Prisons and police are an inadequate solution to social problems – to what extent can the system be reformed or should it be abolished all together?

Thursday 19th November, 6.30pm – 9pm, (venue tbc) Central London

Criminal justice reforms over the years have had some necessary and positive outcomes. However, in many cases they have also had unintended and sometimes harmful consequences. Campaigns often centre on improving conditions within penal institutions and/or reducing the use of custody. These concerns and demands are typically met with reform responses but as quickly as these are taken up they can be absorbed and co-opted into criminal justice policies and programs that extend and become part of the system.  New solutions that can initially seem progressive soon become repressive and regressive and result in penal expansion.

Drawing on activism and research from Australia, the USA and UK, we will hear short introductions on the challenges, possibilities and pitfalls for activists engaged in work to dismantle criminal justice.

The event will raise the following questions:

  1. What can we learn from other campaigns and how the state has responded to them?
  2. What is the relationship between reform, decarceration and criminal justice reductionism.
  3. How can we balance campaign and advocacy efforts to achieve immediate and long term transformative change?

This event is sponsored by, and organised in collaboration with, the
Harm and Evidence Research Collaborative at The Open University.


  • Stephen Akpabio-Klementowski (PhD Student, The Open University)
  • Dr Bree Carlton (Monash University, Australia)
  • Deborah Coles (Inquest)
  • Dr Erica R Meiners (Northeastern University Illinois, USA)
  • Neena Samota (StopWatch)
  • A speaker from the Empty Cages Collective

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