The Robson Hanan Trust was established to enhance the public debate on criminal justice policy.
Building upon the success of the Rethinking Crime and Punishment project (Rethinking), the Trust has assumed responsibility for its ongoing development.
The Robson Hanan Trust has engaged in this work for two reasons. Firstly, we believe that crime and justice policy should be characterised by a pragmatic, empirical, humanistic concern to conduct and put to use research that could contribute to making criminal justice and penal institutions effective and decent.
Secondly, we believe that the pursuit of truth is the motor of social reform and progress. As responses to crime have heated up over recent decades, the patient and careful discovery of what works to prevent or reduce offending has struggled to complete with more politically driven rhetoric and policy. Scientific method can produce rational knowledge, and can act to ‘cool down’ the ill-founded opinions on crime and its control that circulate in contemporary social and political life.
We want to bring about a sustainable, effective, and humane criminal justice system.
If we are successful then we can achieve two things. Firstly, we can stem the misdirected flow of scarce resources that can flow from bad decisions. Government would not for a minute think of spending public money on medicine that had not first been proven during rigourous clinical trials; yet it does this with crime prevention programmes repeatedly.
In the face of discrepancy, our task is two fold. It is to expose those programmes that have been shown not to work and to promote funding priority to those programmes which are effective in preventing crime. We must then make systematic evidence freely available on the web so that the knowledge gained can be accessed and used by crime victims, police officers, community groups, judges, and so on.
Our role is the democratisation of knowledge.
Our mission is to inform citizens, the mass media, practitioners, policy-makers and politicians alike about what works in reducing crime. In the process we hope to highlight the flaws in quick and dirty research and the value of high quality evaluations using the best possible methods.
Finally, we also exist to ensure that the basic rights and protections afforded by the modern state are not carelessly disregarded. We seek to address the growth of police powers, the hyperactive expansion of criminal offences, the spread of summary justice, and the bypassing of criminal justice protections and democratic processes.
We have set ourselves the task of tracking and critically dissecting these developments and their likely implications with a view to defending the traditions of criminal justice in a democratic state.