Reframing crime and justice

How to talk about criminal justice reform in Aotearoa New Zealand: research and training to ensure an evidence informed public discussion


About the project

Polarised public attitudes on crime and justice are a major block to fairer and better justice outcomes in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This project takes an innovative and evidence-based approach to help us find better ways of talking about criminal justice reform.

International research has shown that providing people with “more or better” information about effective criminal justice policy has little impact on people’s views about criminal justice. We need to find a different narrative or frame for discussions. We need to activate commonly held values and create space for people to see, believe and integrate facts and evidence about criminal  justice reform.  This in turn will build support for laws and policies that will reduce crime and incarceration and reduce inequality in justice outcomes.

This project will encourage a well-informed and constructive public engagement on justice by developing messaging tools that connect evidence-based policies with the shared values we all hold as New Zealanders. The research will look at values and frames used in the public narrative about criminal justice, draw on multidisciplinary research to identify strategies and tools with promise and then develop and test new evidence-based messages.

Messages developed through this project will be shared with the wider sector in the form of practical toolkits and workshops to help those who communicate about justice to better reach their audiences and to support public education on criminal justice and law.



Grant amount

$59,000 for work in 2019, followed by evaluation work in three years. This project is co-funded with The Tindall Foundation who are contributing $40,000 and J.R. McKenzie Trust who are contributing $30,000.

About The Workshop and JustSpeak

The Workshop is a research-based, not-for-profit collaborative. It builds understanding of, and support for, the evidence on how to improve the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. The Workshop compiles the best research, and develops and disseminates evidence-informed communication and messaging strategies to build support for this research.

JustSpeak is a youth-led movement for transformational change in criminal justice towards a fair, just and compassionate Aotearoa New Zealand.

Contact person

Marianne Elliott

Co-Director, The Workshop



The message guide How to Talk About Crime & Justice: A guide is designed for technical experts, communicators and advocates working to deliver justice reform solutions that will improve wellbeing for people and communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. Also see the related resource Talking about justice in the context of a pandemic. A memo.


“A values-based, evidence-informed discussion about our justice system is long overdue. Funding from the Borrin Foundation, The Tindall Foundation, and J.R. McKenzie Trust will enable us to build more public support for effective policies in criminal justice and build the foundations for a fair, just and compassionate Aotearoa New Zealand.”

– Tania Sawicki Mead, Director, JustSpeak