Quakers in the World

Quakers in the World

Learning from Experience Project

A custodial or community sentence affects many more people than the person who has been convicted: their family and friends; the victim and their family and friends; the wider community. In 1998 British Friends established a Crime, Community and Justice Group (CCJG) which aims to develop a better understanding of the consequences of the use of custodial and community sentences. Alongside this they hope to find ways of responding to crime that are less damaging and more constructive for all concerned.

British Friends recently reviewed their priorities for the period 2009-14, and set these out in ‘A Framework for Action’. One of the priorities identified is the criminal justice system, and the Learning from Experience Project is a response to this. The Framework includes the statements:

Quakers are well known for our work in supporting prisoners and in campaigning for reform of our justice system.  Quaker work includes promoting alternatives to violence, alternatives to custody, restorative justice and support for the families of prisoners and for communities affected by crime.  …

We would like to see this area exemplify ways in which central, local and individual effort and experience can be brought together in a campaign over a long time to influence public opinion to transform the criminal justice system.

To do this CCJG have embarked on a new piece of work to find out what actually happened – or may still be happening – to all the individuals affected when someone receives a prison or community sentence. CCJG want to know the practical and emotional effect, the worst thing about the experience, whether there was anything positive about it, and if something or someone could or did make things better.  Friends throughout Britain are being asked to participate by contributing and collecting stories directly from anyone affected in this way.

What CCJG learns from these personal narratives will be used in a variety of ways, working within the Framework for Action 2009-2014. It will help to identify gaps and opportunities for improvements in the criminal justice system, to inform and support Friends in their activities, and to help us work better with others campaigning for change. In 2009 CCJG stated: Justice should be compassionate, forgiving and healing – restorative, not retributive. We want to change attitudes and encourage the criminal justice system to move towards this vision of justice.

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