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Criminal Justice

We’re helping to shape a more effective criminal justice system through our funding and our engagement with government

How we're Influencing Policy and Practice

The criminal justice system is under pressure. Small and local charities have told us about the challenges of probation reforms, overcrowded prisons and discrimination. Alongside the important work of charities delivering services to people across the criminal justice system, there is a need for systemic change.

Our focus on influencing the criminal justice programme aimed to change this problematic system, particularly around:

  • supporting the specialist voluntary sector to operate, become stronger and to speak up within the current very difficult prisons and probation environment;
  • improving the policy and operating environment for smaller charities, particularly by seeking to influence the new probation system;
  • influencing work further “upstream” in the criminal justice system to help divert and reduce people entering prison in the first place;
  • influencing support for specific demographic groups within the criminal justice system.

To meet these objectives, we undertake direct policy work, building on the experience of our charity partners as well as funding charities to influence change.


Criminal Justice Programme

The expertise, connections and reach of specialist charities is needed more than ever, yet many have struggled to access funding or get their voices heard.

To address that, in 2020, we awarded funding to 17 specialist charities and partnerships to influence change under our priority areas. From challenging discriminatory treatment received by Muslim prisoners, to supporting smaller specialist charities to speak up in a difficult environment or calling for early intervention and better alternatives to prison, these charities have been working to improve policy and practice across the system.

Many of these charities achieved important steps towards these goals over the course of this funding – but the environment continues to be challenging and there are further opportunities to build on their success. As such, in 2022, we awarded additional funding to nine of these charities to continue building on what they have achieved so far. Here is an overview of the projects: 

  • Agenda: Improving experiences of young women in contact with the criminal justice system.
  • APPEAL: Challenging criminalisation for debt – focused on council tax debt and TV licensing.
  • Community Chaplaincy Association: Influencing policy and practice in community chaplaincy sector, supporting diversification of membership and enhancing support for specific demographic groups in the CJS.
  • Criminal Justice Alliance: Increasing use of restorative justice, improving support for victims, particularly young adults and Black, Asian and minority ethnic victims, and working towards a more coordinated criminal justice voluntary sector.
  • Maslaha: Improving treatment of Muslims in prison.
  • Revolving Doors: Increasing diversion away from the criminal justice system for young adults involved with repeat low level crime.
  • Transform Justice: Reducing the number of people prosecuted for minor crimes by increasing support for, and use of, options to resolve crime without going to court.
  • Traveller Movement: Addressing disproportionality of Gypsy and Traveller adults and young people in the criminal justice system, improving ethnicity monitoring, and pushing for implementation of the Lammy Review.
  • Zahid Mubarek Trust: Reducing racial disparity in prisons.


Working on prevention

As part of our focus on preventing people from ending up in the criminal justice system in the first place, we also supported the Howard League for Penal Reform to work with the police to reduce the number of women arrested for non-violent crimes, which can have a significant detrimental effect on someone’s life.


Influencing policy and practice directly

As well as funding charities to influence, we also amplify the voices of our charity partners and bring together evidence and insights from across the charities we support to influence change. This includes responding to policy consultations, meeting with ministers or civil servants, or sharing learning with other organisations.