Restorative justice is an approach that focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, as well as the involved community.
According to John Braithwaite (2004), restorative justice is:
...a process where all stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by the injustice and to decide what should be done to repair the harm. With crime, restorative justice is about the idea that because crime hurts, justice should heal. It follows that conversations with those who have been hurt and with those who have inflicted the harm must be central to the process.
Restorative justice brings those who have offended and victims into contact with each other. It aims to:
supports victims to share the impact of the crime and what they need to happen to move things forward;
enable those who offend, an opportinty to understand the impact of his or her actions; and
provide an opportunity to make amends.
It can be used throughout the criminal justice system, from the police using on the street ‘informal resolutions’ to bringing a common sense approach to incidents, up to formal ‘restorative conferencing’. The benefits of this approach are well evidenced in research, both as providing satisfaction to victims and reducing re-offending rates.
I have worked with numerous police forces, directly training and supporting front line officers with developing their skills and practice and working closely with senior managers to develop and implement a strategic vision for developing restorative policing.
I have also worked closely with Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPT) and across key partner agencies including Integrated Offender Management (IOM).
Training officers to use RJ does help them deal with neighbour disputes, minor crimes, community issues, and many other incidents they come across on a daily basis right up to more serious and sensitive cases.Giving them the skills, confidence and knowledge to use restortaive justice effetcively.
These officers spend many hours trying to resolve conflict between neighbours; loud music, threats of violence, gang related problems, community cohesion, abusive language, household noise, parking disputes, children and adults behaving inappropriately, criminal damage, dog barking, unkempt gardens and so on.
It is not uncommon for disputes to drag on for years to the point where those involved are unable to remember what caused the disagreement in the first place. The time costs are enormous and a drain on the quality of life for all involved is huge.The financial implications both in terms of staff time and legal costs can amount to thousands per case too.
The opportunity to develop the proactive side of restorative work is often forgotten. Using this approach increases both, incresed inverstment in social capital and develops a sense of community. By putting communities at the heart of decision-making, restorative justice increases their relationships with the state, increases community problem solving and engagement.
It is now widely accepted that staff equipped with restorative skills are better placed to manage conflict and tensions across communities in a proportionate and professional manner.
Research and publications
Shapland, J. et al (2008) Does restorative justice affect reconviction? The fourth report from the evaluation of three schemes.
Ministry of Justice Research Series 10/08. Shapland, J et al (2007) Restorative Justice: the views of victims. The third report from the evaluation of three schemes.
Ministry of Justice Research Series 3/07. Shapland, J et al (2006) Restorative justice in practice – findings from the second phase of the evaluation of three schemes.
Sherman, Lawrence W and Strang, Heather (2007) Restorative Justice: The Evidence. London: The Smith Institute. Youth Justice Board (2011) Youth Restorative Disposal process evaluation.