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Director’s Update: January 2022

Dear Members,

Happy New Year! We had a busy end to 2021 and have lots of exciting plans for 2022 and beyond as we get ready to launch our new strategy in April. Here is my regular update outlining progress on our current Connecting for Change strategy:

A Restorative Criminal Justice System

The CJA has continued to work with Why me? and Baroness Molly Meacher to re-table an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill requiring the government to publish a national action plan for restorative justice and practices. Although the amendment was not supported by the government and subsequently withdrawn, members of the House of Lords from across political parties voiced strong support for the plan. We will continue to work with parliamentarians, the Victims’ Commissioner, PCCs and others to push for a national action plan which will provide much-needed strategic leadership on restorative justice.

Before Christmas the Ministry of Justice launched a consultation on plans for Victims’ Law. We are working with members to co-produce a response to this ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to improve outcomes, trust and confidence for all victims of crime. We continue to support the Victims’ Commissioner as part of a working group on restorative justice. As a result, we are working on a project with Victims First Northumbria to understand how equalities data about victims of crime is recorded and used by victims’ services, the police and Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).

A Fit for Purpose and Diverse Workforce

Our Change from Within report, launched in 2019, found that ‘including people with lived experience in decision-making spaces is an essential part of delivering a fit for purpose criminal justice system.’  We are therefore excited to launch our new leadership programme ELEVATE CJS (Elevating Lived Experience Leadership Advocacy Training and Expertise in the Criminal Justice System).

ELEVATE CJS is based on peer research carried out by our former Longford Intern. It was co-produced with our Lived Experience Expert Group and is inspired by global good practice. This programme will support people working in service delivery roles to progress to more senior roles and influence systemic change. It will also work with employers to help develop inclusive environments for lived experience leaders to thrive in the sector.

We are delighted to have been awarded funding by Trust for London and the Lloyds Bank Foundation for a London-based pilot. We are now recruiting for a Project Manager with lived experience of the criminal justice system to lead this work, and we encourage members to share this opportunity widely.

Our report on racial diversity in the criminal justice workforce is being completed by a race equality and employment expert and will be published shortly.

Effective Scrutiny and Accountability

The investigation by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the College of Policing into the use of section 60 and community scrutiny of stop and search, stemming from our recent super-complaint, is now underway and we have been working with the policing bodies to comment on their methodology. We have been calling for the Home Office to release the evaluation and Equality Impact Assessment for its section 60 pilot, but it has continued to refuse to publish it, despite our Freedom of Information request. We have now escalated the request further. We have also supported an amendment to the Police, Courts, Sentencing and Crime (PCSC) Bill to repeal section 60. Although the amendment was withdrawn, it helped to raise awareness of our concerns with peers. The refusal to publish the section 60 evaluation was mentioned in a House of Lords debate about new stop and search powers in the PCSC Bill, and an amendment we supported to introduce additional safeguards around the new powers was successful.

We published our second report on community scrutiny, this time focused on scrutiny of police custody. Our Just visiting? report looks at the effectiveness of independent custody visitors at monitoring race and gender equality and was developed through a partnership project with the Independent Custody Visiting Association (ICVA). The report makes wide ranging recommendations for ICVA, PCCs, HMIC and the Home Office. As a result of the project, ICVA has already launched a race action plan and the Association of PCCs has welcomed the report.

Our third report on community scrutiny, which focuses on community scrutiny in prisons and is being produced in partnership with the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), will be published shortly.

Positive Pathways from Prison Project: Employment and Families

We worked with over forty members to co-produce a briefing called Purpose and Connection ahead of the government’s Prisons White Paper, making recommendations about the future of prisons and resettlement support, focusing in particular on employment and family ties. Alongside other organisations, we called on the Ministry of Justice to consult on its plans. Since the publication of the Prisons White Paper which features a consultation questionnaire, we have been developing our response using our briefing, our work with the IMB and other recently published work.

Tackling Race Inequality

We are delighted to have received a grant from the Baring Foundation to recruit an Equalities Policy Officer. The Equalities Policy Officer will work on a specific 12-month project using legal action and advocacy to tackle race inequality in the criminal justice system. The project will equip criminal justice civil society organisations with the expertise to identify and challenge racially discriminatory policies through an advocacy toolkit; inform officials in criminal justice agencies how to improve Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) through specialist guidance; and challenge the government where we believe the Public Sector Equality Duty has not been adhered to.

CJA Awards 2021

The CJA Awards continue to go from strength to strength. This year’s CJA Awards introduced two new awards in memory of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt,  celebrating the success of individuals who are doing outstanding work to support victims of crime or improving outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the criminal justice system. It was a wonderful evening celebrating excellence across the sector. We also celebrated constructive and solutions-focused journalism with our Media Awards, which continue to grow in profile. The shortlists for the Media Awards featured reporters from Channel 4, BBC, The Sunday Times, The i Paper, Huffington Post and the Guardian. Congratulations to all the winners and runners up and thank you to our wonderful host Donna Murray-Turner.

Good criminal justice reporting

We recently published a new briefing, Behind closed doors, which explores how journalists can better shine a light on criminal justice issues. Following our Media Awards, we held an event to launch the report with journalists, CJA members and guests from our Erasmus Exchange Project. The report was also the subject of a podcast featuring our Communications Officer, an expert on solutions-focused journalism and a journalist at the Evening Standard. We look forward to taking this work forward in our new strategy with the aim of changing the narrative on criminal justice for a more informed public.

Erasmus Knowledge Exchange Project

In November we hosted visitors from Slovakia, Czech Republic and the Netherlands for three days of discussions about systemic change. We hosted a film screening and conversation about lived experience leadership; a session on framing criminal justice communications; an event on the role of alliances in the criminal justice sector; a dinner at The Social Pantry to learn more about its work supporting people leaving prison into employment, in partnership with Switchback; and a visit to the Koestler Arts annual exhibition. The CJA team is looking forward to learning more about achieving systemic change in criminal justice with visits to Slovakia and the Netherlands in coming months.

Evaluation and strategy development

We will shortly be publishing our external evaluation. We are using this evaluation, along with feedback from our member survey and member roundtable events, to finalise our new strategy which will begin in April. Thank you to everyone who was interviewed by the evaluator, completed the survey and came along to the roundtable events. We have had some real successes over the past three years, as well as lots of learning along the way. We are excited to move into a new strategic phase, building on the foundations we have set and growing our team and impact to achieve a safe, smart, person-centred, restorative and trusted criminal justice system.

If you have any questions about the CJA’s work or would like to get involved in one of our expert groups, please do contact me on nina.champion@criminaljusticealliance.org.uk. Why not find out more about CJA membership and apply to become a member?