A strengths-based approach influenced our investigation of various forms of innovations in criminal justice in countries across the United Kingdom and Europe, the United States, Australia, the Middle East, Asia and North and South America.
It was premised on a few overarching research questions, including ‘what constitutes innovative justice?
’Against this background, this article describes greening justice activities and policies across the major institutions of criminal justice, including our own research findings, and provides an analytical critique with an eye to the academic literature.
The notion of sustainability is highly relevant in this endeavour.
‘Greening justice’ encompasses a variety of initiatives and actions within criminal justice which advance a more sustainable relationship between humans and the environment (Graham and White 2015).
Fundamentally, it implicates practitioners, offenders and communities in efforts to reduce the social, economic and ecological costs of crime and criminal justice.First, within the interdisciplinary field of criminology, there is growing academic interest in the study of environmental harm, under the broad umbrella of ‘green criminology’ (South and Brisman 2013; White and Heckenberg 2014).Yet, within this sub-field, relatively little attention has been dedicated to the greening of criminal justice practices and institutions.The third observation is that, with few exceptions (see Conrad 2011; Norton 2013; Stohr and Wozniak 2014), the small but emergent literature that does concentrate on ‘greening justice’ tends not to be derived from scholarly sources or empirical investigation, but rather reflects organizational interest in such matters (see, e.g., the United States Department of Justice National Institute for Corrections ‘Green Corrections Initiative’, n.d.).Ostensibly, it is those working in justice institutions, both practitioners and policymakers, who are most readily engaged in writing about environmental sustainability in an applied criminal justice context.’, ‘how are ex-/offenders, practitioners and communities creatively engaged in ground-breaking justice initiatives and social innovations?’ and ‘what social and other consequences flow from the adoption of innovations in criminal justice, and for whom?Stories of offenders, especially prisoners, becoming involved in various conservation and restoration projects challenge pejorative stereotypes of the subjects of punishment and how they spend their time while ‘doing time’.The increasing range of initiatives extends from British ex-offenders undertaking biodiversity training and woodwork courses to help save honey bees (Connectar Training and Biodiversity Trust 2014); to Australian prisoners rehabilitating native birds in conservation centres (Martin 2014); to a sustainable ‘Heavy Eco’ fashion label with organic clothing and accessories designed and made by Estonian prisoners (Davies 2011); to Turkish National Police rapid response teams using bicycles at public events to reduce emissions (Daily Sabah 2014); through to renewable energy and biogas technologies improving sanitation and energy cost-efficiencies in Rwandan and Indian prisons (Sharan 2012; Braw 2013).We then examine the interface between criminal, ecological and social justice, by exploring the potential of ‘greening justice’ in enabling processes of restoration, community reintegration and desistance from crime.The article reflects on the motivations and ideologies underpinning this nascent green evolution, raising deeper questions of ‘why? ’ Innovative examples which seek to realize positive penal change and environmental sustainability are differentiated from those which claim humanistic intentions and green credentials but which, arguably, do little to challenge repressive carceral regimes.