This chapter introduces criminal justice as a highly contested issue with deep divisions in public opinion about appropriate responses to offending, linked to different perspectives on human nature, development and capacity for change. It situates questions about the direction of future criminal justice policy in the context of reforms planned by the coalition government when it came into power in 2010, and argues that reforms should be grounded in a fundamental reassessment of what criminal justice is for, and what it is realistically able to achieve. The Introduction sets out the aims of the book, outlines the chapters, and sets out the book's main arguments: for a movement away from continual reform of criminal justice, excessive legislation, emphasis on punishment and micro-management of services; for more responsibility for preventing crime and dealing with its consequences to fall on other parts of government, other public services and civil society, including provision for better education, mental health services, substance abuse treatment and regeneration of poor neighbourhoods — to build up individual capabilities and social capital in communities; and for an agreed set of moral and practical principles, based on reflection and debate, within which criminal justice policies are framed.
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