This evening Researching Reform took part in a WHYFest event created by ground breaking discussion forum Subjectivity UK, called Crime and Punishment – Justice And The Youth. The debate focused on children, the criminal justice system and how we could help to improve outcomes for our youth.

From outstanding performances by award-winning artists, to thought-provoking debate inspired by the organisers and audience members, it was an unforgettable evening. The level of engagement was high and some attendees had even travelled as far afield as New York to be there.

The debate was divided up into poetry readings, musical performances and monologues which told the stories of boys, girls and young men and women who had been charged with committing murder. The audience was invited to discuss these cases and offer thoughts on what punishment should be given. It was an animated, exciting and challenging evening and no one was short of ideas or perspective.

Once the audience had voiced their opinion on these scenarios, the panel members were then invited to share their thoughts. Researching Reform was privileged to share this panel with award-winning barrister Tunde Okewale, whose practice centers around criminal law and human rights.

These were some of the questions the audience and panel were asked to think on:

  • What sentence would you give a battered woman who killed her violent partner without immediate provocation?
  • Would you imprison a young boy under the doctrine of Joint Enterprise whose friends killed another boy, because he was at the scene of the crime and the weapon used belonged to his father, but his friends testify that he wasn’t aware of the crime being committed at the time because he was outside the building in which the murder took place?

As well as making all of us think about the way the law works, and the changes needed to make the system better, artists shared their often personal and intimate experiences about offending. Musican Trendy performed a frank and uplifting rap which touched on his past and the way offending affects life long after a crime is committed. Award winning poet Caleb Femi recited two of his pieces about life growing up and the contradictions inherent in society about the way young boys from ethnic minority backgrounds are treated, especially by the police. Actors Michael Oluborode and Thea Beyleveld read two deeply moving pieces out to the audience in what were breathtaking performances. The monologues themselves were superbly written, powerful narratives created by Dani Moseley, and throughout the course of the evening these stories expertly retold, brought the discussions to life.

The event itself was produced by three talented young men whose vision and progressive thinking have created a cutting edge discussion forum that’s one to watch. Lionheart, Charles and Charles, co-founders of Subjectivity UK, have professional backgrounds in mental health, performance art and politics, and their forum is creating a much-needed space to highlight the way society views children and to find ways to amplify their voices.

It was an honour to be a part of this evening, to be given the opportunity to learn more about the way the justice system impacts children and to be able to laugh, and there was much laughter, with so many passionate, talented people.

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