Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Class Inside The Criminal Justice System

Now I’d like to think people are well aware of the well-documented class bias in the criminal justice system (not to mention racial and other biases). So today I want to deal with the relation of class within the criminal justice system.
Why should I do this? Because there is a perception for some that those working for the state (and here I mean the prisons, police, courts etc. the ‘armed bodies of men’) form one reactionary mass. Needless to say, I think this is false. It is important to note that the tops of any industry and other state occupation (ie. teaching, civil service etc.) are different to the people at the bottom of those organisations. In my opinion there is a certain analogy between your basic civil servant, factory worker, prison officer and police constable, just like there may be between a senior civil servant, factory manager, prison warden and chief constable.
Okay, so a police officer has more discretion in their work than a factory worker. But who decides the broad thrust of the actions of these groups, it is those at the top not the bottom. Would we suggest that all civil servants agree with means testing because they have to carry it out? The same to an extent applies to strike breaking or stop and search with the police. (Of course this doesn’t mean that all civil servants or police officers are opposed to such actions either). To get some say in how their institution is run they need collective action – unlike those at the top. The courts are somewhat different with the judiciary drawn from the legal profession and the magistracy is drawn from whomever local political players nominate. Both of which are not generally working class, or are at all that sympathetic either.
Which brings me to what I suppose is the real reason why I began writing this. Namely that when I wrote about Devolution and the Criminal Justice System in relation to Wales it was pointed out that I was dismissive of the notion that extra jobs in Wales may result from establishing a fully developed Criminal Justice System.
Now the reason for me being dismissive was mostly because such jobs would only be jobs stolen from English workers, and it wouldn’t be all that many jobs, simply some administrative posts. The main benefactors would be those at the top who would be running the justice system of a region not a nation – with a prestige boost to match.
Job creation with regards to more immediate problems such as making the criminal justice system more ‘accessible’ (ie. building prisons and courts so that travel time for families etc are reduced etc.) would result in more jobs without taking them from elsewhere.
Indeed all the immediate problems that face welsh people in relation to making the Criminal Justice System more accessible to them as a nation (the lack of local prisons, lack of Welsh language provision etc.), do not require a separate Welsh jurisdiction. In my opinion a Welsh Criminal Justice system would be valid if it were to be constituted on a more progressive basis to the current system, in that it was truly democratic – especially in relation to the judiciary – basically if it were run in the interests of the ordinary workers in Wales (regardless whether Welsh speaking or not, or whether they were born in Wales or not – that should not matter) and not to create prestige posts for the Welsh middle class.


RickB said...

"create prestige posts for the Welsh middle class"
You've nailed it there!

The View from Steeltown said...

You may be interested in this survey. Canadians to not trust their justice system: