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My tale of two strangers

After a funny encounter with two strangers at our team training day recently, 3Pillars Ops Manager Peter Mcintyre recalls the challenges we face in persuading people that meaningful rehabilitation programmes are essential for society.


Recently we came together to conduct some training as a team outdoors somewhere in the Midlands. As we enjoyed our first taste of face-to-face interaction for over 6 months, I went to recover my rucksack as I thought it was hindering the movement of two ladies who were settling into a table nearby. The ladies thanked me and asked what we were doing. I explained that we were all working with 3Pillars Project and that we worked with young men in the criminal justice system and when they are released that we provided the support they need to enable them to integrate back into family, community and society.

The fear

I expected a compassionate response to my statement of truth; what came back to me was two faces that reflected, horror, fear, ignorance and bias. I have seen that look on many a face across the globe.

My initial thought was “what a shame” what a shame that such fear exists, what a shame that through lack of awareness that judgement exists.

What a shame that people lack the compassion to see beyond that which they read or are taught. It did, nevertheless, reinforce the fact that we never see things as they are only as we are. We are limited by our own thought’s beliefs and experience.

Society and punishment

As I type this, I am listening to Baroness Helena Kennedy. Helena speaks from 40 years of experience of law practice and just how unfair, unjust and cruel the criminal justice is. Her point in summary is that our rules are written by the rulers and that they are both punitive and created to protect the ruler’s interests. There is little to no diversity of thought, discourse or understanding between themselves, far less of the people they deal with or their needs both within the criminal justice system or within society. In short, so long as we accept the way our criminal justice system works then no healing can take place for anyone in our society.

So what

Nazir Afzal stated (in the same lecture) that it is a political choice to criminalise, which we in UK overuse. There is almost a will to want to punish rather than expend effort, resource and money on diversionary options, rehabilitation and or restorative justice, all of which is considerably cheaper, more effective and humane (Newburn, 2017). We spend £3.6b annually on the prison population which per capita is the third largest in the world. We spend £8b per annum on recidivism which is directly linked to the lack attention and support given to diversion, rehabilitation and restorative justice. This lock them up and throw away the key attitude is the most loathsome of logics which I saw reflected back in the faces of the two strangers in the Midlands. No amount of political grandstanding will serve to make this right it merely reinforces the issue and so we are obligated to shine a light on the injustice and the abject cruelty of the criminal justice system.

To change we need to become aware, to become aware we need to actively seek alternative and diverse discourse and learn from it. Let’s get to it!


Newburn, T., 2017. Criminology.


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