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Right for the wrong reasons

Is the criminal justice system - as the Prime Minister has argued - 'utterly useless for getting on top of 21st century crime'?

Published in July 2006, the Crime and Society Foundation's online publication, Right for the wrong reasons argues that whilst the Prime Minister is right to suggest that the criminal justice system is not working, his understanding of this failure is fundamentally flawed. The paper is written by Richard Garside, Acting Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and Chair of the Crime and Society Foundation. Following a roundtable discussion held in June 2006 with representatives from the penal reform sector, we opened up this discussion and debate to a broader range of people and spent the summer of 2006 seeking responses to the paper.

Does criminal justice work? The Right for the wrong reasons debate

The Foundation will be publishing a follow-up monograph entitled Does criminal justice work?: the 'Right for the wrong reasons' debate on Monday 30 October 2006. This document incorporates responses to Right for the wrong reasons from a number of political, public policy and academic commentators: Rob Allen (Director, International Centre for Prison Studies); Geoff Dobson (Deputy Director, Prison Reform Trust); Ian Loader (Director, Centre for Criminology, Oxford University); Joe Sim, (Professor of Criminology, Liverpool John Moores University); Nick Clegg MP (Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary); and, Edward Garnier QC MP (Conservative Shadow Minister for Home Affairs). We are grateful for the other responses we received - many of which will be published on our website shortly.

The Foundation will be holding a debate at the Royal Society in October to discuss the points raised by Right for the wrong reasons and the responses to it. For information, please contact Ed Brenton.

Have your say

If you have not yet had a chance to respond to Right for the wrong reasons, we would still like to hear your views. If you would like to respond to our paper but would not like your contribution published on our website then please let us know as our first priority is to obtain your views on our argument and we will maintain the confidentiality that you request.

The five key propositions in Right for the wrong reasons are:


  1. Criminal justice reform and crime reduction are different policy challenges. It is a fundamental error to confuse reforming criminal justice with reducing crime.
  2. Crime is far more common, everyday and widespread than official statistics would have us believe.
  3. In the face of such widespread crime, the criminal justice system has very little impact.
  4. The criminal justice system does have a role. It is there to regulate certain types of crimes and criminals, rather than to resolve crime and make society safer.
  5. The crime reduction challenge involves being honest about the scale and nature of crime and related harms, and developing a far broader range of policies to address them than those afforded by the criminal justice system.

Please send your response either by email to or post and if you have any queries about this process or our work, then please do not hesitate to contact us.

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