Bishop James Jones, former Bishop of Liverpool, Bishop of Prisons and former Chair of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, has been appointed Chair of the Independent Commission into the Experience of Victims and Long-term Prisoners. The Commission aims to stimulate fresh thinking on the range of issues from sentencing to parole.
He led what is widely recognised as the most successful inquiry of its type (Hillsborough) in recent times and his Report led to the quashing of the original inquests, fresh criminal investigations, and the largest ever investigation into the police.
The Commission is made up of an expert panel of individuals with experience of working with victims and perpetrators of serious crime, as well as representatives from diverse fields including academia and public health. The work of the Commission is guided by the Terms of Reference and supported by a secretariat, which includes the Prison Reform Trust.
The aim of the Commission is to create the political space for a more measured and informed public and political debate about how the most serious crime is punished, the treatment of the perpetrators and the attention given to victims and their families once sentence has been passed. Its work is founded on the realisation that the lives of people imprisoned for very serious offences and the victims and their families are simultaneously altered, often to a life changing degree.
But the Criminal Justice System’s attention is focused on the requirements of retribution and the ambition of rehabilitation – the potential for a process which might, in any significant measure, lead to some healing of the wounds inflicted by the crime and its punishment appears to be largely overlooked.