Ideas for justice interviews
As part of the wider What is Justice? symposium, Ideas for Justice aims to interview people from a range of backgrounds with a variety of interests in the justice system about their understanding and experience of justice today.
A bus journey, shopping, a night out with friends. All activities which should be free from harassment or abuse. That’s the theory. The law enshrines this expectation, especially in relation to hate crimes which are fuelled by racism, prejudice against religions, disability or sexual orientation. Nonetheless, recent police figures have shown that since 2012 hate crimes have increased.
So is legislation making a difference in everyday life and what impact does it have on the understanding of justice by those affected? Ideas for Justice interviewer Philippa Budgen spoke to Leicester University’s Professor Neil Chakraborti and three Leicester residents.
For more about Leicester University’s work on hate crimes and their award-winning film ‘Harms of Hate’ please visit their website.
‘Doing time after time’. That is how one academic describes the additional hidden punishment after a prison sentence – the second toxic punishment of living on release with the label of ‘ex-offender’ or ‘ex-con’.
Dr Andreas Aresti teaches at the University of Westminster. He has set up the first Convict Criminology group in the UK, which is a practice well-established in the US but new here. The discipline seeks to address the absence of prisoner and former prisoner voices in academic research. Dr Aresti shared his Ideas for Justice with Philippa Budgen.
The comedian Ava Vidal is well known on the stand-up circuit, telling funnies to heckling audiences. Less well known is that she started out in the 1990s as a prison officer, working in Holloway women’s prison and then longer term at Pentonville men’s prison.
Ava Vidal’s experiences have shaped her understanding of both justice and injustice. The former prison officer is highly critical of the treatment of prisoners and a culture of bullying and racism among staff while she was working in prisons.
Here Ideas for Justice’s Philippa Budgen begins by asking Ava Vidal if she thinks there is justice in the system.
A discussion about justice in England and Wales wouldn’t be complete without a contribution from a significant pillar of the criminal justice system: the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS is instrumental in bringing cases to court, providing evidence and influencing the business of justice everyday, as experienced by thousands. The last few years have seen a significant cultural shift in prosecution practices in relation to domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Here head of CPS London, Baljit Ubhey, gives a rare interview to share her ‘Ideas for Justice’ with Philippa Budgen.
Art as rehabilitation
The name Deborah Bull is for most linked with ballet. The former professional dancer is now committed to broadening the power of the arts generally to enhance and change people’s lives. As Director of Cultural Partnerships at Kings College London, Deborah Bull believes that dance, theatre, music and books can be a rehabilitative tool. Recently Deborah also took part in the Howard League and Pavilion Books ‘A Night in the Cells’ fundraiser as part of the campaign against the ban on books being sent to prisoners.
Meanwhile Michael has been in prison three times. It was while on probation that he discovered acting. Michael can be heard here performing a speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. Both he and Deborah Bull talk to ‘Ideas for Justice‘ interviewer Philippa Budgen.
Jacqui Cheer has been a police officer for 30 years. Starting out at Essex, she has worked at senior level in several forces around the country. In 2006, while Deputy Chief Constable at Suffolk police, she led the groundbreaking investigation into the murder of five women in Ipswich. Jacqui Cheer is known as an innovator and someone unafraid to challenge practice.
Now Chief Constable of Cleveland police, she is leading the force through reform in the wake of corruption allegations against ex-senior force chiefs. Until recently Jacqui Cheer has been national lead on children and young people. Last year she questioned proposals for a new definition of anti-social behaviour, raising concerns about growing societal intolerance of teenagers.
Here Jacqui Cheer reflects on some of her ‘Ideas for Justice’, beginning by telling Philippa Budgen what she understands by the term justice.
Justice is an ever-changing concept. It reflects the society and times it exists within. In order to re-examine today’s and tomorrow’s notions of justice it is helpful to look at the evolution of justice through the ages. Thousands of years ago Babylonian pre-historic society developed a sense of justice far removed from today’s formalised interpretation, Ancient Greece turned its back on revenge, the Romans had no prisons for custodial punishment.
To explore some of these strands of thought ‘Ideas for Justice’ invited historian, author and broadcaster Bettany Hughes to cast her mind back to pre-historic notions of justice.
Margaret and Barry Mizen
In May 2008 Margaret and Barry Mizen experienced every parent’s worst nightmare. Their teenage son Jimmy was killed in an attack while he was on an apparently ordinary shopping trip. Instead of seeking revenge and retribution, Jimmy’s parents have campaigned for a message of forgiveness and hope.
The Mizens shared their ‘Ideas for Justice‘ with Philippa Budgen.
Over the last few years restorative justice has become widely used in prisons, in probation trusts, with young people in the youth justice system, and in schools. It is seen as a means to both repair the harm caused by an offence and reduce reoffending. After years of trials and controversy, more recently it has won the backing of government.
It is rare to hear first-hand accounts of what these restorative meetings, ‘conferences’ as they are often called, are like and what lasting sense of ‘justice’ they deliver for those involved.
In 2002 Will Riley and Peter Woolf agreed to trial restorative justice in prison after Peter had broken into Will’s house. Will, a businessman and Peter, who is now leading a crime-free life, spoke to Philippa Budgen about their personal experience of restorative justice and reflected on their ‘Ideas for Justice’.
Peter Woolf and Will Riley are both involved in restorative justice charity Why Me?
Professor Albert Dzur
Ideas for Justice has sought the opinions and experience of a wide variety of people – from those who have been through the criminal justice system to practitioners and professionals and ‘big thinkers’. Professor Albert Dzur is a political scientist and philosopher from Bowling Green State University in the USA. An advocate of citizen participation in public affairs, most recently Professor Dzur has been considering how traditionally elite activities in criminal justice could be shared with citizens. He believes lay members of the public need increased and systematic opportunities to take part in the decision-making institutions like courts and the police so that punishment and responses to crime can become both more considered and more democratic.
Listen here to Dr Harry Annison speaking to Professor Dzur about his Ideas for Justice.
Professor Mary Beard
Professor Mary Beard is well known for her works on Rome and Pompeii. The Cambridge classics academic has been sharing her insights into what punishment and prisons looked like in ancient Roman times and reflecting on their role today. She told ‘Ideas for Justice’ interviewer Philippa Budgen that prisons are a ‘blot on contemporary society’ which don’t have their roots in the ancient world.
If you’d like to hear more about Professor Mary Beard’s understanding of prisons and punishment, listen to her reflections after lecturing ‘inside’.
Cambridge classics academic, Professor Mary Beard thinks in five hundred years time people will look back at our prisons of today as ‘crazy’. Here Professor Beard demands a re-think of the purpose of prison.
U R Boss young advisors
The Howard League’s U R Boss project supports young people in the criminal justice system to secure their legal rights and to have an impact on policy, practice and the services that affect them. They believe young people are the experts in their own experiences.
We have been asking U R Boss young advisors about their views on justice.
What does justice mean to them?
Should people have a greater say in how justice is done?
If you could change one thing that affects justice what would it be and why?
Can you sum up justice in one word?