The Rethinking Crime and Punishment project (Rethinking) grew out of a shared recognition that our criminal justice policies were doing more harm than good.
In early 2005, Major Campbell Roberts of the Salvation Army and Kim Workman of Prison Fellowship began a dialogue around the social harms created by law and order policies. They agreed that there was growing public concern about the rapidly increasing prison population, at a time when the crime rate was relatively stable. It was clear that the general public didn’t have the sort of information that would enable it to engage in an informed, rational discussion about alternatives. While there is a lot of evidence for “what works” to reduce reoffending, much of it is counter-intuitive to what people initially think should happen.
Both the Salvation Army and Prison Fellowship shared the vision of a better informed public, through a public education program that provided high quality user-friendly data and information about the New Zealand justice and prison system. Their aim was to encourage better debate and less fear of crime. Both wanted to introduce a new voice to the “law and order” debate - a voice that could cut through false dichotomies, and point the way toward more positive and rehabilitative prison practice, and a more effective criminal justice system.
In July 2006, The Salvation Army and Prison Fellowship New Zealand decided to form a partnership to launch a public awareness campaign, “Rethinking Crime and Punishment”. Kim Workman agreed to direct the project. In October 2009 it decided to form a charitable trust known as the Robson Hanan Trust, to develop the project, and expand its work.
The Way Forward: Rethinking and the Robson Hanan Trust
‘Rethinking’ has established a reputation as a thoughtful and credible participant and commentator on criminal justice issues. It has expanded its brief away from a preoccupation with penal reform, toward a more comprehensive policy reach across the criminal justice sector, and commenting on those issues that contribute to social harm.
In November 2010, Rethinking re-launched its website which will develop over the next two years into a criminal justice information clearing house. Our aim is that it will be the “first port of call” for media, policy analysts, criminal justice professionals and others, who need information on policies, programmes and initiatives that are effective in reducing crime and social harm.
In 2011, the Rethinking team will be holding community seminars, to promote greater understanding of crime and justice issues, and ‘what works’ to reduce crime. We will focus the seminars on local issues relating to crime, and seek to identify what public attitudes are toward issues of crime and justice. It will also seek to either commission or conduct research into key criminal justice issues.