Crime and Justice
Alternatives to Violence (AVP)
Alternatives to Violence (AVP) was initiated by Quakers in the United States but is now an international movement independent from Quakers. AVP is based on the belief that everyone has within them the creative power to transform violent situations. Local AVP groups work mainly through workshops. Many groups are working in prisons, the context in which AVP originated, but AVP is now used in many other settings, such as schools.
Crime and Justice
The effect of crime and justice in society has always been important to Quakers. Quakers have been concerned with prisons and offenders from the beginning. Many early Quakers spent time in prison, so had first hand experience. The belief in 'that of God' in everyone led to work on rehabilitating prisoners and on prison reform.
AFSC and Prison Reform
Prison reform and the promotion of healing justice is a key concern for the American Friends Service Committee. AFSC works to improve conditions, both through direct work with people in prison and through advocacy at the state and federal level. It also seeks to support those returning to the community after incarceration. Two key national campaigns are that against the mass incarceration of people of colour, and that against the widespread and indiscriminate use of solitary confinement.
Alternatives to Violence (AVP) in British Prisons
AVP ‘s work is focussed on running experiential workshops to help people manage their violent feelings. In 1990 AVP started working in the UK, with support from Friends House, in London. In 1997 it became an independent organisation, AVP Britain, but there is still much Quaker involvement.
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) was founded in 1917. It works with many partners, in the US and around the world, on conflict resolution and peacebuilding, alongside issues of economic, social and criminal justice. AFSC received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, jointly with its British counterpart (then called the Friends Service Council).
Quakers were instrumental in setting up Amnesty International, in 1962. In 1961, Quaker Eric Baker wrote a newspaper article calling for the amnesty of all political prisoners. This began a campaign, involving many others, that culminated in the founding of Amnesty the following year.
Art Workshops for Anger in Northern Uganda
In 2011-12 Grace Kiconco Sirrah and Marian Liebmann used art therapy in a series workshops with victims of the Lords Resistance Army in Northern Uganda. The focus was helping participants manage their anger, so that they didn’t make things worse for themselves by alienating those around them. Using art proved to be very helpful.
AVP in the Training of Gacaca Judges in Rwanda
Gacaca courts played a key part in Rwandans’ truth and reconciliation process. Friends Peace House ran many AVP workshops for gacaca judges, which made a major contribution to this work.
Bob Johnson (1942 - ) is a psychiatrist who has spent much of his professional life working with disturbed and dangerous prisoners, and researching the impact of different approaches. He believes that they can all be reached, and that none of them is untreatable. He challenges much current practice on account of this.
Campaigning against Capital Punishment in Britain
Quakers have argued against capital punishment from very early on, and became effective campaigners in the 19th century.
Circles of Support and Accountability in Britain
‘Circles’ is an innovative and successful community contribution to enabling former sex offenders to live in the community without offending again. Mennonites in Canada initiated it, and Canadian Quakers became involved. British Quakers led its adoption in the UK.
Commentators on Criminal Justice
There is a strong Quaker tradition of writing about criminal justice issues, though there are many diverging views.
Crime and Justice in Africa
This article is intended to be an overview of Quaker action on Crime and Justice in Africa. If you would like to help to write this, or contribute suggestions, please get in touch.
Crime and Justice in Europe and Middle East
This article is intended to be an overview of Quaker action on Crime and Justice in Europe and the Middle East If you would like to help to write this, or contribute suggestions, please get in touch.
Crime and Justice in the Americas
Quakers in Canada and the United States are actively engaged in their respective criminal justice systems. Capital punishment remains a significant theme in the US, and was in Canada until it was abolished. Restorative justice and community support are central themes in current work.
Crime and Justice in the Asia - West Pacific
James Backhouse, who brought Quakerism to Australia, was initially motivated by the wish to minister to the convicts sent there from Britain, and did much to alleviate conditions for them. Nowadays Friends in Australia and New Zealand help to provide support to prisoners, run AVP workshops in prisons and the community, and are active campaigners for 'transformative justice'. If you would like to help to write this article, or contribute suggestions, please get in touch.
Crime, Community and Justice Group (CCJG)
CCJG has two functions. One is to connect various Quaker activities, both local and central, and distil them into policy statements and discussion documents. These in turn can inform new initiatives. The other is to serve as a voice for British Quakers in wider networks of related organisations, and in responding to government consultations.
David Wills ‘(1903 – 1981) lifelong focus was young people who were troublesome to others, or to themselves, or both. He played a key part in several experimental therapeutic communities, and wrote a number of books describing his experiences and his developing ideas.
Dermot Grubb (1920 – 1996) worked in the Prison Service for most of his career, and served as governor of prisons in Oxford, Bedford and Bristol. He was known for his concern for prisoner welfare, and for staff training. He forged close links with criminology departments at Oxford and Cambridge, in research and teaching. He was active in Quaker work on penal issues to the end of his life.
Elizabeth Fry was a Quaker philanthopist and prison reformer. She was particularly interested in women in prison and worked to improve conditions for women and children in Newgate Prison, London.
Escaping Victimhood runs residential programmes designed to enable people traumatised by crime to move from being victims to being survivors, and so to reclaim their lives. It was initiated and nurtured by British Friends, led by Tim Newell.
George Fox (1624 – 91), founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers) was born and grew up in England in the turbulent times leading up to the Civil War. He travelled to Holland and Germany and to North America and the Caribbean, as well as all over Britain and Ireland. Quakers were persecuted for most of his adult life, but he lived to see freedom of religion established in Britain.
Glebe House: Friends Therapeutic Community Trust
Glebe House in Cambridgeshire does internationally renowned specialist work with teenage males with sexual issues, often victims and/or offenders. Through a two to three year resident programme, many go on to become active and productive members of society. It was founded by East Anglian Quakers in the 1960s, and the trustees are Quakers to this day.
Influence on Prison Design
The design of an institution is very important in determining what happens within it.
Influential Quakers in crime and justice in Britain from 1750 to 1950
Five Quakers are singled out here, though many others played their part. William Tuke (provision for mentally ill prisoners), Stephen Grellet (preacher and advocate of improvements), Elizabeth Fry (prison conditions for women), William Tallach (prevention and rehabilitation, and the first secretary of what became the Howard League for Penal Reform), and Margery Fry (also secretary of the Howard League, and advocate of compensation for victims of crime.
Influential Quakers in Crime and Justice in North America in modern times
Four North American Friends – Larry Apsey, Steve Angell, Ruth Rittenhouse Morris and Marc Forget - are singled out here because of their known, and major, contributions. AVP, nonviolent training, campaigns for prison abolition, and restorative justice, are key themes.
Influential Quakers in Crime and Justice in the early days
Many early Quakers were imprisoned, and often had their property confiscated. Three of them made particular contributions to Quaker thought and action concerning criminal justice, George Fox (the founder of Quakerism), Margaret Fell, and William Penn. The fourth, John Bellers, was an early thinker about social and penal reform.
Influential Quakers in crime and Justice in the UK in recent times (1)
From the early part of the 20th century, there has been a resurgence of Quaker input into criminal justice systems in the UK. The five Friends featured here are in chronological order by date of birth. A second article features eight later ones.
Influential Quakers in crime and Justice in the UK in recent times (2)
From the early part of the 20th century, there has been a resurgence of Quaker input into criminal justice systems in the UK. The eight Friends featured here are in chronological order by date of birth. Another article features five earlier ones.
James Nayler was one of the most prominent early Quaker preachers, and was known for the power of his ministry and his charismatic effect on many followers.
LEAP Confronting Conflict
LEAP confronts conflict in young adults through drama. Through taking a leap of creativity, a participant may leap into change. The Quaker community arts group, the Leaveners, began it in 1987, working on theatre projects. Since 1999 it has been an independent charity and the scope of its work has diversified.
Learning from Experience Project
This is a current initiative by British Friends. When someone receives a sentence it affects many people besides the person convicted. The project is collecting some of their stories and aims to identify opportunities for improvement in the system.
There are many people on Death Row in the US. They spend many years awaiting execution. Many are abandoned by family and friends and have little contact with the outside world. LifeLines organises volunteers to write letters to them. British Quaker Jan Arriens began it, in 1988.
Lisa Shend'ge recounts her experience as a magistrate in England. She describes herself as a 68-year-old Quaker and a "jobbing adjudicator". She is a magistrate or Justice of the Peace (JP) and also performs a whole host of other judicial roles.
Maggie Hunt is a Quaker prison chaplain (QPC) and has worked in two very different prisons. She describes it as a joy, a privilege, a challenge and a frustration.
The life and work of Margery Fry illustrates Quaker faith in action with clear impact. She brought together many strands of concern for offenders, victims and communities, seeking to join together in meeting needs and restoring equilibrium.
Marion Millington, Quaker Prison chaplain, describes a typical day in a large prison, sharing duties with Muslim, Sikh, Church of England and Pentecostal colleagues. The day’s activities fell into three groups – pastoral actions, a first timers weekly discussion group, and a family afternoon.
Mary Brown is a Quaker prison chaplain in Aylesbury. She spends a day a week working in a prison as part of a chaplaincy team. She describes her experience of her work, and what she has learned from it.
Mary Barrett Dyer (1611 – 1660) was an English Puritan turned Quaker who was hanged in Boston, Massachusetts for repeatedly defying a law banning Quakers from the colony. She is one of the four executed Quakers known as the Boston martyrs.
Maureen Miller was a Quaker Prison Chaplain in Lancashire for ten years from 1995. She used AVP (Alternatives to Violence) workshops with much success. She found kindness and wisdom amongst the prisoners, as well as many problems, and values the experience of working with them very much.
Meeting for Sufferings
Meeting for Sufferings (MfS) is British Friends’ key strategic body. It was established in response to the sufferings Quakers experienced in the early days, hence its name. Its role was soon broadened and it has played an important part in British Quakers’ responses to the needs of their time ever since. The name has never been changed.
Meeting for Worship in Usk prison
Meeting for Worship is currently held weekly at Usk prison in a pleasant ante-room adjoining the Chaplain’s office. Sally Mason describes a typical meeting. All prisoner names have been changed.
Mission in Australia: James Backhouse and George Washington Walker
These nineteenth century Quaker missionaries travelled extensively throughout Australia, where they reported on conditions in the penal colonies and aboriginal settlements. Their six-year mission helped Quakerism take root in Australia. they also visited Mauritius and South Africa. Australian Friends’ annual Backhouse lecture commemorates James Backhouse.
Paul Funnell recounts his experience of being a Quaker Prison Chaplain in a low security all male prison in the UK. The prison prepares offenders near the end of their sentences, for the outside world. In his two and a half years, he believes he really helped five offenders, whom he met and worked with regularly during that time.
Practitioners in Criminal Justice Systems
Many Quakers have worked within the criminal justice system, both as sentencers and as practitioners in prison systems.
Prison Chaplains in Britain
The historic Quaker concern for prisons continues today through the contribution of Quakers working within prison chaplaincy teams. At present, over ninety prisons in Britain benefit from a Quaker Prison Chaplain (QPC).
Prisoners of Conscience
Many Quakers over the centuries have taken the consequences of holding to their principles, even when this meant breaking the law.This taught them a great deal about prison conditions. This experience informed both their faith and their later actions. Some Quakers have been imprisoned for criminal offences, and some offenders have become Quakers during their sentences.
Reformers in Criminal Justice
Many Quakers have worked for reform of the criminal justice systems of their day. Friends have always sought reforms that facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders, . Friends came to see that victims, families and communities are also affected, and now seek reforms that address their needs too.
Restorative justice is based on repairing the harm done by wrongdoing. Offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for what they have done. Quakers are active in this, because this speaks to the good in everyone, and can bring about healing for victims, offenders and the community.
Restorative Justice in Practice
There are several ways that restorative work is put into practice in criminal justice systems in different countries, and many Quakers are involved in this. This article summarises key approaches. Mediation in various forms is a central tool.
Restorative Justice work in Thames, New Zealand
Philip Macdiarmid writes about the restorative justice work of a small charity in Thames, New Zealand, in which he and his wife are closely involved.
Restorative Practice in Schools
In the early 2000’s the use of Restorative Justice as a way of addressing youth crime began to attract the interest of some educationalists. Both youth justice professionals and the police encouraged this interest, as a way of reducing the use of exclusion. They were motivated by research showing the high correlation between youth street crime and youngsters out of school.
Ruth Rittenhouse Morris
Ruth Rittenhouse Morris (1933-2001) was a Canadian Friend who was one of the world’s leading advocates for prison abolition.
Sally Mason is a ‘Quaker chaplaincy volunteer’ in Usk prison, in Wales, UK. She goes there with the Quaker prison chaplain every 3 or four weeks, along with two or three other Quakers. The main activity is participating in the Quaker meeting for Worship.
(1773 – 1855) Stephen was born in France, but had to flee during the French Revolution in 1789, and reached New York in 1795. He became a Quaker after reading the writings of William Penn. His home was in Pennsylvania, but his missionary work took him to many parts of the US and Europe. He had a particular concern for prison reform.
Testimonies and Crime and Justice
Friends seek rehabilitation of offenders and restorative justice for those affected by crime. Prevention is also a key concern. The simplicity, peace, truth/integrity, community and equality testimonies all speak to this in different ways.
The Holy Experiment, in Pennsylvania
The "Holy Experiment" is how William Penn described his plans for Pennsylvania, which he founded in 1682. Penn planned to put all his Quaker principles into practice here, something that it was impossible to achieve in England at the time. Everyone would be able to live as they wished within the law, and worship as they chose.
The James Nayler Foundation
For nearly fifteen years (1997-2012) the James Nayler Foundation was a Quaker inspired charity, named after an early Quaker. It worked with people suffering from severe personality disorders, n the belief that all can be helped.
The Phoenix Restorative Justice Programme, South Africa
Phoenix runs a programme of restorative projects/activities in the ten prisons of Zululand, South Africa. The programme has strong Quaker roots.
Therapeutic Communities in Britain
The central idea of therapeutic communities is that by living together in organised and caring environments, troubled individuals can find productive ways forward. Quakers have been instrumental in establishing and supporting several such communities.
Tim Newell was a prison governor for 38 years and worked latterly in Grendon Prison – the therapeutic community prison for serious offenders. He has helped with the development of Circles of Support and Accountability in the UK, with restorative practice in prisons and with the provision of services for victims of serious crime, those bereaved by homicide through Escaping Victimhood.
Virginia Membrey is a chaplain in Shepton Mallet prison. She describes it as one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of her life.
William Penn, Criminal Justice, and the Penn-Mead Trial
William Penn’s influence in justice matters was considerable. As a lawyer, he was well equipped to resist the unfairness of many of the laws of his day. Nevertheless he suffered imprisonment himself several times. The historic Penn Mead trial established a clear legal precedent on both sides of the Atlantic, for the right of a jury to make its own decisions, whatever the judge’s advice.
William Tuke was born in York on 24 March 1732, into a leading Quaker family. He entered the family tea and coffee merchant business at an early age. He was able to devote much time to the pursuit of philanthropy. He is best remembered for founding The Retreat, in York, where he introduced humane and enlightened modes of treatment for the mentally ill.
Work on crime and justice through international Quaker organisations
There are three international agencies involved. Two work at the level of the UN, and the third works at the level of the European Union. The three agencies collaborate extensively in seeking to inform and influence international guidelines on crime and justice matters.
Yvonne Dixon has been a Quaker Prison Chaplain in Grendon prison since 2006. Working in this therapeutic community with men who have committed serious crime, her beliefs have been challenged and strengthened in this difficult but rewarding environment. She values particularly the support of Quaker friends and volunteers.