Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

If I were justice secretary…

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The purpose of this blog series is to stimulate a debate about where our criminal justice system should be heading. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what the justice priorities should be.

Three justice priorities

As regular readers know only too well, the last five years have seen some of the biggest changes in our Justice system, in particular since Chris Grayling took over the role of Justice Secretary in September 2012. These include:

  • The privatisation of the probation service via Transforming Rehabilitation,
  • Numerous changes removing “privileges from prisoners” to make prison a more punitive experience
  • The decision to build the Welsh “Titan” super prison in Wrexham
  • The Secure College initiative for young offenders
  • The large scale cuts and changes to the Legal Aid system

At the time of writing, it’s far from clear who will win the election on 7 May nor what direction they will take the criminal justice system.

For the first time in recent years, it seems as if the political parties may have different policies in the criminal justice arena. But what should the priorities be for the next Justice Secretary? (I should point out that the next Justice Secretary might be Mr Grayling again, but I’m guessing that if the Conservatives win, he may still move on.)


If I were Justice Secretary…

So, I thought the timing was right to invite a range of key criminal justice agencies and commentators to write a brief blog post setting out their top three priorities for the new Justice Secretary to be achieved in his/her first year in office.

polling station


I’ve set out to get views from as many points of view as possible – think tanks, campaign groups, user organisations, providers, unions etc. The Prison Reform Trust,   Rob Allen, Jim Brown, NAPO, Paul Senior and the Revolving Doors Agency are among those who have signed up.

Contributors were given carte blanche with the sole ground rule being a strict 500 word limit to make it easy for everyone reading on phones and tablets.

The series will kick off next week with the views of Andrew Neilson (@neilsonandrew) of the Howard League for Penal Reform and will run through the election campaign with one or two contributions per week.

The purpose of this blog series is to stimulate a debate about where our criminal justice system should be heading. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what the justice priorities should be.

Please use the comments section below or follow the conversation on Twitter, using the hashtag #nextGrayling

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What next for justice?

Guest bloggers came from a wide range of viewpoints including several organisations with a particular criminal justice focus including prison reform, employment for women offenders, restorative justice etc. This, thankfully, made for very different priorities with limited repetition. Nevertheless, four key themes emerged from this spectrum of views.

The Justice priorities of Unlock

As things stand, a criminal record is for life, no matter how old or minor. This is despite knowing that, in particular, young people make mistakes when they’re young. In essence, young people should be allowed to fail. Ways to properly and fully ‘wipe the slate clean’ for minor offending should be established.

Big Society Capital’s priorities for the new Justice Secretary

Charities and social enterprises have a lot of value to bring in the future criminal justice system, building on the deep knowledge and experience they have gained from the work they have already done. And while an increasing number of corporates delivering public services are working to embed social values alongside their traditional aims,

If Jocelyn Hillman were Justice Secretary

My first priority as Justice Secretary would be to lead by example, hiring an ex-offender as my diary secretary. By employing women with convictions the government could reduce reoffending at no cost to the taxpayer, while also creating life-changing opportunities for some of the most marginalised people in our society.

I would ensure that ex-offenders were included in the Ministry’s diversity quotas and that my staff, from top to bottom, were engaged in understanding the importance of inclusive hiring practices. I would also ensure all government contractors were obliged to implement the same measures.

All Probation Posts are sponsored by Unilink

With over 20 years’ experience in the criminal justice sector, Unilink is a world leader in probation and community corrections software applications, as well as prisoner self-service, prisoner/case management and prisoner communications. Unilink’s integrated suite of products provide a complete digital solution enabling efficient running of prisons and probation. Underpinned by biometrics it integrates seamlessly to deliver security, efficiency and value – while being proven to help rehabilitate prisoners.

One Response

  1. If i was justice secretary, i would say i was deeply sorry for the damage and hurt i caused and leave the role of justice secretary to some one more competent.

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