Crime, Community and Justice Group (CCJG)
CCJG was set up in 1998. It has two functions. One is to connect various Quaker activities to do with crime, community and justice in Britain with each other, so that experiences can be learned from and distilled into policy statements and new Quaker initiatives. The activities may be locally initiated and managed, or they may be central initiatives. The other is to serve as a voice for British Quakers in wider networks of related organisations, and in responding to government consultations. Restorative justice approaches are a prominent theme in current work, and the group added ‘community’ to its title in 2007, to reflect this.
It is one of the strands of activity managed and coordinated by Quaker Peace and Social Witness, the social action arm of British Friends, and is supported by an administrator. It meets about 4 times a year, plus a residential weekend.
There are many local groups and initiatives working on various aspects of crime and community justice. In 2009 CCJG set up an ‘Activity Group Network’, so as to support these groups and connect them with each other, with CCJG, and with non-Quaker organisations. Local groups can disseminate their work through the network, and learn about what others are doing. CCJG can use the network to disseminate briefing papers, responses to consultation documents, and information about other organisations working in the field.
There are two specialised groups which preceded CCJG, and which continue. They work with CCJG and have the same support administrator. One is the group of Quaker prison chaplains. The other is ‘Quakers in Criminal Justice’, an informal group which brings together individuals who are working in the criminal justice system in some capacity. They include Quaker prison chaplains, probation officers, magistrates, prison governors, prison visitors, solicitors, barristers, judges, prison psychologists, psychiatrists, ex-offenders, members of boards of visitors, police officers, victim support workers, academics and others. They have a newsletter and an annual conference, at which topics of current interest are discussed. This provides an opportunity to share problems and views with others working in various fields in the criminal justice systems, who have to make similar difficult decisions and who share a Quaker approach.
In 2008, CCJG summarised current activity and ongoing concerns among British Quakers in the paper ‘Criminal Justice; from Faith into Action’. The paper sets out to show something of the diversity of activity within Britain Yearly Meeting expressing the complex and long-standing concern for criminal justice. One outcome was that work on crime, community and justice is given as a priority area for British Quakers in ‘A framework for action: 2009 -2014’.
A voice for British Quakers
The Churches' Criminal Justice Forum: this is an ecumenical body, part of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, which holds twice-yearly open networking meetings
- The Restorative Justice Consortium: this is a national body, which promotes the use of restorative justice in the criminal justice system and elsewhere.
Circles UK: the national umbrella body for Circles of Support and Accountability around the country.
A current concern among Quakers worldwide is the plight of women in prison. They are a small minority of prisoners in systems usually designed for men, and they experience many problems, especially when they have children, as most of them do. CCJG is a member of the Women in Prison research project, along with Quaker United Nations Office Geneva, the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA), and Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC).
CCJG communicates Quaker concerns to government and other policy makers, consistently expressing the strong belief that restorative justice should be at the heart of the criminal justice system. There is a link to recent submissions at the end of this article.