Wednesday 6 November 2019

What should happen to people who commit crime? The consequences affect us all.

Crime & Consequence - what should happen to people who commit criminal offences? launching today, is the third in a series of books, curated by Clinks and National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance on behalf of The Monument Fellowship. Anne Fox, Clinks Chief Executive Officer blogs about why it was written, what it was like to put together, and why it matters.

I’m not a writer – I’ve never harboured ambitions to write. I have a postcard on my desk that I bought from Koestler Arts – it reads “I never knew I had a story in me”. I don’t – but it turns out that I can call on at least 57 people who do. My job, along with my fellow editor Alison Frater, was to sift through a treasure trove of contributions, selecting the best to produce a book and bring it to life in print: our new book Crime & Consequence.

Igniting a productive conversation on criminal justice reform

Our intention, from the outset, was to collate something which would be accessible and relatable to the widest audience we could reach. Why? Because we want and need the widest range of people to engage with the question we posed, “what should happen to people who commit criminal offences?”.

We want people to think about this issue, to generate the political will for progressive reforms that address the root causes of people’s contact with the criminal justice system. Our justice system needs to better support people's ability to make positive changes in their lives, not have repeated contact with the criminal justice system, and better promote public safety.

However, the criminal justice system is a public service most people rarely give much thought to. It’s the public service perhaps that we most want to avoid, but we really should think about more. What’s it for? What should it do? What’s its purpose? What does it look like when it works best? What difference should it make to people’s lives?

What we know from the work of the Reframing Crime and Justice project - led by Transform Justice, with Clinks as a partner - is that “in order to effectively engage the public and ignite a more productive conversation about criminal justice reform, communicators need to adopt a narrative strategy that dislodges the role that punishment plays in public thinking about criminal justice".

Asking the big questions

So, when The Monument Fellowship gathered in October 2018 to decide on our third question, our discussions led us to conclude that it was time to ask the big question: what kind of system should we have to respond to crime, or specifically, what should happen when people commit criminal offences?

This question in many ways is at the heart of the Fellowship itself, formed as The Monument Trust was preparing to close after many years of incredible support to the criminal justice voluntary sector. The Trust has funded and built an impressive number of positive interventions and approaches for better diverting people from the criminal justice system, repairing the harms done and supporting people to leave the system and live better lives. Mark Woodruff of the Trust describes the fellowship eloquently in the book as “the collaboration, mutual inspiration and cumulative effect of seven bodies and approaches vital in our experience to making a decisive difference along the journey of people at risk of offending”.

A rich mix of perspectives

We were delighted to be able to lead the work to source and collate this year’s contributions, mainly because we are able to rely on a broad network of people and organisations who have the expertise, knowledge and experience that qualifies them to have something to say on this subject, which we feel needs to be heard. This network was made available to us through the Fellowship with its broad and extensive reach and through our own members, supporters, followers and partners. Our contributors all have different experiences of the criminal justice system and all speak from a place of knowledge from that experience, be it lived or professional.

The job of finding content was easy – we put the question out as an open call and asked people what subject they’d write on as well as identifying thought leaders through the Fellowship’s contacts and inviting their views. We were quite taken aback by the response – almost 100 pitches in total. So when faced with so much potential content we made a decision – we wouldn’t try and overly edit the book – we wouldn’t try and speak for people or change their pieces, but instead present the different contributions in a format that would allow the reader to see clearly that there is no one answer to the question.

There's such a range of opinions, especially when you get to the heart of exactly what should happen - what interventions, what type of sentence etc. Overall, we wanted to show that it's valuable to think about this question, and to evidence this thinking. So this book is a collection of the considered views of people who have some kind of experience of the justice system to inform public opinion and public policy about what should happen to those people in the future. We are so grateful to everyone who gave us their time and thoughts and those who helped to spread the word and support people with lived experience to have their voices heard.

Another benefit of our network and reach collectively is that we were able to collect a variety of formats in the answers and hear from a range of voices. The volume is a collection of poems, essays and even a play – as well as some of the stunning pieces from the Koestler Arts 2019 exhibitions Another Me and A Feeling We All Share. It even ends with Prison Reading Group’s guide to exploring the issues.

This is only the start

In many ways, as I said at the launch event – the book and its question is more current and contemporary at its publication then it was at its inception. In that intervening year, this question has been asked by the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Justice and it's likely their answers will be included in the Manifesto which they’ll put to the electorate now on 12th December.

I also said that the book is not the end of the process, it's only the start. We want people to take the book, and the podcast launching next week, and engage with the question. We invite you to consider the answers here and come up with your own. What do you think should happen to people who commit criminal offences?

The Fellowship

The Monument Fellowship is made up of eight organisations funded by The Monument Trust to work together to make a sustained, cumulative and transformative change to the journey of individuals through our justice system. The members of the fellowship are: The Centre for Justice Innovation, Clinks, the Diagrama Foundation UK, Khulisa UK, Koestler Arts, Lemos and Crane: The Good Prison, The National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance and Restorative Solutions CIC.

Monday 29 July 2019

Tuning Up 2019 Music Festival HMP Whitemoor 24th October 2019

Tuning Up 2019 is a collaboration between HMP Whitemoor, Britten Sinfonia, Orchestras Live and Lemos&Crane.  Following our hugely successful workshops and concerts at HMP Whitemoor in June 2018, we are now planning the first ever orchestral music festival for staff and residents of HMP Whitemoor as well as family and friends. During the autumn musicians from Britten Sinfonia will be working with a group of staff and residents to make a new piece inspired by 946-3, a new collaboration between two living greats of contemporary arts - the composer Steve Reich and the artist Gerhard Richter. 

Steve Reich: the composer who redefined the very concept of rhythm – and whose vitality interrogates and transforms everything it touches. Gerhard Richter: a titan of contemporary art, a master of light capable of charging abstract forms with intense emotional power.
Together with Britten Sinfonia they’ve combined original music and digital visuals, algorithmically derived from Richter’s painting “946-3”, to create an artwork that is boundlessly more than the sum of its parts. “A stream of images, its rhythmic flow interpreted by music and, at the same time, a musical composition visualized by film images” is how Richter describes a collaboration that’s likely to be one of the most significant moments in contemporary art this year. The piece will receive its European premiere at the Barbican on October 23rd.
The day after, October 24th, at HMP Whitemoor Britten Sinfonia players, staff, residents and family and friends will come together at a concert that will end a one-day music festival in the prison to perform the work they have created inspired by the Reich/Richter piece.

Sunday 3 March 2019

Why Lemos&Crane thought orchestral music could make a difference for prisoners

The arts in prison has been a longstanding commitment of the Monument Trust and the organisations in the Monument Fellowship. Tuning Up is an ongoing project in HMP Whitemoor with Britten Sinfonia using orchestral repertory to engage and develop prisoners' music skills and enhance their relationships and wellbeing.

The partners in Tuning Up were Lemos&Crane, Britten Sinfonia, HMP Whitemoor and Orchestras Livee. Our hypothesis was that Tuning Up in all its aspects would increase interest among the participants in prison in unfamiliar musical forms from the orchestral repertory.  The focus on orchestral repertory rather than more familiar musical forms like rap, R&B or hip hop was with the objective that engagement with classical music would be unapologetically educational, stretching and aspirational. We also wanted to develop musical enthusiasm, commitment, skills and interest in future development of their musical interests and skills. 

In addition to these musical benefits, we also hoped for other personal and socially beneficial outcomes including increasing confidence and self-esteem, improved mental health and coping mechanisms for prison life during a long sentence, better communication and collaborative skills and empathy among residents and between residents and staff and a sense of achievement in their own eyes and in the eyes of family, friends, other residents and prison staff.   We also hoped there would be benefits for prison life generally: more co-operative residents with new interests, better social skills, more positive relationships with staff and other residents as well as higher levels of staff motivation and engagement with creating and enhancing a more rehabilitative culture.

Our ambition was that the programme would also be personally and musically developmental for the musicians, enhancing their creative skills with a community and in a setting that was new for most of them. We also hoped that over the long term programmes such as this could contribute to changing public perception of offenders' skills and abilities and engender more understanding of prisons, those living in them and their lives.

You can read the full evaluation of the first phase of Tuning Up here and see if we met our ambitions.

Monday 21 January 2019

Contribute to the new Monument Fellowship book

Clinks and the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance (NCJAA) are curating responses to the question “What should happen to people who commit criminal offences?"

Clinks is part of a collective of organisations, the Monument Fellowship, each funded through the legacy grants of the Monument Trust which has now closed. In addition to each organisation doing what it is grant funded for, we work together to create a body of work over the course of six years which will provide a legacy for the criminal justice work of the Trust. We pose a question each year which we collect contributors’ answers to. Last year's book, Curing Violence, was curated by Centre for Justice Innovation.

We are now actively seeking contributions to a book allowing for differing, contrasting and contrary viewpoints. Contributors can either provide the piece themselves or be interviewed by CEO Anne Fox or a colleague from Clinks. There is no minimum word limit but the maximum is 2,000 words.

If you would like to be considered, or nominate someone else, please send a brief description of what you’d aim to cover (no more than 500 words), to marked “Monument Fellowship question” by 31st January 2019. The deadline for contributions is early May 2019.

Thursday 17 January 2019

Building a less violent society from community grassroots - Anne Fox, Clinks

Clinks is a proud member of the Monument Fellowship –founded to carry on the legacy of the Monument Trust in criminal justice when the trust closes. Working together the Fellowship’s members aim to engage a broad range of people on issues which require real thought if we’re to reduce the number of people going, and returning, to prison. We’ve chosen to do this by setting an annual question which we invite people to answer in a variety of ways including through contributions to a book, curated by a different Fellowship member each year.

I write this blog as this year’s curators The Centre for Justice Innovation prepare to launch the book answering the question “How can we be a less violent society?” An answer I’d offer to this question is “by allowing voluntary organisations, especially those which are community based and specialist in focus to flourish”.

I say this reflecting on three things:

  1. Evidence from US research
  2. Clinks’ belief in sector
  3. What we know about state of the sector and its challenges

In the United States of America Sharkey et al published research in 2017 that showed, tracking crime rates over a 20 year period, a positive correlation between the development and presence of non-profit organisations in local communities and the reduction in their violent crime rates.

The research points to the positive influence of informal social control in local communities where supportive organisations focussed on the wellbeing and safety of people in that community are present. “Drawing on a panel of 264 cities spanning more than 20 years, we estimate that every 10 additional organizations focusing on crime and community life in a city with 100,000 residents leads to a 9 percent reduction in the murder rate, a 6 percent reduction in the violent crime rate, and a 4 percent reduction in the property crime rate”. [1]

This is something we’ve an instinctive belief in at Clinks because we understand, usually from qualitative sources of evidence, the impact that charities and social enterprises have on the lives of the people they support and the communities in which they live. The criminal justice system disproportionately impacts the lives of people in poorer communities and people protected under the Equalities Act (2010). This is true both for victims of crime and those who find themselves on the other side of the dock. Organisations in the sector are often of and for these communities of place or interest. As such they have specialist understanding of their communities’ needs and appropriate responses to them. For example, 25% support women, 24% support young adults and 16% work to meet the needs of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people.

Starkey’s research reinforces our belief that given the freedom and flexibility to design and deliver responses to need as they see fit these organisations can achieve remarkable outcomes that lead to inspirational change. But it brings into sharp relief some of the challenges facing the sector at this time because the very things that they need to do to support their communities and the people in them are under threat, primarily due to lack of funding.

We’ve published our latest State of the sector research. In our analysis we’ve found a continuing pattern of the smallest and more specialist organisations facing real uncertainty. This throws into question their future ability to survive and thrive and provide the support that’s needed in their communities.

The English and Welsh voluntary sector is predominantly locally based with 47% of organisations delivering their services locally, compared to 35% regionally and 35% nationally.

English and Welsh criminal justice voluntary sector organisations are smaller than those in the wider voluntary sector. 25% of specialist criminal justice organisations have an income of less than £100k, compared to 12% of non-specialist criminal justice organisations; whilst 26% of specialist criminal justice organisations have an income of more than £1m, compared to 35% non-specialist criminal justice organisations.

Sources of funding are also important and impact on what organisations can do and how they work. Voluntary income, including grants, is essential for small, specialist criminal justice organisations to respond flexibly and innovatively to local need.

Our work shows that the smaller the organisation, the more likely they are to rely on voluntary income such as from charitable trusts and foundations, than from the government. In 2015/16 specialist criminal justice organisations with an income of between 100k and 500k received 33% of their income from voluntary sources such as Trusts and Foundations and and 23% from government; whilst those with an income between £1m and £10m received 12% of their income from the voluntary sector and 60% from the government. This income tends to take the form of grants rather than contracts, with specialist criminal justice organisations receiving 67% of their total income in the form of grants…

We believe that grants are good. They allow organisations to be flexible and responsive. Whereas contracts for services are often prescribed by commissioners rather than developed by organisations who have the intelligence and expertise to identify, understand and address needs in their communities.

So, what are the implications? What trends require concerted effort to reverse if we’re to ensure that the needs of communities in England and Wales are well met, which may in turn lead to the same reductions in crime, seen in Sharkey et al’s research?

We need to allow and enable communities of place and interest to mobilise and support the formation, development and sustainability of not for profit organisations responding to communities’ needs – the US experience points to the importance of organisations forming following the mobilisation of local people concerned about their community in the face of rising crime and violence. Action of this kind creates empowered and autonomous communities which in turn leads to the social capital that is most likely to produce the positive influence of informal social control that is described in the research.

We need to understand that real change takes time – funding and support of one to three years for projects and initiatives will go some way towards supporting local organisations but transformative longer-term change and building the trust needed to achieve it will need longer term investment.

We need a radically different approach to ensuring that BAME led organisations, possibly the most vulnerable part of our sector at this time, can lead responses to need within BAME communities. Clinks research has shown that, despite sustained and ongoing over representation of, and poorer outcomes for, BAME people at every stage of the criminal justice system, BAME led organisations are more likely to be at risk of closure than other organisations in the criminal justice system. Alongside this, BAME people, especially young BAME people, are also more likely to be victims of crime including violent crime. These issues merit a community response from a well-funded and autonomous BAME led sector able to advocate for and put resource into ways of building trusted relationships with and services for young people. Yet while the vulnerability of this part of the voluntary sector has been recognised by infrastructure organisations, funders and policy makers it’s this type of organisation that we consistently see missing out on funding because they can’t fit the criteria for funding and commissioning precisely because they’re small and specialist. We need concerted action that sees funders handing back power to these communities, supporting and resourcing them to define their own needs and solutions in order to develop an autonomous and sustainable BAME led sector.

Overall we need to invest in grassroots solutions, developed and owned by the communities they seek to serve.

[1] Sharkey, J (et al) “Community and the Crime Decline: The Causal Effect of Local Nonprofits on Violent Crime” in American Sociological Review 2017, Vol. 82(6) 1214–1240

Thursday 13 September 2018

How can art create a less violent society?

Photo courtesy of Intermission Youth Theatre
In what ways does art contribute to violence in society? In what ways does it prevent it?
Does art in the criminal justice system contribute to creating a less violent society, or can it do it harm?

This year, as part of The Monument Trust Fellowship, the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance's annual Anne Peaker lecture will focus on art and violence.

The event, at the National Theatre in London on Friday 5th October, will be chaired by Alison Frater with a panel debate from a variety of contributors including academics and artists. Speakers include:
Synergy Theatre Project will also be performing their new play Blackout on the theme of youth violence.

The event will run from 6pm- 8pm with networking drinks until 9pm. Spaces are extremely limited so please book in advance.

Tuesday 31 July 2018

New film from the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance

The National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance (NCJAA) is pleased to announce the release of Why do arts in criminal justice matter?

The film features responses from sector leaders and supporters - including members of the Monument Fellowship - and shares inspirational accounts of NCJAA members’ work; making a compelling case for arts in criminal justice.

"What access to the arts can do is to show you a set of possibilities to how you can live your life differently, and how you can make a really meaningful contribution to society."
– Darren Henley OBE, Chief Executive, Arts Council England

"If you believe that everybody should be given a second chance – and should not be judged by the worst thing they have ever done – then it’s important that criminal justice can use the arts to change the way people think about offenders." 
– Sally Taylor, Chief Executive, Koestler Trust

This film was produced as a resource for NCJAA members, please use and share it as much as possible with funders, governors and stakeholders. Watch it above or click here to watch it full-screen.

If you have any questions about the film please contact