Bishop Rachel vows to change the justice system

Published: Thursday May 30, 2024

The Anglican Bishop for HM Prisons, the Right Revd Rachel Treweek, will be leading a visit to the Netherlands to discover more about their criminal justice system as she continues with her commitment to inspire alternatives to prison in England and Wales.

The current prison population is over 87,000. It is underpinned by a common misconception that ‘being tough on crime’, locking more people up and for longer will result in stronger and safer communities. The evidence does not support this and rates of reoffending are prolific.

Bishop Rachel said, “Neither victims or offenders (and many people are both) are being served well by our current criminal justice system. While crime should never be condoned, prison is rarely the only answer to the problem and I believe with the right vision, we could be more courageous in establishing alternatives to the revolving door of prison. As I am determined to be part of the solution I set up a visit to the Netherlands, where the criminal justice system operates on the philosophy that the prison system is the least appropriate mechanism through which to solve social problems, with imprisonment seen as a last resort. My hope is that we will learn more about how their alternatives to prison can inspire and inform change to our systems.”

Bishop Rachel has invited to go with her Andrea Coomber, Chief Executive for the Howard League for Penal Reform, Pia Sinha, CEO of the Prison Reform Trust, and Rachel Sylvester, political columnist at The Times and Chair of The Times Crime and Justice Commission.

Andrea said, “Years of disastrous policy in Britain have brought our system to its knees. We now have the highest prison population in Western Europe, deplorable conditions, and politicians eager for longer sentences and more people locked up. As a country, we have a lot to learn.

“As we explore ways to resolve the crisis, I am keen to visit the Netherlands to see a system that is prioritising decarceration and to understand how they reached that position. I look forward to learning from Bishop Rachel, and seeing firsthand how it really works to use prison as a last resort.”

Pia said, “I am delighted to be accompanying Bishop Rachel on this visit. The Prison Reform Trust has campaigned for a safe, just and humane justice system for over 40 years. We believe that the alternatives to the revolving door of prisons, have to be rooted in evidence. We are keen to learn from the Dutch system so that we can take this learning and use our position to influence much needed reform in our justice system’’.

During the visit, organised with the Dutch Ministry of Justice, meetings will take place with representatives from the justice system and there will be visits to low security locations where offenders stay before release, and centres that support offenders with psychological or behavioural issues.

The learning from this visit will be fed back to experts from the field of criminal justice, including academics, MPs and Peers, CEOs of leading organisations, and those with lived experience of prison, all of whom are participating in Roundtable meetings in Westminster convened by Bishop Rachel. Under Chatham House rule they are seeking to identify and enable implementation of some significant steps towards prison reform. There is also a commitment to influence the public narrative beyond current media headlines which so often influence people’s views in negative ways.


 Lucy Taylor, Director of Communications, Diocese of Gloucester, 07811 174125, ku.gr1718213784o.coi1718213784dsolg1718213784@roly1718213784atl1718213784

2 thoughts on “Bishop Rachel vows to change the justice system

  1. I think this apache is excellent, and the only way forward. Let’s hope politicians see some sense.

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