There are already some very vocal and well organised campaigns that focus on penal conditions and reforming criminal justice processes. Many of you will be involved in or aware of this kind of work. However, through our recent Reform Sector Strategies project, we learned that because of urgent concerns around penal conditions and the fast moving policy environment there has been a focus on ‘fire-fighting’ – dealing with the immediate issues of the day. But what we also found was that people are concerned about criminal justice expansion and wider issues of inequality and social injustice – but that it is often difficult to find a space for this voice and it is often missing, or silenced or sidelined in policy debate.

The coalition can sit alongside existing campaigns to improve penal conditions. It is hoped that we can work towards creating opportunities for additional and alternative voices in the debate that are focused on calling an end to penal excess and gathering knowledge and support around social justice solutions.

While the political and funding environment is tough, if we can organise effectively there should be scope to offer a necessary counter voice to institutionalised power and the vested interests that increasingly dominating debate.

I’m going to talk for just a few minutes to give you a bit of background, outlining how we got here and the motivation for circulating the call for action for today’s meeting.

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