In Your Network - John Samuels
John Samuels FRSA retired as a judge in 2006 in order to work on reforming criminal justice. Previously the Chair of the Prisoners Education Trust, he has worked extensively on a system he says is in urgent need of reform and improvement. He talks of his work and how he would like to connect to other Fellows with similar interests:
1) Please give a brief explanation of what it is you do and why?
In my full-time job I was a judge; but I took early retirement in 2006 to try and make some impact on a criminal justice system in urgent need of reform and improvement. When I retired I was the Chairman of the Criminal Sub-committee of the Council of Circuit Judges; and in that capacity had had direct contact with Ministers, senior officials and opinion formers in relation to the direction of travel of the criminal justice system.
Having been a Trustee of Prisoners Education Trust since 2000, I became its Chairman in 2006, and recently handed on that role. To my delight the Board appointed me its first-ever President. Earlier this year I became the Chairman of the Criminal Justice Alliance, an umbrella organisation of 68 members with interests across the criminal justice sector; and was appointed a Visiting Professor at Nottingham Law School. I am a trustee of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies; a trustee of the Howard League for Penal Reform, chairing its legal management committee; and the member representing England and Wales on the International Association of Drug Treatment Courts. I remain a judicial chairman of the Parole Board.
Outside the criminal justice world I am actively involved with the education programme of Lincoln's Inn: I am a lead advocacy tutor and trainer; chair the Practice Management Course for pupils which I pioneered over 25 years ago; and remain the Director of the Inn’s Pupillage Foundation Scheme.
Why: because my twin interests have for so many years been the education of late developers; and the reform of criminal justice.
2) What did you join the Fellowship for?
Because I was invited to do so; and was flattered to be invited.
3) In what capacity do you think you could contribute to society/the Fellowship?
In the work recently undertaken to address the RSA Transitions initiative, which I regard as a valuable work in progress.
4) What would you change in society given the chance?
The concept that the only effective sanction for breach of the criminal law is imprisonment. Prison should be reserved as the punishment of last resort, and only imposed where society would be damaged by the infliction of any lesser penalty.
5) What recent bit of news have you heard which inspires you?
A letter from a former prisoner in recovery from a long-term drug addiction, who with the benefit of distance learning has turned her life around, and is devoting it to helping others.
6) What did you learn last week?
That there is no lexicographical difference between "oral" and verbal": I had always believed that there was.
7) Tell us about another interesting Fellow you have spoken to.
The retired bank robber, Bobby Cummines, until recently the Chief Executive of Unlock, the National Association of Reformed Offenders, whose Vice-President I am proud to be.
8) What would you like to connect with Fellows about? Please tell us if there is anything you would like from other Fellows
I should like to connect to those who share my core interests in reforming the criminal justice system, and wish to see a substantial reduction in the use of imprisonment, and in the prison population.