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Litigation as a Strategy in Penal Reform

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The criminal justice arena within which penal reform groups now operate requires them to develop new strategies. With this context in mind, the significance of a recent action for judicial review is discussed. In this landmark case, the Howard League for Penal Reform successfully challenged the legality of the Home Secretary's policy on children held in young offender institutions. The article describes the changing strategies employed by the League, and particularly contrasts ‘persuasion and influence’ with the turn to litigation. The ability of judicial review, as a specific kind of litigation, to further the goals of penal reform, is considered. Two principal arguments are advanced, namely: (i) that legal strategies are an important means through which penal policy is contested, and (ii) that legal actions contribute to the pursuit of informed modes of public engagement with questions about criminal justice.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2311.2004.00308.x

Affiliations: Lecturer in Law, Birkbeck, University of London

Publication date: February 1, 2004

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