Over 85,000 men and women are in prison in England and Wales today - over 13,000 (5%) are Catholic.
Criminal justice is a core workstream of the Department for Social Justice drawing from Catholic social teaching on care for victims, offenders, and the families of all those affected by crime. Over the past twenty years, the Department has published four landmark documents shaping the work of the Conference in this area. These have been used as a basis for both proactive work, such as engaging with the Ministry of Justice on sentencing reform and prison chaplaincy, and responsive work such as replying to parliamentary inquiries on prison conditions.
Reading the signs of the times, criminal justice remains a complex area of social justice in which politicians and media often amplify public calls for tougher sentences while the private work of Government, Civil Service, and other organisations shows greater concern for a genuinely rehabilitative system. The work of the Conference aims to identify and address the needs of victims, offenders, families, and wider society in a positive-sum game of justice and mercy. There appears to be a growing view of criminal justice as partly a matter of public health, which lends increasing importance to the roles of parishes, prison chaplaincy, and dignified human relationships in care for both victims and offenders. Reconnecting the community with the process of rehabilitation reflects the Catholic social teaching principles of solidarity and subsidiarity and seems central to achieving outcomes such as better wellbeing, stronger families, and lower re-offending rates.
A Catholic approach to sentencing reform which places victims at the heart of the criminal justice system while seeking a safer, healthier, and more rehabilitative prison estate.
‘The Right Road’ draws expertise from Catholic chaplains, charities and experts working in the field of criminal justice, to make recommendations for prison reform in today’s context.
Descending from the Catholic Prisoners Aid Society founded in 1898, Pact (Prison Advice and Care Trust) is the national Catholic charity that supports prisoners, people with convictions and their children and families.