Sunday, November 6, 2011

More From England



I've returned to New York after half a week in London. As part of the release of From the Ground Up, we helped to organize a two-day summit on criminal justice reform that brought together a select group of American and British innovators. About 100 people attended the public portion of the event, which was held at London City Hall. These included a mix of frontline practitioners, national bureaucrats, foundation people, and academics.

I think the report and the event helped us to solidify our role in England. After more than a year of exploratory work, it has become clear that our niche in England will be to promote criminal justice reform by aiding and abetting demonstration projects in a variety of fields -- probation, courts, corrections, etc. This will take several forms: research, convening, technical assistance, and behind-the-scenes advocacy with central government.

While there are numerous capable non-profit organizations in the UK, I am pretty confident that our Centre for Justice Innovation can make a real contribution. One of my principal takeaways from the summit has to do with the differences in the playing fields between the US and the UK. Because of the nature of the government (national as opposed to federal), the politics (crime is a top national concern and a key partisan issue in England), and the media (i.e., relentless national tabloids), it is much, much harder to be creative and test new ideas in the UK than it is in the US. In this environment, criminal justice reformers need all of the help they can get. I hope in the days ahead that we will be able to help strengthen the hands of both frontline practitioners and policymakers who are interested in doing new things.