Quakers in Criminal Justice

Quakers in Criminal Justice Conference 2021
Finding Hope in Difficult Times

Held on the 27th of February via Zoom.

Encounters of BAME people with the Criminal Justice System and the ongoing failure to address the needs of women caught up in the system give cause for concern. Both issues were explored in morning sessions.

We also focused on worrying trends in government legislation. These are epitomised in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (which has now evolved from the White Paper in Melanie's presentation); it will enhance police powers and provide for yet more punitive sentencing.

More hope was to be found in the afternoon sessions, starting with the new arrangements for Probation, which builds its reforms around the three principles: Assess, Protect and Change.

This was followed by updates from two charities which are well known to Friends: Circles of Support & Accountability and the Alternatives to Violence Project.

Both sessions are written up in our Newsletter for Spring 2021. Detailed information is provided in the presentations below.

The Impact of Lockdown on Female Prisoner Well-Being – Polly Lowe

Polly has held many posts in the field of Education regularly concerned with disadvantaged and marginalised young people. She has published texts, including one relating to Adolescent Needs and the Curriculum. She was appointed by Privy Council to HM Inspectorate for Schools to secure access and inclusion for young people. Post Inspectorate she worked for the British Council in Palestine and Jordan and at the University of Guangdong. She worked on a voluntary management placement in Rwanda. She has volunteered with Women's Aid, the Court Support Service and was Quaker Chaplain at HMP Bristol where previously she was on the Independent Monitoring Board, a post she currently holds at HMP Eastwood Park.

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The Smarter Sentencing White Paper & Implications of Government Policy – Melanie Jameson

The White Paper is now the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Melanie has focused on spreading awareness of Dyslexia and related conditions throughout the justice/criminal system. Starting with judges, she has sought to embed guidance, provide training and produce resources across the CJS. She has sat on a number of government committees and provided consultancy to prison education services in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Her special interest is in prisons and she is part of a Quaker worshipping group in a high-security prison. She aims to keep abreast of developments in the CJS, and monitors government policy, providing input on neurodiversity where possible.

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Engaging With BAME Issues in the Criminal Justice System – Di Askwith

Di joined the Probation Service in 1982 and worked for 10 year in inner city Bristol, then moving to Somerset where she held posts of Assistant Chief, HM Inspector, then Probation Regional Manager for the South West. The role of deputy commissioner followed, then policy lead on women offenders at the Ministry of Justice. Di retired in 2011 and did some international consultancy work in Jamaica and Serbia. She has a commitment to justice – specially to race equality – and drafted guidance for the Independent Monitoring Board nationally on monitoring race equality.

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The Unification of Probation – Nigel Byford

Nigel Byford has worked within Probation for over 35 years following initial work with the voluntary sector and social services. His experience has included frontline and managerial experience in virtually all aspects of probation work including periods of secondment within the prison service. For the past 15 years he has been an Assistant Chief Probation Officer leading on public protection work for Probation in the West Midlands. He currently leads on public protection policy with specific responsibilities for MAPPA, extremism, safeguarding, victims and seconded probation staff in prisons.

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Circles of Support & Accountability – Jo Burden

Jo is professionally qualified as a Probation Officer, Social Worker (HCPC registered) and (JNC) Youth & Community Worker. DipSW qualified, she is a Master of Social Work, has an academic background in psychology. She has been a DfE ‘Business Advisor’ for Third Sector Organisations, and has led on contract development in a private prison. Since 2013, Jo has been the CEO of Circles South West. She joined the charity inspired by its mission to a) prevent sexual abuse by enabling local communities to support the safe integration of people who have harmed sexually, and b) to promote greater public understanding of community approaches to prevention, risk management and public protection. Research demonstrates that individuals who have a Circle have an 88% reduction in the risk of re-arrest for sexual offending (Duwe, 2018).

Her presentation combines an overview of how Circles have adjusted to working in the Pandemic and an update on new developments. It includes a short film about Circles South West's Young People's Service.

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Alternatives to Violence Project Update

Alternatives to Violence Project is a registered national charity, which helps people across society learn how to manage anger, handle conflict, and build better relationships with others.

Links and other resources shared during the conference

Unlock – Ban the Box

Independent Monitoring Boards reports

Dave – Black

The Secret Life of Prisons podcast

Locked up Living is a new and interesting podcast by two therapists who work in prisons

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race is a wonderful book to help white people to start looking at white fragility and white privilege

Mark Humphries mentioned the prison TV channel that he works for

Probation Target Operating Model

Jo Burden encourages us to get in touch direct if we would like any further information – new volunteers always welcome! Email Jo or visit Circles South West website