Quakers in the World

Quakers in the World

Practitioners in Criminal Justice Systems

Many Quakers have worked within the criminal justice system, both as sentencers and as practitioners in prison systems. In Britain Quakers have worked in the Crown Prosecution, Police, Prison and Probation Services. There are many Quaker magistrates and members of Independent Monitoring Boards of prisons. Their insight into the dynamic of balancing the needs of the individual offender, the victim and the community that they serve is invaluable in reaching a realistic and workable approach towards justice. The Probation Service has been particularly attractive to Friends, and there have been a few who have worked in the Prison Service, including Duncan Fairn, who became a prison commissioner, and who was a Swarthmore lecturer. Others have included Dermot Grubb, governor of Oxford and Bristol prisons in the 1970s, and Tim Newell , governor of Grendon prison in the 1990s.

The pioneering work of Bob Johnson in C Wing Parkhurst during the 1990s has left many unanswered questions for the criminal justice system and particularly those concerned with the treatment of offenders with severe personality disorders. Arising from his work, Bob and Sue Johnson have formed The James Nayler Foundation, which is dedicated to exploring the healing work with dangerous offenders using the concepts of ‘Truth, Trust and Consent’.

The establishment of Quakers in Criminal Justice in 1987 arose from the need to provide a focus and support for those working and connected with the justice process. This important network continues to provide the Society with a reservoir of skilled and informed members. Penal Affairs Committee was laid down because it was felt that its narrow remit did not permit the consideration of the wider issues relating to criminal justice and that these could be pursued through other organisations, many of whom represented views close to those of Friends. The establishment of the Crime and Community Justice Committee/Group revived central work.

The work of Jan Arriens in founding Lifelines has enabled a greater awareness for many through daily contact with the horrific limitations of the policies and practices behind the death penalty. It has provided for those on Death Row in the United States to be in touch through correspondence with concerned members of society. The human spirit has hope even in the most soulless situations.

The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) developed in the 1980s in United States prisons as a response from Friends to a request from prisoners for support in addressing the level of violence within prisons in New York. This has led to a worldwide movement providing workshops in the community and in prisons.

Marian Liebmann worked as a probation officer and art therapist before becoming a leading trainer in restorative practice nationally and internationally She has written authoritatively about restorative justice and art therapy with offenders.

Marian Partington has written about her experience as the sister of Lucy Partington, one of the people murdered by the Wests in Gloucester. She has developed a workshop with The Forgiveness Project which she has taken into prisons to share her experience.

Nick McGeorge, and Helen Drewery were at the forefront of developing the concept of Circles of Support and Accountability as it could be applied from its Canadian roots in the UK. From its early pilot schemes in the Thames Valley and Hampshire the work has become mainstreamed and is now an independent charity.

Roger Cullen has led through the Youth Justice Board with the application of restorative practice within the justice system for young offenders.

Lisa Shend'ge is an experienced magistrate in criminal courts, and also works in other judicial settings.

There are many Quakers working in the criminal justice system, and particularly in prisons, whose contributions may be unsung but are no less valuable for that. The volunteers who come in through the Chaplaincy, the presence of Quaker Prison Chaplains (QPCs) and the holding of Meetings for Worship in many places of custody can make telling contributions to the lives of individuals and to the institution.

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Further Reading and Credits

Photograph of Grendon Hall HM Prison Springhill Grendon Underwood taken by Andy Gryce