Make Justice Work was a campaign to boost public support for a change in how Britain deals with minor offenders – a switch from expensive and futile short prison terms to intensive and effective sanctions, delivered in the community.

It aimed to raise public awareness of the pointlessness and expense of locking up low-level offenders, only for them to offend again and again. Crucially, the campaign identified the community alternatives to custody that are most effective both at reducing re-offending and cutting costs.

“We believe that this country puts far too many low level offenders into prison – for fruitless short sentences and at great cost to the public purse.  Worse still, they are then released having done virtually nothing to address their criminal behaviour or the issues underlying it”

The brainchild of criminal justice campaigner, Roma Hooper, founder of the Prison Radio Association, Make Justice Work was backed by leading experts from the criminal justice system – including former prison governors, charity directors and renowned academics. It also enjoyed the support of a wealth of key players and opinion formers from outside the organisation. Visit our Ambassadors section to find out more.

“These short  prison terms lead to overcrowding and provide little or no chance to rehabilitate prisoners as there is precious little time to even  provide basic education, let alone deal with substance misuse or mental illness or to get them working.  And prisons, with limited resources, should be concentrating all their efforts on those who really need to be behind bars – those who are dangerous and are a risk to public safety,”

No wonder that two out of three ex-prisoners find themselves back in court within a year of their release. And, among those released after short sentences, the figure is even higher. We have got to put a stop to this grotesque waste – of money and of human potential.

In June 2010 MJW launched an independent National Enquiry called Community or Custody: Which Works Best? The enquiry toured the UK taking evidence from local experts and practitioners about ground-level experience of low-level offending and the relative efficacy and cost of short-term prison sentences or community based alternatives for tackling the problem.

The panel produced a final report based on the Community or Custody: Which Works Best? National Enquiry’s findings. For more information on the National Enquiry process please visit

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