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 first five featured here are in chronological order by date of birth. A second article features several others.
David Wills (1903 – 1981) worked with young offenders and young people who were troublesome, for all his working life. He felt that they would have a chance of building useful lives, if they learned to work together in ‘therapeutic communities’ on constructive activities. From 1936 -40 he ran the Quaker Camp for ‘troubled young people’ at Hawkspur in Essex, based on these ideas. Later he was warden of Barns Hostel School, in Scotland, Peebles, Scotland), and then of Bodenham Manor School for ‘maladjusted children’ in Herefordshire. His work and writing influenced many, and led to the establishment of Glebe House, in Cambridgeshire, as a therapeutic community for young offenders.
Greta Brooks (1917 - 2010) After the Brixton riots in London in the 1980s, Lord Scarman and others recommended various reforms, and one woman was at the heart of three of them. She was a founder of the Community-Police Consultative Group, formed so that members of the community could hold constructive dialogue with the police. She was one of the first Lay Visitors, appointed to make unannounced inspections. The third recommendation was to establish a community mediation service. With a small Quaker grant and help from the mediation centre in neighbouring Southwark, Greta held meetings, formed a committee, drew up a constitution, trained volunteers and invited referrals. At first she was the sole co-ordinator (at 73), working from her back bedroom. Lambeth Mediation Service became a charity in 1990, and its work continues.
Eric Baker (1920 – 1976) helped found Amnesty International, which campaigns for the release of prisoners of conscience. The lead founder was lawyer Peter Benenson, and Eric helped him with the 1961 article in the UK newspaper ‘The Observer’ that launched Amnesty. Eric coined the phrase ‘prisoner of conscience’ which Amnesty uses to this day.
Eric was general secretary from 1966-68, and put Amnesty on a firm footing for the long term. He became President of the British section of Amnesty, and was particularly concerned about torture. He ran sessions on this for British Friends in 1974, and took the same concern to the 1976 worldwide meeting of Friends (the Triennial Meeting of the Friends World Committee for Consultation). This called for an end to the use of torture, and encouraged campaigning on the part of Friends worldwide.
He was also a founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Martin Wright (1930 - ) has been Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Policy Officer for Victim Support, and Librarian of the Cambridge Institute of Criminology. He is Visiting Research Fellow at the School of Legal Studies, University of Sussex. He has thought deeply about the preventative role of restorative justice and the use of mediation in schools and the wider community, as well as in custodial settings. He was a founder member of Mediation UK, and is a member of the Board of the Restorative Justice Council. He is the author of Making Good: Prisons, Punishment and Beyond, and Justice for Victims and Offenders: A Restorative Response to Crime Wright, (1996) Winchester: Waterside Press
Nicholas McGeorge (1934 - ) is a retired chief prison psychologist. He worked for many years in the three prisons on the Isle of Wight, UK, and continues to work in the fields of restorative justice and mediation, which were central to his professional life. He helped set up the UK Restorative Justice Consortium (now Council). He now spends much of his time in North Carolina, where he is a practising restorative justice mediator in the state’s criminal justice courts. He has established Circles of Support and Accountability in the state, the first in The USA. He lectures on restorative justice in many countries.
He helped set up and guide two mediation charities in Hampshire – NFS Mediation (in the New Forest) and Southampton Mediation Service.
He has played a key part in Quaker work on Criminal justice internationally, leading the FWCC delegation to the UN Criminal Justice and Prevention Commission for many years. He still is a member of the team. He arranged the first workshop on RJ at the UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders in 1990. He helped draft the 2002 UN Guidelines on Restorative Justice.