What is justice? Re-imagining penal policy

1–2 October 2013, Keble College, Oxford


‘What is Justice?’ international conference aimed to provoke discussion on different ideas of justice, and how justice can and should be implemented. It facilitated the sharing of new and innovative ideas in order to re-imagine the penal system, and formed part of the What is Justice? symposium.


Plenary sessions

The first plenary session, What is Justice? was chaired by Frances Crook, and featured presentations by Bettany Hughes, Professor Nicola Lacey and Professor Fergus McNeill. The panel moved from Socrates to an appeal for intelligent justice, via a call to recognise the collateral consequences of imprisonment. The afternoon plenary focused on local participation and was chaired by Professor Stephen Farrall. Presentations were given by Professor Albert Dzur, Professor Danny Dorling, and Professor Monika Płatek. The panel broadened conceptions of justice beyond the criminal justice system, with emphasis given to participation and schools.

The role of the state plenary session was chaired by Professor Barry Goldson. Professor Thomas Mathiesen delivered his presentation via skype and presentations followed from Professor Vannesa Barker, Professor Steve Tombs, and Professor Sonja Snacken. The panel was wide ranging, covering surveillance, an inversion of the Scandinavian ideal, and examinations of corporate crime and state legitimacy.

The final plenary was chaired by Professor Ian Loader. The panel featured presentations from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Will Hutton, Professor Matt Matravers and Baroness Helena Kennedy who presented their thoughts on social justice, ranging from practical solutions to more abstract, philosophical considerations of fairness and equality.

Panel sessions

Papers from both practitioners and academics were presented, with several panels focusing on the treatment of marginalised groups in the criminal justice system.

The Howard League’s U R Boss young advisors presented in the ‘Participatory youth justice’ panel, detailing the work of their advocacy projects and explaining the importance of a participative approach in the criminal justice system. Participation emerged as a key theme throughout the conference.

New thinkers


The conference sought to promote the work of early career academics through awarding prizes for the best PhD paper and the best poster.

The conference brought a wide range of people together to debate and consider the  questions posed by asking ‘What is Justice?’. Delegates came from all over the world, from different academic disciplines and practice. The What is Justice? symposium will continue, utilising the ideas coming out of the conference in an attempt to move now from theory to practice.