The Police, Crime and Sentencing (PCSC) Bill is one of the major pieces of recent legislation that has an opportunity to impact on the lives of those in the revolving door of crisis and crime. We aimed to influence two amendments to the PCSC Bill. Firstly, an amendment that decided the conditions of police cautions, and a second amendment that introduced a presumption against short prison sentences of six months or less by working with the Archbishops’ Council.
Our concerns about the PCSC Bill cautions amendment were due to our New Generation policing project raising our awareness that many young adults in the revolving door initially meet the criminal justice system through out of court disposals. Our interest in the presumption against short sentence emerged from our history of campaigning in 2018/19 for the abolishment of short sentences because they fail to deal with the drivers of crime.
The Bishop of Gloucester tabled an amendment to the Bill, with a view to insert a new clause on ensuring the conditions of a cautions include interventions that are conducive to reducing reoffending. Lord Dubs tabled an amendment to the Bill, with a view to amend the sentencing code to include a presumption against prison sentences of six months or less. This was supported by the Bishop of Gloucester.
We met the Bishop of Gloucester via the Home Affairs Adviser for the Archbishops’ Council, who saw one of our initial briefings on the Bill with coalition partners. The Bishop of Gloucester is heavily involved and influential in criminal justice issues, becoming the Bishop of HM Prisons in 2020 and regularly speaking and hosting events relating to the criminal justice system and how it affects women more specifically, making this an ideal partnership. We partnered with Lord Dubs due to his positive record on human rights issues.
Key to our approach was to ensure that those voting on this bill understood the impact legislative change could have on the revolving doors group. As is usual in policy influencing, we wrote briefings, speech notes and other materials to support these amendments. More innovative and in our view, more impactful to understanding the real-life impact of these changes to the legislation was the voice of our New Generation campaigners – a group of young people working with us to develop new policing approaches to young people in the CJS. We met with our New Generation Campaigners on several occasions to gather their views and experiences relating to cautions and embedded their voice and their wider thinking into our briefing on cautions. For our briefing on short sentences, we had consulted with our members in 2019 to understand their experiences of short sentences, which we embedded into the briefing.
In the second reading of the Bill in the House of Lords, the Bishop of Gloucester, with support from Revolving Doors, stated that:
‘People often get caught in the revolving door of repeat low level crime, simply because they are destitute, traumatised, often homeless, suffering ill mental health and struggling with addiction. Over the years, I’ve seen how repeated short sentences and the revolving door of custody particularly damages women and their families.‘
At Committee stage of the Bill in the House of Lords, the Bishop of Gloucester said:
‘I am incredibly grateful to the Revolving Doors Agency for their briefings and support, and for their work with their New Generation Campaigners. These are young adults with the experience of the revolving door of crisis and crime, and discussions with them were around how they viewed conditions of cautions – what they found useful, and what they did not find useful’
At Committee stage of the Bill in the House of Lords, Lord Dubs said:
‘I’ve had some help from a great organisation called Revolving Doors, and I have a quotation from one of their members: “although I was in prison for a short amount of time, I felt traumatised by the whole experience. In fact, sending me to prison was just a waste of time and money. I was released with no information and support, I found myself back in a violent relationship which exacerbated my addiction, and which led to further arrests and trauma’
These amendments were withdrawn due to a lack of cross-party support, but we were glad to have a light shone on the work of Revolving Doors in the House of Lords that the voice of our lived experience members were highlighted during the debate. The amendments at second reading and Committee Stage received crossbench support from the Lords, and we have established positive relationships with several peers in the House of Lords which we hope to utilise again in the future.