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By Cruelty Free International

Our criminal system is broken: we must prioritise care in our communities

Our criminal system is broken: we must prioritise care in our communities

Alamy

Temi Mwale

Temi Mwale

2 min read

When I was 15 years old, my friend was murdered.

He was shot and killed a month before his eighteenth birthday. He joined a long list of children that have been killed by other children in this country. I joined a longer list of children who have experienced bereavement as a result of violence. I received no support or care and in the decade that followed, no-one ever asked me how I felt about it. The gravity of what had happened was never acknowledged. I am concerned that this experience has been shared by too many children and young people in this country.

It is not possible to fully measure the scale of harm that this type of violence has. But it is clear that the violence that we experience in our communities cannot be detached from wider systemic harms. The criminal legal system - which is the only system we have to deal with conflict and harm in our society - is also responsible for creating more conflict and harm. The criminal legal system perpetuates cycles of violence and trauma that are reproduced in our communities.

If we truly want to make transformative change for young people who are experiencing trauma, violence and racial injustice, we have to change the way we understand peace and justice by centring healing rather than punishment

I have spent the last decade working with children and young people impacted by the criminal legal system and I can tell you that it is completely broken. I have spent hours in police stations, courtrooms, prisons and probation offices. I have witnessed first-hand the misery these places create for individuals, whole families and entire communities. Racialised communities are disproportionately impacted by this harm, which makes addressing this a priority for achieving racial equity and racial justice.

Young people and our communities deserve more. We all deserve meaningful opportunities to heal, repair harm, take accountability and access care and support. If we truly want to make transformative change for young people who are experiencing trauma, violence and racial injustice, we have to change the way we understand peace and justice by centring healing rather than punishment. We must prioritise investing in infrastructure that embeds the care that is capable of generating real safety for young people within our communities. 

Temi Mwale is the founder of The 4Front Project, a member-led youth organisation that exists to serve young people who have experienced trauma, violence and racial injustice

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