing this in due course.  

Following our Change from Within report, published one year ago, I continue to work with the HMPPS Service User Advisory Group sub-group on employmentWe have been delighted to see recent opportunities for people with lived experience to work in the sector, including for HMPPSthe Prison and Probation Ombudsman and HM Inspectorates. 

I have also met with the MoJ senior civil service recruitment team and the Probation Workforce Strategy team to discuss recruiting more people with lived experience and from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. The Probation Workforce strategy team will attend our next Lived Experience Expert Group meeting to update on progress and gain further insights as the transition to a renationalised probation service takes place.  

CJA Awards 

Thanks to the generous support of the Hadley Trust, we will be holding a special online ceremony to announce the winners of the CJA Awards 2020 on 26 November, from 7pm to 9pm. We received lots of inspiring, high-quality nominations, in particular for our new Outstanding Local or Regional Organisation category. We are thrilled that Junior Smart, Founder of the St Giles SOS Project, will be presenting the awards, and we will have performances from Unchained Poetry. We hope you will join us in celebrating and recognising the creativity and tenacity of the sector, as well as some outstanding journalism and digital media which is helping to improve understanding and change the narrative on criminal justice in the public domain. 

Communications 

We continue to increase our output on social media and feature members in our #MeetTheMember blog. We are working hard on our new website, which will be launched in the new year. We have met with our research-focused members and will shortly launch a monthly research bulletin, in addition to our member and policy focused bulletins.  

New Chair, new Trustee and new members 

We are delighted to welcome four new CJA members: Birth Companions, Just For Kids Law, Appeal and Children Heard and Seen. I am also excited to welcome our new Chair Kevin Wong from the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit and our new trustee Kimberley Lamb from the Bedfordshire Violence Reduction Unit.  

Evaluation and Trusted Charity status 

Kathleen Christie has been conducting stakeholder interviews as part of the independent evaluation of the CJA that we have commissioned. We have also started reviewing our governance, policies, procedures and ways of working, to work towards being accredited as an NCVO Trusted Charity in 2021. 

If you have any questions about the CJA’s work, or want to get involved with our expert groups, please do contact me onnina.champion@criminaljusticealliance.org.uk.