Quakers in Criminal Justice

December 2011 Newsletter


I must start this issue by commenting on the riots that erupted in many towns in August. I was as shocked as anyone else by the scale of the destruction and the speed with which it spread, but I cannot say I was surprised. I meet too many people who have no stake in the society round them, and no sense of allegiance to it. They are not merely poor, they are lacking any sense of being able to better themselves by their own effort. I note that 42% of those who came before the courts in the aftermath of the riots were people who had received free school dinners, and in Manchester, 80% of those charged already had criminal records. Meanwhile, millionaires in the Cabinet, and the twelve billionaires known to live in Britain, give the lie to the argument that “it is too expensive to provide jobs for the unemployed”. It would be perfectly possible to create jobs that need doing – not just boondoggling – if a sufficiently radical tax scheme could be introduced, bearing more heavily on those well able to pay.

Thirty years ago, during a spell of unemployment, I took a temporary job as a census enumerator. After the month's work I was paid the standard fee for the job. But when I went back on to benefit, the Department of Employment stopped my benefit for an equivalent amount, saying I “could afford to live without it”. So I had effectively done the census work for nothing. This is the kind of procedure that breeds criticism and attempts to outwit the regulations. I suggest that the likes of millionaires can afford to live without it, and until they are prepared to do so, they will have no street cred with the rest of us – the 99% now vocal on the steps of St Paul's and in many other places round the world. Societies get the crimes they deserve.

QICJ members are reminded in this issue to renew their subscriptions. A simpler procedure has been introduced for booking for the annual conference, in view of pressure on the number of places available at Ammerdown. Corporate members are free to nominate anyone from their Meeting to attend the conference.

Adrian Smith
Newsletter editor

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