For the past 4 years, The Monument Fellowship, a group of criminal justice organisations, funded through the legacy grants of the Monument Trust, has compiled and curated an annual book on a key topic for the criminal justice system. Each year a different question is posed to all those living and working within the criminal justice system and the responses brought together in an edited collection that highlights the work of small organisations like ours, and the voices of those who often are not paid due attention.
Previous volumes have focused on what we need to do to rehabilitate offenders, the roots of violence and how best to respond to violent crimes as well as how we should be responding to crime per se. You can find out more about earlier volumes here.
This year the Monument Fellowship is proud to publish ‘Humane Justice’ the fourth book in the series which asks, What role do kindness, hope and compassion play in the criminal justice system?
Curated by Khulisa’s very own Lisa Rowles (Director of Innovation & Design) and Iman Haji (Evidence and Impact Officer), Humane Justice is a collection of essays, poetry and art, that highlight the roles kindness, hope and compassion play, and should play, in the system.
With a foreword from Lady Edwina Grosvenor (Founder of the charity One Small Thing and a founding trustee of The Clink Charity), the book has been endorsed by James Timpson (CEO of Timpson), Jo Farrar (the CEO of HMPPS), Max Rutherford (Head of Policy at the Association of Charitable Foundations) and Raphael Rowe (Journalist and Photographer).
In this blog, Lisa and Iman share their introduction to the book.
When we began curating this book in January 2020, the strain on the system was already apparent. Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) was operating with a budget 12% lower than in 2010-11 and the average custodial sentence length was the highest in a decade. Staff shortages and overcrowding meant prisoners spending less time engaged in purposeful activity – in some cases, locked up for over half of the working day. Self-inflicted deaths were over six times more likely in prison than in the general population and in the community, suspended sentences accounted for just 3% of all sentencing.
And then COVID-19 hit, exacerbating these issues and more. All social visits in prison were halted, prisoners confined to their cells 23 hours/day, having to choose between a shower or time in the open air Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons warned of “a real risk of psychological decline among prisoners.” At the same time, COVID-19 related restrictions significantly impacted our court system (both Magistrates and Crown Courts); resulting in an increased remand population, together with a drop in both community orders and suspended sentence orders. Inevitably the impact of this crisis will continue to be felt as we continue to navigate these challenges with increasing fatigue and minimal resourcing. With the system stretched to crisis point, never has the question posed by this book, about the humane values of kindness, hope and compassion, been more appropriate to the emotional and physical safety of so many.
You will read here about the critical need for kindness, hope and compassion within our system; as well as witnessing people’s stories, confirming that these very values are physically saving lives on a daily basis. Our authors speak to our shared experiences this year, to take stock and reframe our approach to life, to justice; about developing new perspectives towards the importance of hope, kindness and compassion within our society.
“A selection of fascinating essays which display the importance of kindness, hope and compassion in the criminal justice system. An honest look into a challenging world which demonstrates how HMPPS is able to transform lives.” - Jo Farrar, Chief Executive, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service
The book is in three key sections. First we hear the voices of those with lived experience of the system; second the authors with a wider view on how the criminal justice system operates here in the UK and globally; third and finally we hear from the frontline practitioners working within and for the system. We’ve aimed to create a flow, where artwork and poems from those with lived experience consistently punctuates the narrative. Despite contrasting views and methods of expression, the golden thread is a focus on the life-changing impact of kindness, hope and compassion on those who live and work within criminal justice.
Our authors with lived experience provide first hand accounts of how hope heals; how kindness both reduces the shame that incapacitates potential and promotes desistance; how compassion can be the difference between life and death. These authors cite a lack of investment in prisoners’ education and rehabilitation, which ultimately results in the high recidivism rates we continue to endure.
Our ‘systemic’ contributors – with insights from England, Scotland, Spain, USA and Brazil – highlight that the current system of enforcement is both unsustainable and obstructive to effective rehabilitation. Authors advocate for strengths-based approaches, community participation, restorative justice, problem-solving courts and improved relational health in rehabilitating offenders. This section explores the power of compassionate community policing in preventing harm, together with the opportunity the Black Lives Matter movement provides for a communal commitment for healing.
In our third section, frontline ‘practitioners’ explore different operating environments (including Spain and The Philippines); yet share the commonality of hope as a critical factor for change, borne out of kindness and practical compassion – attributes without which the system cannot function effectively. These personal accounts highlight that self discipline nurtures desistance, empowered through co-created communities of care; battling to break down perceived dichotomies between victim and offender that continue to preclude progress and promote shame.
“We hope that this book inspires, challenges, empowers and encourages the reader to take action in support of justice reform, desistance and enabling effective rehabilitation. We hope that you feel moved to make personal and institutional changes. If this book enables you to shift yours and/or others perspectives on the importance of humane justice (hope, kindness and compassion) within the criminal justice system and beyond; if it helps you to understand how to make changes to achieve this, we will have succeeded in our message. Our invitation is to share this message widely.” -Download the Book Here