Events and Meetings, Police

The problem of criminal justice expansion

The Reclaim Justice Network steering group have spent part of the last few months writing and rewriting the first publication for the RJN project.  We are asking supporters of the network to comment on it.

The aim of the short pamphlet is to succinctly explain the who, what and whys of the network and to encourage those who read it to support the campaign.  We are hoping that the text we have ended up with does the trick but thought we should circulate it widely to make sure that everyone feels they have had sight of the next step we are taking.

The pamphlet is, of course, a work in progress but we would like to pin it down for wider distribution by the end of September. So let us know what you think by reading the pamphlet here. [THIS VERSION HAS NOW BEEN UPDATED AND THE NEW VERSION IS HERE: Reclaim Justice Pamphlet]

Neena Samota and Will McMahon


Updated: 08/10/13: Thanks to everyone for their comments. We have now updated the pamphlet and look forward to discussing action and campaigns at our meetings in October 2013.

9 thoughts on “The problem of criminal justice expansion”

  1. As a supporter/network member of Reclaim Justice, you invited me to comment on your new pamphlet which I am happy to do. I do not disagree with any of th arguments you make in the pamphlet and it is well written, clear, concise and eye-catching in its graphics. It does, however, strike me as overly “negative” or alarmist, using “deficit” language when a more “asset” based approach/language, I think, would be more inspiring and, dare I say, a fresher way of approaching the issues. It is this deficit approach in the CJS which has got us in such a mess. I’d love to see your documents/approach relfect the growing Good Lives Model/Positive Psychology thinking that is entering the CJS system bit by bit. Could not the language, tone and focus of CJN relfect this new ehtos in all and everything it says?

    I hope that helps.

  2. From Martin Wright:
    General comment: all good stuff, but focused on prevention. Social reform is all very necessary, but we need to answer the question What do we do when someone does commit a crime? We need to persuade people that the conventional logic ‘He broke the law so he should be punished’ needs to be replaced by the equally logical ‘He (or she. of course) harmed someone and should make up for it’ – and the rest of us have an obligation to help him or her to do so. This may include co-operating with programmes to help them turn their life round, to make up for earlier deprivation.

    The other big point is that sentencing, once it gets past the ‘custody threshold’, is nothing but an arbitrary scale trying to measure how bad the offence was, with no relevance to what’s needed to prevent the person from re-offending.

    Just to-day they want to ‘send a message’ condemning benefit fraud by increasing the maximum sentence to 10 years. We should challenge them to show any evidence that that will reduce this type of crime.
    By the way, what deprivation did white-collar criminals suffer? A lack of moral education, perhaps, plus a criminal subculture?.

  3. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for being able to support and contribute to an important movement like the Reclaim Justice network. Your work is SO necessary more than ever!!!

    To jump right into my feedback regarding the pamphlet — From a “design” point of view it surely is striking, due to the use of colour (contrasts and signal colours) and combined with the use of language it creates a sense of urgency which is what it´s (probably) intended to do. I agree with Simon though on the potentially debilitating effects this approach COULD have on a reader with less background knowledge. The first part of the pamphlet (describing the problem) fulfils its role very well, i.e. to create a sense of urgent need for action. What could be added to this list might be a bullet point entitled RESOURCES highlighting the draining / damaging economic effects the CJS has on the individual and society as a whole. Also its use as a strategic tool in a capitalist free market economy is worth mentioning to illustrate the substantial abuse of the CJS to achieve political and economical goals (e.g. privatisation, prisoner labour at minuscule wage et al.).
    I also agree with Simon in that the second part of the pamphlet could be more “hopeful” to counterbalance the first part. In my view it is crucial to point out that there already ARE positive alternatives and approaches in action and WORKING, and we want to create more of it. Currently there is only one sentence pointing toward these constructive, pro-active ways of doing things differently at the very end of the pamphlet. Maybe this could be amplified further by giving examples of alternatives like Restorative Justice and/or other approaches that truly operate outside of the criminal justice box? I think that it is important to make people aware not only that change is urgently needed, but also that they can be part of it, i.e. they have the power to constructively contribute to change. So it might be worthwhile to elaborate a bit more on collaboration and positive empowerment towards the end of the pamphlet? The biggest hurdle for civic action is the conviction of the individual that institutions (like the CJS) are too big, established and powerful to be challenged or changed. It´s therefore important to get the point across that it is about the collaborative creation of something else that will make this institution seem redundant in its disproportionate dimensions.

    Other than that I think your arguments are striking, and the Reclaim Justice Network´s goals and values have been laid out clear-cut and comprehensively.

  4. Thanks so much for producing this pamphlet. I agree with Simon about the emphasis on the negative in the second part and I think you should maintain clear, concise communication with straightforward messages.

  5. I think it is excellent but wondered if the comments about scope might even go as far as talking about stigmatisation and moralisation, which are clearly evident in recent welfare policies.

    My comments may be clouded by a letter I have just read from my children’s school threatening on-the-spot fines for unauthorised absence!

  6. Can I simply echo many of the sentiments outlined above that recognise the importance of enshrining in its mission statement! the enduring values of a more socially inclusive , humane and participatory justice system and commend the efforts of the steering group for advancing this project. I hope to be able to offer more time & energy towards the RJN ( domestic commitments permitting!) whilst doing my utmost as an active member of Napo to try to ensure that the wanton ideological dismantling of the Probation Service is resisted!


    Mike Guilfoyle

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