Even those who argue that the criminal justice system is long overdue radical reform may struggle to visualise a system that operates without prisons. Yet there are those who argue that the case for decarceration, especially for non-violent offenders (80% of women prisoners), is compelling. High proportions of women and young people who are imprisoned have experienced domestic, drug and alcohol abuse, mental ill health, long-term unemployment and homelessness. It is perhaps unsurprising that reoffending rates remain stubbornly high. How would a system without prisons – or at least with dramatically fewer prisoners – work in practice?
Chair: Dave Taylor, Editor and Partner, Tortoise
Our special guests are:
Somers Gerson is the head of Partnerships and Fundraising for The View Magazine a social enterprise producing a magazine by and for women of the criminal justice system, promoting their creativity, and a campaigning platform that examines new practices to break the cycle of re-offending and advocates for mass decarceration of the UK female prison population. She is working to bring awareness to these issues through cultural programming, planning an upcoming photography exhibition called Someone’s Daughter. Although starting her career working in the US government, Somers comes to The View after 10 years in the art world with a focus on representations of minoritized women.
Frances Crook is Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform. She was awarded an OBE for services to youth justice in the 2010. She is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and an Honorary Visiting Fellow in the Department of Criminology at Leicester University. She has Honorary Doctorates in Law from Liverpool and Leeds Beckett universities. Frances Crook was previously campaigns co-ordinator at Amnesty International and a secondary school teacher in Liverpool and London. She has held several non-executive roles including on Barnet NHS, the School Food Trust and as a Governor of Greenwich University.
Vicki Cardwell joined Spark Inside as CEO in 2020 after a decade of working in leadership roles in the criminal justice sector, following an earlier career in public policy. She has led justice collaborations to secure legislative change; and helped found the ground-breaking Transition to Adulthood Alliance. She holds a Masters in Social Policy from the LSE, is a Winston Churchill Fellow, and a regular media commentator.