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Just like all Jacuzzi’s are hot tubs, but not all hot tubs are Jacuzzi’s, Restorative Justice makes up a part of Restorative Approaches.

Restorative Justice is a process where a person who has caused harm meets with the person they have harmed to find restoration. There are many elements to this which is covered in our Facilitator Training Courses.

It is defined by the Restorative Justice Council as

bringing those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward”.


Restorative Approaches covers not just Restorative Justice Meetings, but all the restorative practices that an organisation may use to build and maintain the relationships that they want.

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History of Restorative Approaches

Restorative Approaches has arguably always been around, if you look at it as valued based approach to life. Many people take this approach to life without training in it. You could also argue that using some of the more overt restorative tools such as circle practice and restorative meetings isn’t new. Circle practice was in fact common practice in many indigenous cultures around the world. Ray and Roberts (ref) research shows us that cultures such as Maori, Aboriginal and Native American’s regulalry used circle practice to discuss community issues and resolve conflict. insert pics

Restorative justice is a fairly new term, possibly first used by Albert Eglash in 1977 (Eglash 1977) and gained popularity through the 80’s and 90’s through work done by a number of pioneers such as Howard Zehr (Zehr 1990) and John Braithwaite (1997, 1998). However, the history of restorative justice as a theory has been around for thousands of years. It has been documented as far back as 2060 BC in the Code of Ur-Numma (reference) and makes regular appearance throughout the ages in varying locations  It was in fact, a popular form of justice in England up to William the Conquerer in 1066 who introduced retributive justice. This is punishment inflicted for it’s own sake rather than to serve a social purpose. It requires that criminals suffer in return for their actions. This began to replace restorative justice and by the end of the 11th century, crime was no longer against a person but against the state or king (Pollock and Maitland 1959). This has been the prevailing thought process within the U.K for almost a millennium.

So how is restorative justice making a comeback?

Modern Restorative Justice as it is known now has been around since the 1970’s (ref). Its origins can be traced back to Canada where a probation officer, Mark Yantzi, offered mediation between victims and offenders.

*A side note – whilst the terms “victim” and “offender” are still widely used in criminal justice, we find them to be narrow when it comes to other fields using restorative practice. Often, the idea of a clear cut victim and offender is not applicable as conflict has arisen between two or more people, where all involved may be both victims and offenders. We would encourage dropping labels where possible.

The response to the mediation was so popular that a programme was set up in Ontario which influenced other programmes to emerge around the globe. Notably, Family Group Conferencing began to be used in New Zealand as a response to a disproportiate amount of Maori children being removed from their families by the court. In the early 90’s this model was adopted in Australia by police officer, Terry O’Connell, as a way of diverting young people away from court. This model is used extensively around the world to support young people from entering the criminal justice pathway.

The model has changed very little from then. Granted, there are slight variations from model to model, but they generally follow the same principles of:

  • Story Telling
  • Understanding the impact
  • Moving forward

Mediation schemes became increasingly popular in the U.K in the 1980’s and the Home Office saw this as a potential way to divert low level offenders away from prisons, which were becoming over populated. Mediation UK promoted this way of working through conflict but felt that more needed to be done to promote it and so set up the Restorative Justice Consortium in 1997. In 2006 the Restorative Justice Consortium took over the role of Mediation UK and renamed itself the Restorative Justice Council. The now act as the independent third sector membership body for the field of restorative practice (not just justice). In 2013 the UK government revised the Victims Code so that victims are more aware of the opportunity for restorative justice. They have been encouraged more in youth justice with the Youth Justice Board having been promoting restorative justice since 2001.

We are moving very slowly in the right direction, in my opinion. Having facilitated restorative justice meetings, myself, I have seen first-hand the positive impact they can make it not only for the victim but the offender as well.

There are many benefits to restorative justice and there is a growing body of evidence to support the use of it in a variety of settings. If readers are interested in restorative justice I highly recommend looking at work done by Howard Zehr and John Braithwaite as starting points. You will be pleasantly challenged by what they say and you may even begin to see criminalising people (especially youth) as not the best thing for our communities.



Why is Restorative Justice used?

The restorative justice model is more widely known about thanks to its portrayal in more recent tv shows and can provide many benefits to those involved such as understanding the other’s perspective, getting answers to “why me?”, real empathy and understanding of how one’s behaviour impacted on another, and it has been shown to reduce  re-offending rates (ref).


Why Restorative Justice is not the end goal

As much as we are fully for the promotion and use of restorative justice, we do not believe it is the answer to our problems. The increasing population of prisons or the difficult behaviours we see in schools cannot be fixed by Restorative Justice alone. Restorative Justice is a reactive response to when harm is caused. We have to wait for things to go wrong before we can “fix” it.

The average cost to hold one prisoner in the UK is £69,950 per year. This is comprised of £36,259 for the place (cost per place is the average cost of providing a prison place for the year) and £33,291 for the prisoner themselves (cost per prisoner is the average cost of holding one prisoner for the year). The overall resource expenditure for the year of 2014-2015 was £2,804,394,939 (National Offender Management Service 2014-15).


Recent studies have shown that using restorative justice in 70,000 cases could reduce expenditure by £185 million over two years (Victim Support 2010) and diverting young offenders with pre-court restorative justice conferencing would save over £1 billion over the course of two parliaments (Matrix Evidence 2009). If we say that a two parliaments are 10 years for arguments sake, then this would be a £1 billion saving on £28,043,949,390 spent on prisoners over those ten years. Just over a three per cent saving. 


These numbers suggest, to us, that waiting for things to go wrong and then trying to fix the problem whether by retributive or restorative justice, is not the end goal. For us, the answer has to be prevention.

The next statement is only theoretical as we know that in practice this is always easier said than done. What if we could take average £69,950 due to be spent on a person in prison for this year and invest it into preventative services so that we reduce the need or likelihood of that person causing harm in the first place. Again, in theory, you could employ two to three full time members of staff to do one to one work every single day of the year for that cost. They could be taking the time to look at that person’s needs, discuss their emotional state, work with them to address upcoming difficulties and provide them with a tool set to reduce (or hopefully prevent) future crime. In this scenario you will have not made one life better (the future victim) but also the life of the person about to commit the crime. Would you rather wait for a child to be hit and then punish the other child or provide those children with tools that meant the child wasn’t hit in the first place? If everyone was given the core beliefs mentioned in chapter one and tried to implement where possible, would this go a long way to reduce conflict and harm? We don’t know, but this is the aim of restorative practice. It aims to be preventative in nature but understands that we will never be able to prevent all harm so we still need reactive tools and techniques to address it when it does happen.

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Restorative practice is seeing surge in popularity at the moment as a real way to prevent conflict. Education is the key and many schools or learning to be a restorative school. A truly restorative school does not just focus on behaviour management and only introduce restorative justice, but also looks at its core values, its ethos, from the ground upwards. At the time of writing this we work in a number of different school delivering training to staff across the board from foundation phase (3-5 years old) all the way through to sixth form (16-18 year old). We train staff to be reflective practitioners, more restorative in their mind-set and approach to difficulties they see. We  don’t do much direct work with pupils on the whole and there is a good reason for this. We want staff to build upon their relationships with the pupils by working restoratively. We want the staff to model these skills on a day to day basis so that it becomes the norm. We want staff to think how they can teach the core beliefs alongside their academic subjects. One training session with pupils will make little difference but daily demonstrations from staff will hopefully lay foundations that will last young people a lifetime.