30 March, 2017
8:00 am - 11:20 am

Justin Russell, Director General, Prisons, Offender and Youth Justice Policy, Ministry of Justice

Where next for criminal justice reform?

On Thursday 30 March, Reform held its 2017 criminal justice conference, 'Where next for criminal justice reform?'. The conference explored how criminal justice services can work better together, how prisoner rehabilitation can be improved, and the role of digital in enabling both.

Panel one: Connected justice: a single system?

  • Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner and Chair, Sussex Criminal Justice Board
  • Paul Whittaker CBE, Common Platform Transformation Director, Crown Prosecution Service
  • Bryan Clark, Director of Digital and Change, National Offender Management Service
  • Jason Hall, Vice President Central Government and Police, BT

The first panel, held in partnership with BT, addressed opportunities for better integrating police, CPS, courts and prison systems, and the delivery challenges in doing so. Katy Bourne shared experiences from Sussex police force, who have been looking at ways of scaling up digital tools, such as the use of video links to provide evidence. Sussex is also a part of four police four areas where all CJ services, for the first time, will be working together. Paul Whittaker highlighted that since implementing online systems, a much greater proportion of the public has accessed information, but also raised the importance of continuing to work on transparency. Responding to a question from the floor, Bryan Clark told the audience that digital literacy challenges can be overcome by using well-designed interfaces, good graphics and encouraging both staff and prisoners to help each other. Jason Hall emphasised the difficulty for tech companies in extracting the right data from legacy IT systems, but also the importance of succeeding in doing so to improve practices. He argued that if we succeed, the UK could become the benchmark and envy of the world.

Panel two: Prisons and probation: making a reality of rehabilitation

  • Gary Monaghan, Digital Prisons Lead, National Offender Management Service
  • Ian Blakeman, Executive Governor, HMP Holme House and Kirklevington Grange Reform Prisons
  • Joanne Drew, Director of Housing, Nacro
  • Jerry Petherick, Managing Director Custodial and Detention Services, G4S

The second panel, held in partnership with G4S, explored how the criminal justice system can best be reformed to maximize rehabilitation and deliver better outcomes for offenders and society alike. Ian Blakeman reminded attendees that the purpose of prisons ultimately is to support people to change, and that right now, the first priority in doing so must be to ensure safe and stable environments. Joanne Drew provided expert knowledge on housing, which she called “the single biggest social justice issue this country is facing.” She argued that not only do we need to build more houses, fairer access must also be ensured. Gary Monaghan emphasised the importance of digital skills for prisoners to be able to get on in life upon release, and therefore need access to technology while serving their sentence. Lastly, Jerry Petherick made the thought-provoking point that prisons built now will be there as we enter the 22nd century, and digital infrastructure is therefore as important as the physical architecture.

Keynote speech: Where next for justice reform?

The day ended with a keynote speech by Justin Russell, Director General, Prisons, Offender and Youth Justice Policy, Ministry of Justice. He set out how the changes envisioned in the Government’s white paper will allow for more prison autonomy and create safer environments. As part of the efforts to increase safety, he told the audience that a recruitment task force has been set up, and that training now will include a mandatory suicide prevention course. He also highlighted the importance of cooperating with charities, and informed that the Ministry of Justice is exploring secondments from the third sector.

This event was kindly supported by BT Group and G4S. Thank you very much to everyone who joined us.