Lessons from abroad for justice reform
Today sees the publication of two briefings, authored by Dr Jessica Jacobson and Helen Fair of ICPR. The briefings highlight learning from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) Prison Reform Fellowships, which focus on criminal justice reform across the world.
These two briefings are the last in a series of five based around the theme of "connections".
The first of today's briefings examines the importance of positive peer relations for promoting desistance and providing moral and practical support to people in prison and on release. Examples of peer support programmes visited by the Churchill Fellows include a programme run by ex-prisoners in the US which encourages the peer-led and grassroots education of prisoners; the use of drama to promote positive behaviour in prison in South Africa; and a programme in the US which uses life sentence prisoners as 'social mentors' to help new prisoners to adapt to prison life. An example of peer support for those leaving prison was seen in Finland, where former prisoners work with those being released from prison to help them access the services they need to resettle back into the community.
The second briefing published today focuses on interventions visited by the Churchill Fellows which help offenders and those deemed at risk of offending and/or victimisation to feel a sense of connectedness to themselves and to their own actions. Thereby, these individuals are helped to develop a positive sense of self and a sense of responsibility for their own lives and towards others. This topic of 'sense of self and responsibility' is a broad one, which encompasses a range of projects visited by the Churchill Fellows including those concerned with:
- the promotion of positive social identities
- encouraging self-sufficiency in custodial settings
- helping offenders to take responsibility for past actions and their consequences
- helping offenders/ex-offenders to take responsibility for their future.
The Fellowships offer a way of learning about how other countries respond to crime and exploring whether similar approaches could be taken in the UK. Fellows include frontline prison officers and governors, civil servants, artists, barristers, police professionals and academics from across the UK. In total, 51 Fellows travelled as far as Australia and Africa to bring back learning which could assist UK policymakers in reducing reoffending and prison numbers. Many Fellows are already applying the learning in a range of local and national settings.