About the Criminal Justice Programme

The Bell Foundation's Criminal Justice Programme seeks to break down the language and cultural barriers to accessing and achieving justice and rehabilitation for individuals who speak English as a second or additional language (ESL) in contact with the English and Welsh criminal justice system.

The Criminal Justice Programme

Since its inception in 2015, The Bell Foundation’s Criminal Justice Programme has been bold and broad in its commitment to breaking down language barriers to justice and rehabilitation. In 2022 the programme launched the groundbreaking Language Barriers in the Criminal Justice System research series, which, along with learnings from partners since the programme began, forms the basis of the programme’s ambitious strategy for 2022-2026. The focus of the programme under this strategy is the impact of language barriers on outcomes and wellbeing, for anyone in contact with the criminal justice system who speaks ESL.

The programme also looks more widely at interconnected issues, primarily cultural barriers and challenges faced by those with protected characteristics including race and gender, again led by the evidence. The programme has a strong focus on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), and an awareness of the importance of considering intersecting characteristics and needs, and the need for holistic support for every beneficiary.

Programme goal

To break down the language and cultural barriers to accessing and achieving justice and rehabilitation for individuals who speak English as a second or additional language (ESL) in contact with the English and Welsh criminal justice system.

Programme intended impact

Individuals in contact with the criminal justice system who speak ESL have equal outcomes in justice and rehabilitation, and equal wellbeing during and after contact with the criminal justice system as their peers who speak English as a first language. This is thanks to a system and sector that have the ability and capacity to recognise, understand, and respond to the additional challenges they face.

Criminal Justice Programme objectives

The programme has three key objectives: 

Objective 1

Influencing system change and thought leadership

Use evidence, partnerships and influencing to change the system’s response to individuals in the criminal justice system (CJS) who speak English as a second or additional language (ESL).

The programme aims to:

  • Raise awareness of the impact of language barriers across the system.
  • Encourage evidence-based policy and commissioning.
  • Call for higher standards of language support and education.
Objective 2

Build the capacity of the criminal justice sector

Continue to use and develop the Foundation’s role as a convenor and expert on language barriers in the criminal justice system to embed evidence-based training and resources to improve the sector’s response to the needs of individuals who speak ESL.

Current and forthcoming resources:

  • Prison ESOL Screening Tool
  • ESOL Worksheets for prisons
  • ESOL Tutor Resource Pack
  • Guidance for probation service staff and interpreters
  • Guidance for practitioners working with victims and witnesses who speak English as a second or additional language
  • Support for those who speak English as a second or additional language in the criminal justice system
Objective 3

Fund and evaluate projects and services that aim to improve outcomes and wellbeing for individuals in contact with the CJS who speak ESL.

Fund evidence-based work and innovative pilot projects that aim to improve outcomes and wellbeing for individuals in contact with all parts of the CJS who speak ESL. Work with partners to evaluate and develop the work, and to scale successful projects sustainably.

Current partners:

  • Greater Manchester Law Centre
  • Harrow Law Centre
  • The Law Centres Network
  • Hibiscus Initiatives
  • Why Me?

Partnerships

The Bell Foundation works in partnership to change policy and practice for individuals involved with the criminal justice system.

Supporting Victims

A grant scheme to fund organisations supporting victims of crime who speak English as a second or additional language.

I enjoyed today immensely as it was an opportunity to meet other colleagues in ESOL but also to exchange ideas. Having the trauma informed session was brilliant, appropriately pitched and very interesting. ESOL Tutor

Resources

The Bell Foundation, often working in partnership, develops training and resources to improve the criminal justice sector’s ability to respond to the needs of individuals who speak English as a second or additional language.

Research

Research is an integral part of the Foundation’s work in criminal justice, it guides the direction of the Foundation’s work and resources and it builds the evidence base for policy and practice recommendations and system change.

Our partners

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The Criminal Justice Programme seeks to break down the language barrier to accessing justice and rehabilitation for individuals in contact with the criminal justice system for whom English is an Additional Language.