Who we are
The Coalition was set up in 2021 amidst growing concerns about Scotland’s punitive obsession. We are a small group of activists who have different backgrounds. We include people who work in higher education, people with convictions, people who have been in prison and/or had a family member imprisoned and people who are active in wider community-based life and work.
We got together initially to discuss the lack of progress from many years of attempted penal reform. While some of us want to work towards improving the criminal legal system, others argue that reforms are part of a bigger problem – used to justify and legitimate the prison and punishment systems. Despite our different positions, there are many issues that we agree on. One of them is our concern about the over-reliance on the criminal legal system to deal with welfare issues (such as poverty, mental health problems, social exclusion) and the continued direction of resources towards punishment rather than support. Although we have different perspectives, we all agree that radical change is required.
We want to share ideas that can change the focus on punishment to one that prioritises the role of mutual aid and community organisation. We want to resist the reform and expansion of prisons and prioritise the welfare of people and communities. Our different experiences are, we feel, also our strength and give us space to share knowledge and research (and its power to make changes) with interested groups, communities and those directly affected; allowing people to feed-in knowledge and experience. We hope to cross boundaries between communities, service sectors and academic disciplines to build a movement of mutual support and action.
What we do
Our aim in building a coalition is to create a network made up of autonomous groups with similar objectives. The criminal legal system – policing, prisons and punishment – affects all of us and is a feature of life in many communities, albeit some are more adversely policed, imprisoned and punished than others.
In our meetings, we prioritise action that either brings attention to the failures of the legal system, or that shows solidarity with people who are inside prisons or subject to state punishment. Although focused initially on Scotland, we intend to connect with other active coalitions internationally who share our aims and objectives. We recognise that punishment knows no borders and the problems we have identified with the criminal legal system in Scotland, are shared globally. We are working to connect with other groups and organisations campaigning for justice and accountability through engagement at local and national levels.
By launching this coalition, we aspire to engage others to work towards structural change which addresses inequality, poverty, marginalisation and criminalisation. This necessitates long term grassroots collaboration with the support of local, national and international allies working towards change in order to expose the violence of the system. For us, the interconnectedness of economic, social, legal and political decisions all contribute to our growing prison populations. Recent events have highlighted that laws, and the policies that underpin them, are increasingly responsible for the growth in criminalisation that funnels people into systems of punishment.
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