Updated Nov 2016
Crime & Justice
The public lack confidence in the criminal justice system because justice is delivered slowly, the system is remote from the communities where crime occurs, and victims are often treated as an afterthought. The system is insufficiently focused on preventing problems and improving lives.
The government should look again at every aspect of the justice system
Offenders serving short sentences for non-violent crimes should instead serve tough community based sentences. In this way they can give back to their community, and the money that would have been spent on sending them to prison can be spent on community services designed to tackle some of the root causes of criminal behaviour.
Devolving responsibility and funding for the management of lower level offenders could dramatically change the way we invest in prevention over punishment. At present, services likely to assist in prevention are funded locally whereas prisons are funded centrally. If we are to shift the balance from punishment to prevention, these budgets and services must be better aligned at a local level.
As the government are selling off the prison estate, there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink the way that prison works completely. In Scandinavia, they make much better use of smaller prisons, which are integrated with local job centres, education facilities and mental health services. This means that offenders can get their lives back on track, rather than being sent to large and distant prisons where they mix with harder criminals, reducing opportunities for rehabilitation.
If The UK were to follow the Scandinavian approach of building smaller prisons, this may address some of the key factors that lead to recidivism.
Restorative justice should be used to improve victims’ confidence in the justice system and reduce reoffending
Crime damages families, neighbourhoods and communities and fosters a sense of mistrust. Dealing with crime is central to social justice - victims of crime are more likely to be poor, and crime and anti-social behaviour is more likely to blight poorer areas.
Addressing the multiple relationships that are damaged by crime, offers a better chance of reducing offending and healing communities. Restorative justice (where an offender agrees direct reparation to victims through a mediated process) can restore the confidence of victims in the system. It can also give the offender a better sense of the damage they have done, which can reduce reoffending.
Victim empowerment is essential to any new approach to the justice system. Measures such as “crime tracker” apps, and setting up peer support networks help to ensure victims do not feel abandoned or side-lined by the justice system, and should be considered.