Criminal justice reform in recent years has been intense but disappointing. The proposals for a ‘rehabilitation revolution’ in England and Wales that were made by the coalition government when it came into power in 2010, momentarily, gave a glimmer of hope for cross-party agreement, but the deep divisions about appropriate responses to crime have continued in politics and in public opinion.
People feel passionately about criminal justice, draw on a particular logic of morality, and can become over-righteous, turning their backs on others. Conflicting views on appropriate responses to offending are often linked to different perspectives on what ‘justice’ is, and on human nature and individual capacity for change.
‘Where Next for Criminal Justice? by David Faulkner and Ros Burnett (The Policy Press, November 2011) reflects on these different perspectives, reviews the policies and the governance of criminal justice over the last thirty years as well as the latest developments and research evidence, and argues for a fundamental reassessment of what criminal justice is for and what it is realistically able to achieve.
The authors propose that opposing views might be bridged by focusing on things we can generally agree on: procedural justice and institutional legitimacy; human decency and civility; and the desirability of crime reduction. Towards this, they argue for presumption in favour of prevention, restoration and desistance from crime rather than punishment as revenge.
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