A new decade, some old debates

Published date01 March 2020
Date01 March 2020
Subject MatterEditorial
A new decade,
some old debates
This is the first issue of the Probation Journal in 2020. Since the last issue of the
journal was published the United Kingdom has voted in a new government and it
has left the European Union. The topic of Brexit has consumed the body politic in the
3 years since the referendum vote in June 2016, with the result that much of gov-
ernment work has been consumed with this issue. The election manifestoes of the
different political parties all spoke to a need to refocus attention on the domestic
agenda, and the topic of law and order was notable by its prominence alongside
commitments towards investment in health services and education. The Conserva-
tive Party has committed to increasing the numbers of police, extending prison
sentences for certain offences and increasing the number of prison places in Eng-
land and Wales, despite the fact that this country currently has one of the highest
rates of imprisonment in Western Europe (Aebi and Tiago, 2019). Tragically, the
issue of law and order came to further prominence in a terror attack during the
election campaign, where Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt were murdered at a
Learning Together conference in central London on 29th November. The aftermath
of this terrible event led to media debates about the utility of rehabilitation and
further politicisation of law and order, despite criticisms from the families of the
victims to not use their deaths in this way. Writing in the Guardian, Dave Merritt, the
father of Jack Merritt wrote:
He would be seething at his death, and his life, being used to perpetuate an agenda of
hate that he gave his everything fighting against. We should never forget that. What
Jack would want from this is for all of us to walk through the door he has booted down,
in his black Doc Martens. That door opens up a world where we do not lock up and
throw away the key. Where we do not give indeterminate sentences, or convict people
on joint enterprise. Where we do not slash prison budgets, and where we focus on
rehabilitation not revenge. Where we do not consistently undermine our public ser-
vices, the lifeline of our nation. Jack believed in the inherent goodness of humanity, and
felt a deep social responsibility to protect that. Through us all, Jack marches on.
The Learning Together initiative is one on which both Saskia Jones and Jack
Merritt worked and to which they were passionately committed. It is an initiative
which brings together university students and people subject to either imprisonment
or community supervision to learn together. It is not a rehabilitative programme, as it
Probation Journal
2020, Vol. 67(1) 3–5
ªThe Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0264550520903839
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice

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