Last year, the Criminal Justice Alliance, a coalition of 160 organisations working towards a fairer and more effective criminal justice system, investigated the value of lived experience in the criminal justice workforce, culminating in the Change from Within report.
Employers told us that employees who have been through the courts, prison and probation service have unique insight into the system’s strengths and weaknesses and can generate systemic solutions. As one employer said:
"He brings understanding to what happens in custody and probation. He has given us another standpoint to understanding what we are trying to achieve here. He has brought a real focus around what we want to do with the vision moving forward."
To truly maximise the potential of people with lived experience, we must include them in the criminal justice workforce in a meaningful way, not just in voluntary and consultative roles, but as paid employees, managers and leaders. But people with lived experience often face a range of structural, systemic and cultural barriers to employment in the criminal justice system, many of them unique to the sector. These barriers do not effectively support them to achieve their full potential as key influencers and decision-makers.
Organisations working in mental health and substance misuse often involve those with lived experience at the heart of their workforces, recognising that they can play a vital role in improving policy and practice. The majority of organisations in the criminal justice sector are yet to fully harness this potential. To weather the storm and rebuild a better criminal justice system beyond COVID-19, the criminal justice sector must put lived experience front and centre.
On 25 June, I’ll be leading a discussion on the Change from Within report's key findings and recommendations. I will be joined by two inspiring individuals working in prison and probation settings who both have personal and professional experience of the criminal justice system. There will be plenty of time for questions, conversation and sharing ideas.