Penal & Social Affairs Panel

The Penal & Social Affairs Panel - What does it do?

The Penal and Social Affairs Panel (PSAP) is a social responsibility effort of the Unitarians.  Its name was expanded in 2017 from ‘Penal Affairs Panel’ with the acceptance that so many problems in penal affairs are wider social problems.  The PSAP 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 since 2010.  In September 2010 the UK prison population had reached a record 85,500.  The current figure in 2018, according to the statistics published by the Ministry of Justice, is about 83,000.  There are currently about 1000 children and youths in custody, about 2,500 persons in immigration detention and about 17,000 persons detained under Mental Health provisions.  Together, the total number of persons in 2018 detained by the UK state exceeds 100.000.  

Today, the PSAP's specialist work has the same two directions as in 1992.  The first is to inform Unitarians and others on developments in criminal  and other law and practice covering imprisonment and detention and 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 "PSAP Issues Papers" each year.  The online "PSAP News" goes out to members of the PSAP 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 or social justice issue.  The PAP presentation to the 2018 GA meetings was entitled “What is Fake News?” and given by John Lloyd, a leading journalist.

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.  With our wider remit, we are adding commenting on social issues.

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 recent years, PAP members have included magistrates, solicitors, probation officers, prison teachers, prison visitors, drugs advisory officers. social workers and also Unitarians with no related background other than a deep wish to act on penal and social issues.  Today, the members are -

Tony Cann
Bruce Chilton
Jenny Jacobs,
Bernard Omar
Jo O’Sullivan
Tony Rees
Tony Ward
David Warhurst
Paul Wheeler
Jane Williams

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 contribution to justice in the UK.

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


Click here to read PSAP News 29 (PDF)

Click here to read PSAP News 28 (PDF)

Click here to read PAP News 27 (PDF)

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 22 - Improving Care (PDF)

Click here to read PAP Issues Paper 21 - Housing (PDF)

Click here to read PAP Issues Paper 20 - Inequality (PDF)

Click here to read PAP Issues Paper 19 - Rehabilitation (PDF)

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.