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Promoting Criminal Justice Innovation

Should the UK create a new institution devoted to promoting innovation within the criminal justice sector? What would this body look like and how would it function? And how could it help support local innovators interested in addressing difficult problems like chronic offending, the re-settlement of ex-offenders, and low public confidence in the justice system?

As an American who works for the New York-based Center for Court Innovation, I’ve been given the unique opportunity to spend six months addressing these questions with the support of the Hadley Trust. During that time, I’ll be based at the Young Foundation, an organisation that brings together insight, innovation and entrepreneurship to meet social needs, based in London’s east end.

At first glance, it may seem odd to bring someone over to the UK from a country known for historically high rates of crime and imprisonment. Yet the last fifteen years have been a very promising time for the criminal justice system in the United States, as thousands of new, “problem-solving” court experiments like community courts, drug courts, mental health courts, and domestic violence courts have been launched and crime has declined sharply – as have public concerns about safety.

Fascinatingly, much of this innovation has been driven from the ground up, rather than centrally directed. My organization has helped play a role in this process, launching over a dozen demonstration projects in partnership with the New York State Court System and helping criminal justice practitioners across the country (and the world) launch their own problem-solving experiments.

My organization has also spent the last decade working with officials in the UK, most prominently in helping to set up the Liverpool Community Justice Centre. And in recent years, we’ve found increasing levels of interest in the model of the Center for Court Innovation itself, rather than any one of our specific projects.

Obviously, encouraging a culture of innovation and risk-taking within the criminal justice sector in the UK is no easy task, and last year, I co-wrote an article for the think tank Policy Exchange that lays out some key challenges. My job in the next six months - working in partnership with practitioners and policymakers in the UK - will be to explore these challenges in greater detail.

- A special thank you to Aubrey Fox, Senior Project Developer at The Young Foundation.

Interested in learning more about Aubrey's work or the Center for Court Innovation? Contact him at aubrey.fox@youngfoundation.org.

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  1. adil said...

    that sounds good, aubrey. are you planning to research why innovation isn't happening, or develop ideas?

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