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Christ Donovan Trust

Restorative Justice

Ray and Vi have been all around the country as one of the main speakers in conferences supporting Restorative Justice.

They also run their own workshops in:

     Prisons speaking to staff and inmates

     Halfway houses

     Probation

     Schools, including pupil referral units

     Mental Health

     Youth offending service

Restorative Justice (RJ) is a different way of tackling crime, based not on punishment but on healing the harm that’s been caused. It brings offenders into face-to-face conversations with their victims - and sometimes that dialogue is so powerful it can transform the future of each participant.

Victims get answers to questions about the crime they suffered, which for many brings new peace of mind, and the person who committed the crime gets the opportunity to try to make amends to the people they’ve hurt. This has been shown to slow down future reoffending. Sometimes RJ is used as an alternative to criminal prosecution (very low level crime) but mostly it’s used alongside the Criminal Justice System.

But an important principle is that the participants should come to an RJ meeting voluntarily; no-one should be forced to take part if they don’t want to. And we at the Chris Donovan trust believe very strongly that the facilitators should be properly trained and accredited, so that the encounter only goes ahead after thorough preparation of all parties, and an assurance of safety and total confidentiality.

We can gladly provide more information on request.


Sian West
Secretary Chris Donovan Trust.

 

What is Restorative Justice

You come home to discover that your house has been broken into and several valuable items, including your laptop, have been stolen. What happens next? You will probably call the police and, if they are able to apprehend those responsible, a court process will take place. You may get your laptop back, you may not. The people who broke into your house may go to jail, they may not.  Everyone involved is at the mercy of “the system”. Any questions you have about your safety or why your house was targeted go unanswered. Any restitution the perpetrators may want to make will likely not be allowed, as it would interfere with the court process and imply guilt. Overall, basic human needs and responsibilities are ignored, and the focus is on the punishment.

Restorative justice is a way of dealing with crime and conflict where those who are most involved in the event take up a central role; this involves accountability from those who caused the harm and empowerment of those harmed. The needs of the person who was harmed are taken into account as much as possible, and those most affected are involved in dealing with the outcome. This can be contrasted to the traditional justice system, where the focus is on ‘the offender’.  With restorative justice, the accused is invited to take meaningful responsibility and make amends in ways that are important to the victim, not just to society in general.

 

What is Retributive and Restorative Justice and who benefits


A lot of people we meet say the inmates get time off if they do RJ this is not true and there is no incentive to meet with their victim other than the greater awareness of their crime, they don’t get any time off.  In fact it is harder for them to sit in a room with their victim than it is to do their time.  In today’s legal system it is all about the offender and sometimes the victim is not even called to the trial. And victims feel left out, as Ray and Vi know this feeling, their case centred around the men that killed their son, and they were made to feel like they were getting in the way.  (This is the court system and had nothing to do with the police who did a great job) if you look at the diagram below you will see how Retributive justice is all about the offender and Restorative justice is victim centred makes the scales of justice balance towards the victim.

 

RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE
All about the offender

What Crime has been committed?
Who is to blame?
What will their punishment be?


The scales of justice above are balance towards the offender and very often the victims doesn’t even get a say in the court proceedings.  In fact many victims just sit in the back of the court as a bystander, yes they may get justice but they leave the courtroom feeling very angry that they didn’t get answers or even the truth or a sorry.  Some victims want to tell the offender the damage they have done to them, but with retributive justice this will never happen and many victims are left feeling very emotional and wanting answers to questions.  Like:  Why me?  Why my house, car, etc.  Which they will never get because to most offenders victims are just a piece of A4 paper in court and they haven't put a face to their crime - this is their safety valve -  this is how offenders separate themselves from their crime and victims.

And they go to prison and just get on with their punishment without giving their victim a second thought.

 

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE


Who’s been hurt?
What are their needs?
Who will meet their needs? What is Restorative Justice?

 

Different questions are asked in restorative justice. The three questions asked are:


1. Who has been hurt?
2. What are their needs?
3. Whose obligation is it to meet those needs?

These questions are different from the three questions criminal justice asks:

1. What laws have been broken?
2. Who did it?
3. What punishment do they deserve?

The process in which rule-breaking behaviour is dealt with differs in restorative justice.  In criminal justice, ‘the victim’ mainly serves as a source of information, and both ‘victim’ and ‘offender’ have rather passive roles. In restorative justice, those affected are given active, participatory roles in dealing with crime. This can be done through a dialogue, where all affected people explore one another’s feelings and needs in a safe and respectful environment. A neutral third party can assist them as they try to reach consensus on how to deal with the aftermath of offending behaviour. They may choose to have people support them in this conversation. This way, the outcome of the process will be tailored to the specific needs of the parties involved, and the specific context of the facts and persons involved. Restorative justice is a flexible process, whereas the criminal justice process tends to be very rigid.

The Meeting

No one will meet in, say a couple of days, the mediators will visit both sides and even before the meeting you will have the opportunity to enquire about anything you wish to know about your offender:  like what courses he has done to better himself while in prison, You may have questions to ask before the meeting  and answers giving back and this could take months depending on the crime that has been committed.

There will be no RJ meeting until the mediators are sure everything has been put in place and it is safe for both parties to meet. Again we must stress again that this is voluntarily on both sides and no one should be pushed into an RJ meeting. The last thing anyone wants is victims being re-victimized.

And the mediators will have to make sure that safety of the offender is also top priority and when they are satisfied that every risk assessment has been put into place and they feel everyone is ready only then will the meeting take place.

At the meeting there are two rooms one for the main meeting and the second room is like a time out room where either party can go to if the meeting gets too much and they may need a few minutes to just think over what was said. Both parties are invited to bring someone with them it could be a friend or work colleague but they are not allowed to say anything they are just there for support.

 Everything is timed the victim is told what time to turn up for the meeting let’s say 13:00hrs then the offender will arrive 13:30hrs this is done so both parties don’t meet up before the meeting and everything is put into place to protect both parties.

The meeting itself should have no time limit it normally starts off with the offender talking and explaining why he/she committed their crime while they are talking no one is allowed to interrupt until they are finished talking. Then the victim has their voice to tell the offender what it was like for them when the crime was committed and the effect it not only had on them but the family friends and the community too.

Again there are a lot of questions and answers going back and forth.Then the meeting will end with tea and biscuits and it is here that both parties learn more about each other this is when the monster becomes a human being.

Restorative Justice is the best thing that has happened in this country because as we said “for the first time the victim gets a voice”. If you are a victim of crime and want information about restorative justice or you would like to meet your offender and are not sure where to go or who to contact we are here to help please clink on the contact us link we will be only too happy to help.

Please select one of the below pages for more information about Restorative Justice.

What is RJ?

Where can RJ be used?

Victims stories

Free Booklet

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