Social justice and criminal justice go hand in hand. Not only does crime disproportionately affect poorer communities, but also those who have committed crime are also far more likely to suffer from the causes of social breakdown such as drug abuse, poor literacy rates and worklessness.
Moreover, criminal sentences – whether prison or its alternatives – provide a unique opportunity to intervene in the often-chaotic lives of those involved in criminal activity.
The need for greater support for victims of crime is every bit as important as aiding rehabilitation of offenders. We must never lose focus on the importance of victims of crime in the criminal justice system or the moral duty we have to ensure they are supported through a demanding and often traumatic experience.
By creating a just society where crime rates are low and the public feel confident about their safety, community cohesion and pride in local neighbourhoods can flourish.
The rehabilitation of offenders needs to be at the heart of an effective criminal justice system. Embedding rehabilitation across the system can provide the basis on which the root causes of offending can be tackled, helping to reduce the volume and severity of offending and ultimately improving lives and enabling a reduction in the size of the prison population.
Likewise, prisons demand our attention. Following the recent rise of deaths in custody, and with gang-related violence increasing, it is vital that we work with communities upstream before sentences and prisons become part of the equation at all.