Martin Wright cogently claims that overcrowded prisons are not fit for purpose, and that it makes no sense to send people to prison. He proposes the idea for “transferable funding”. In brief, when the probation service identifies particular needs and starts projects which reduce the prison population, the savings in prison costs should be transferred to pay for these projects. Although it might be difficult to be realized, this idea deserves careful reflection.

Dr Wright is wondering whether instead of restorative justice within the criminal justice system, or in parallel with a punitive system, we could have restorative methods backed up by a restorative justice system and proposes a three-stage system:

  • Less serious cases referred (or self-referred) to community mediation service
  • More serious cases reported to criminal justice system, but referred out to the community mediation service in lieu of prosecution (caution, final warning, suspended prosecution)
  • If unsuitable for mediation, or mediation unsuccessful, or agreement not kept, or cases are too serious, they should be referred to criminal justice system for compulsory reparation imposed by the court

However, restriction or deprivation of liberty would be used only when necessary to enforce reparation or to protect the public.

Martin Wright formulates two main questions facing us when we try to create a society acceptable for everyone: how do we try to persuade people to act in a way that does not harm others, and how do we try to respond when they do cause harm. He is convinced that restorative justice offers one path towards an answer. But we still have to learn and embrace this new philosophy.