Penal Affairs Panel

The Penal Affairs Panel - What does it do?

The Penal Affairs Panel (PAP) is a social responsibility effort of the Unitarians. The PAP strives to bring Unitarian views to the British legal systems, especially those involving imprisonment or civil detention.

The PAP was created in 1992 following the General Assembly's "great concern at the poor conditions and regime at many local prisons." The Panel was given the task "to investigate the current situation on all matters of penal policy, to keep the denomination informed wherever possible of all developments, and to provide a liberal religious voice in response to issues arising out of current legislation."

Since 1992, the prisons, criminal justice and related systems, such as asylum and immigration, have got into more and more difficulties. The numbers in UK prisons have doubled. The trickle of justice legislation in 1992/3 has become a torrent in 2010/11. In September 2010 the UK prison population has reached a record 85,500. The current figure, according to the statistics published by the Ministry of Justice is 10% more than the number of bed spaces available in UK prisons and the inhuman process of "slopping-out" in the absence of toilet facilities continues in many prisons.

Today, the PAP's specialist work has the same two directions as in 1992. The first is to inform Unitarians and others on developments in criminal law and practice and the current issues. The aim is to encourage interest in the issues and understanding, through information and views, of their backgrounds. The Panel usually drafts and publishes two or more "PAP Issues Papers" each year. The online "PAP News" goes out to members of the PAP Network and others. Members of the Panel speak to Unitarian and other groups on criminal justice matters.

A major effort is made each year by the Panel to bring informed views to the annual General Assembly meetings on a currently important criminal justice issue. The PAP presentation to the 2014 GA meetings at Whittlebury Hall was entitled "“Imprisoned, Freed, Restored, Forgiven?”: A new delivery model for social services from Emmaus".

The second direction of the PAP 's work is commenting on criminal justice issues to the Government, Members of Parliament, national and local press and specialist bodies such as the new Sentencing Council. Members of the Panel represent the Unitarians on the Churches Criminal Justice Forum and contribute to "the views of the Faiths", for example, in opposing the Government's proposals for "Titan" prisons.

The Penal Affairs Panel meets three or four times each year, usually in London but sometimes in Manchester, Sheffield or Birmingham. Recently, the Panel has used telephone "Call Conferences" successfully and most communications are by email.

Over the years, PAP members have included magistrates, solicitors, probation officers, prison teachers, prison visitors, drugs advisory officers and social workers. Today, the members are -

Tony Cann
Bruce Chilton
Bernard Omar and
Tony Rees

Social "responsibility" or "justice" action and service are at the core of Unitarian history. They are also at the core of the present Unitarian Objects and modern Unitarianism in the UK. Many Unitarians and others pursue religious inquiry through such action and service. Their action and their "liberal religious voice" make a big contribution to justice in the UK.

Do you have Unitarian views? Do you have professional or specialist knowledge, experience or interest in criminal justice matters? If you would like more information, please contact Bruce Chilton.

PAP News

Click here to read PAP News 26 (PDF)

Click here to read PAP News 25 (PDF)

Click here to read PAP News 24 (PDF)

Click here to read PAP News 23 (PDF)

Click here to read PAP News 22 (PDF)

Click here to read PAP News 21 (PDF)

Click here to read PAP News 20 (PDF)

Click here to read PAP News 19 (PDF)

Click here to read PAP News 18 (PDF)

Click here to read PAP News 17 (PDF)

Click here to read PAP News 16 (PDF)

Click here to read PAP News 15 (PDF)

PAP Issue Papers

Click here to read PAP Issues Paper 18 - Probation (PDF)

Click here to read PAP Issues Paper 17 - Immigration Myths, Perception and Reality (PDF)

Click here to read PAP Issues Paper 16 - Human Rights (PDF)

Click here to read PAP Issues Paper 15 - Votes for Prisoners (PDF)

Click here to read PAP Issues Paper 14 - Mental Illness (PDF)

Click here to read PAP Issues Paper 13 - The Story of the ASBO (PDF)

Other Penal Affairs documents can be found in the Document Library.