Let’s Just Talk… About Justice!
Let’s Just Talk ….. about justice! is a resource developed for use with community groups, staff groups or any other group who wishes to have an insight into the impact of the justice system.
The aims of Let’s Just Talk …. about justice! are to:
- Provide an understanding to local communities of the difference between community justice and criminal justice.
- Highlight to communities the benefits to themselves and individuals of successful reintegration of those with offending backgrounds; for example safer communities, reduction in reoffending.
- Empower communities to really see that by working together and taking an asset based approach positive changes can be achieved.
The toolkit includes a mix of many different resources, from presentational material, pictures and posters to participative/interactive activities and conversation starters, one of the core components is to encourage communities to think about things differently and recognise the extremely positive contribution they can make.
Developed by South West Scotland Community Justice Authority, it was inspired by Jeanne Freeman who presented the Apex Annual Lecture in December 2012, asking ‘Is Scottish Criminal Justice Ready for the 21st Century?’ In the lecture she noted that despite the numerous enquiries and commissions around offending and reoffending (which generally made the same conclusions and recommendations), and an increased understanding and research around crime and the causes of crime, the rate of imprisonment in Scotland remains the highest in Europe and little progress has been made.
She had a number of propositions to address this issue; however her first and main recommendation focused on:
“… the absence of any Scottish-wide, meaningful and honest conversation about crime – who commits it, why it happens and what we do about it”.
She argued this had to be beyond just polls and surveys, to enable people to really talk about the issues, and to challenge
“… the desire we all have to think of the criminal as a person apart. Not like you and me. Not one of us. But of course they are. One young man in every four will have a criminal record of some sort by the time he is 24. Statistically impossible for us not to know at least one! A person like you and me: with intelligence, with dreams, with hopes, with ability. Not a person apart”.
She noted the difference between public meetings and “conversations”, which will take us:
“Out from behind out desks and our emails and our benches – talking with the folk who pay our wages and in whose name we work about what they think the problems are and what can be done about it”.
Others have also recognised that ‘community conversations’ should be used to engage the whole community in reducing reoffending and improving outcomes for people, and recognising this has really been the missing link in attempts to date. For example Hugh Monro, former Chief Inspector of Prisons, at the launch of his final Annual Report on 10 June 2012, noted that we need the whole community to get involved in supporting children to grow up as decent citizens and to support prisoners to reintegrate into the community.
It was first proposed that South West Scotland CJA might host a series of ‘community conversations’ on justice in 2013-14, whilst recognising that in its widest sense South West Scotland CJA already carried out community conversations all the time, through partnership meetings and sub groups, as well as events and workshops but it was recognised that in order to enhance this we needed to speak to people not currently involved in the criminal justice system, more non-traditional justice partners and really encourage existing community groups to start talking.
The Community Justice Ayrshire Team is happy to hold a ‘community conversation’ with your group or organisation: contact us for further information!