VitalSpark: Coalition Blog

Posted: 07 July 2010, in Blog

We don’t have a justice system, we have a legal system. We need new social enterprises to solve some of our petty crime and associated recidivism and prison problems.

Our existing system of community service orders is ridiculous. The innovation is to trust people and the victims of crime and not rely on the State for all the answers. We need to create local social enterprise “justice businesses” who get involved in designing and managing local solutions/programmes and monitoring participation and outcomes. The business model requires some of the criminal justice and prisons budget to be diverted into more effective social enterprise models.

Oooh vigilantism I hear you cry. I don’t think so. Tabloid and political manipulation of the imagery and fear of crime has failed every person and every community affected by crime. Ordinary folk feel fearful and resentful because they are marginalised and excluded from the system and the process of justice. They have little faith in justice professionals who don’t live in their communities and who don’t suffer the consequences of their decisions. Getting social entrepreneurs involved in community rights and justice is the solution.

This could mean that what works in one community might not be the same in another. If a justice business designs socio-economic or environmental sentences/programmes to be carried out why do we need an additional State bureaucracy to manage this? The justice business can send their reports to procurers, politicians, the judiciary, the media and local people – is that not enough?

In addition, all victims of petty crime ought to receive a demonstrably sincere apology. This is a liberating and restitutive experience for victims and criminals. Justice businesses would work with criminals and their families to prepare them to make an apology. It’s all about giving and receiving “respect” innit? Insincerity or refusal will carry a price measured in additional community payback work. Deduction of salary or benefit income if criminals do not carry out community payback should remain as a punitive option.  Justice businesses would work on contracts with the DWP and HMRC to manage this.

I’m tempted to have criminals wear Guantanamo style jumpsuits but I know that is just gratuitous, stupid and counterproductive. Folk in local communities will “get it” if they can witness the results.

This will appal municipal and State apparatchiks because the defenders of the status quo would lose out. The truth is that the State system has failed, is actually part of the problem and that we need a new justice partnership between the State, social entrepreneurs and local people.

Anyone got Ken Clarke and Kenny MacAskill’s email addresses? I hear they have budget problems.