Quakers in Criminal Justice Conference 2023
Prejudice and Disadvantage – Groups Over-Represented in the Criminal Justice System
The conference was held on the 24th to the 26th of February at Hinsley Hall.
Making Sense of Sentencing: Doing Justice to Both Victim and Prisoner
The Right Reverend James Jones, former Bishop for Prisons
James chaired the Independent Commission into the Experience of Victims and Long-Term Prisoners. He asked whether prisons should be examined under the lens of greenhouses for restoring the redeemable OR as warehouses for storing the incorrigible.
His main message conveyed the five principles of sentencing which should be understood by all parties, namely:
- to punish the offender
- to protect the public and the offender from further harm
- to reduce crime
- to reform and rehabilitate the offender
- to permit reparations by the offender to those harmed
He stressed that the vulnerable need to be protected and alerted us to the massive increase in punitive sentencing: long sentences (10+ years) have nearly trebled in recent years. Life sentences have doubled in length from 9 years to 18 years. The unique feature of his report is that it is bi-focal – victims AND long-term prisoners.
In conclusion, a better use of public funds was preferable. We were asked to write to MPs asking them to contact the Lord Chancellor to ask whether he has considered the paper Making Sense of Sentencing and if so, requesting a response.
The Criminalisation of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Populations
Rachel Cooper of the support organisation Leeds GATE
Having filled us in on the origins of these groups, Rachel told us that most of this population came at the top of the lists no-one would want to be on: poor education, bad health, short lifespan, poverty etc.
The groups often faced forms of racial discrimination and this even continued when they stopped travelling. One of the positive things that Leeds GATE had helped develop was the establishment of a ‘negotiated stopping’ agreement for those on the road so that some stays were of a known limited duration. We looked at the legislation which is criminalising the people Rachel works with.
Learning from the Case of David Oluwale
We heard the unhappy story of David Oluwale, a British citizen born in Lagos, who was a resilient and enterprising man until he was incarcerated in prison and mental health institutions, and became homeless on release. Worst of all he had become the focus of persistent bullying by two police officers (who were eventually tried for manslaughter). The Remember Oluwale charity was dedicated to supporting minority groups especially within the Leeds area. There was a river bridge, a memorial garden and a blue plaque dedicated to his memory.
Download presentation (PDF)
QICJ: Where Are We Now
Mike Nellis, QICJ member
Mike is a strong promoter of the concept that prison does much damage and that we should work towards abolishing it. We were led through the development of abolitionist thought and presented with key turning points. Mike’s final words were “You can always find one small thing to do”.
Download presentation (PDF)
Workshops & Small Groups
Within the conference weekend we chose between three Workshops. One examined the problems of aging prisoners, one related to the Woodbrooke course ‘Quakers Considering Penal Abolition’ and the third, led by the West Yorkshire Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses. In this he explained what went behind the scenes in preparing cases and supporting witnesses.
Sue Barrance's article in the April newsletter and this report shed further light on the issues relating to older prisoners
We valued the small ‘home’ groups which enabled us to share our thoughts and feelings.