Cutting crime: The case for justice reinvestment
The British House of Common Justice Committee has recently released a report on the reinvestment of justice resources aimed at reducing crime. The following is excerpted from the Executive Summary:
We decided to undertake an inquiry into “justice reinvestment”, because of three linked issues.
First, the criminal justice system is a complex network of agencies with substantial public funding operating under increasing pressure but the different parts of the system do not seem to be pursuing the same goals or making cogent contributions to an agreed overarching purpose.
Secondly, the Government’s main answer to the current overcrowding of prisons and the predicted rise in the prison population—already at a record high—is to provide more prison places rather than to seek to address the root causes of this seemingly incessant growth. These causes include: a toxic cocktail of sensationalised or inaccurate reporting of difficult cases by the media; relatively punitive overall public opinion (compared to much of the EU); a self-defeating over-politicisation of criminal justice policy since the late 1980s and the responsiveness to all these factors of the sentencing framework and sentencers.
Thirdly, it is clear that authorities and agencies outside the criminal justice system—with relevant objectives, remits and funding—could take more effective action to reduce both the number of people entering the criminal justice system in the first place and the likelihood of re-entry after serving a sentence.
So questions arise as to whether the existing allocation of attention, energy and funding is the right one. “Justice reinvestment” approaches—which channel resources on a geographically-targeted basis to reduce the crimes which bring people into the criminal justice system and into prison in particular—offer potential solutions to these challenges.
The need for a new kind of justice in youth crime
As the two leading providers of restorative justice for youth in Sonoma County — Restorative Resources and RECOURSE Mediation Services — we know what works when dealing with youthful offenders, and why. The restorative justice practices used by our non-profit agencies are firmly focused on repairing harm done to people and relationships, rather than imposing a punishment disconnected from the needs of those harmed. Restorative justice gives victims a voice in how they want things to be “made right.”
The evidence shows that in communities, including school communities, restorative practices build social capital and achieve social discipline through participatory learning and decision-making. When there is wrongdoing, everyone affected by the behavior gets to play an active role in addressing the wrong and making things right. This goes far beyond punishment; it makes real, positive change possible.
Platforms for a restorative society in Northern Ireland
Reconciliation has been an important concept in building relationships and structures in Northern Ireland that lessen the harm done to people in the midst of conflict. It is also an important concept in the language of Track One, Two and Three conflict transformation strategies.
Central to reconciliation is the promotion of right relationships and the securing of agreements and structural arrangements that build a new acknowledgement and respect between those seen as ‘different others’. Such work seeks to right previous imbalances and wrongs. Important elements of that agenda in Northern Ireland include the drive for legal remedies and new laws on equality, good relations, human rights, harassment and hate crime, and the exploration of how the past is acknowledged and how victims are respected and remembered.
As a transcending idea, reconciliation continually challenges current ways of living with different and previously estranged others. However, it is a concept that many men and women have difficulty applying to their own actions. There is a tendency to see it as an activity for others in important positions, rather than as something all citizens must contribute to as part of their daily endeavours.
Revise laws to lower prison costs, keep everyone safer
Michigan has more than an economic crisis -- we have a crime crisis, too. And we won't be able to solve the overall budget shortfall without making significant cuts in the corrections budget. Our current criminal justice system is costing us over a billion dollars a year, far more than our neighboring states are spending. Yet despite this huge expense for corrections, our communities are still plagued by crime.
Here are a few troubling facts:
- Michigan's violent crime rate is higher than all other states in the Great Lakes region.
- Corrections is the third most expensive item in Michigan's budget, with only health care and education costing more.
- The Michigan Department of Corrections employs one out of every three state workers....
But we have good news....
"Building Social Support for Restorative Justice" has a survey for you to fill out
from the European Forum on Restorative Justice's Newsflash:One of the projects the European Forum for Restorative Justice is currently engaged in is "Building Social Support for Restorative Justice". Having worked on the project for some months, and having successfully run the June Seminar for the mentioned project, we are now at the point of kindly requesting input in relation to the 3 main questions addressed in the research project:
Overcoming speechlessness: A poet encounters "the horror" in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel
from Alice Walker's Blog:
In this essay, Poet Alice Walker writes of encountering "the horror" (as in Joseph Conrad's novel, 'The Heart of Darkness') in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel and finding her voice again after a period of speechlessness. Part of what has happened to human beings, she believes, is that we have, over the last century, witnessed cruel and unusually barbaric behavior that was so horrifying it literally left us speechless. We had no words to describe it even when we viewed it; nor could we easily believe human beings could fall to such levels of degradation; we have been deeply frightened. This self-imposed silence has slowed our response to the plight of those who most need us, often women and children but also men of conscience who resist evil but are outnumbered by those around them who have fallen victim to a belief in weapons, male or ethnic dominance, greed and drugs.
A comment on Do Better Do Less: The report of the Commission on English Prisons Today
by Martin Wright
The Commission on English Prisons Today is an independent commission set up in 2007 by the Howard League for Penal Reform. Its 77-page report details the growth in prison population in the UK, accompanied by a rise in the reconviction rate, and aggravated by 49 ‘law-and-order’ laws between 1980 and 2009. By contrast England in 1908-39, and Finland in 1960-2000, have shown that imprisonment can be deliberately reduced with no effect on the crime rate. Scotland is planning to do likewise.
Advocating for restorative justice before a legislative body: How to make the case
By Lisa Rea
I testified before the California Senate Public Safety Committee on June 16 in support of AB 114 (Carter), legislation which provides for restorative justice for nonviolent juvenile offenders. Crime victim Russ Turner also joined me during the hearing and added his own perspective on the legislation.
Russ talked about the loss of his son, Jeremy, who was killed instantly by a young man, 22 years old, who was driving while intoxicated (alcohol, and drugs). Rarely do public officials hear from victim survivors who support restorative justice but they should. The number of victims of crime who support restorative justice is growing throughout the U.S. and abroad. For law makers to hear directly from these victims is very important when making the case for restorative justice.