The genius of Restorative Justice is its simplicity.
“Restorative is our language”
CRJI advocate restorative justice, we raise awareness of restorative practices, we champion for restorative responses, we are heavily involved in pilot schemes around Community Resolution Notices and Enhanced Combination Orders. Our director, Harry Maguire will refer to mediation as the “bread and butter” of our work, it has been a core element to CRJI’s work over the years and has resulted in both the de-escalation of disputes and effectively resolving conflict and increasing community harmony. Ultimately, we believe in the power and benefits of community restorative justice, it is in our very name. However, for many people this language seems foreign, so let us translate...
There is a popular quote often attributed to Einstein, “if you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t know it well enough”.I think this is applicable to the concept of restorative justice, it is neither a complex nor convoluted idea, in fact its simplicity is brilliant. I do not use the description to undermine restorative practices, it should not be misinterpreted with similar synonyms such as easy or effortless, when restorative work is delivered effectively it ought to be a challenging yet incredibly worthwhile and valuable experience for participants.
There is an assumption that restorative justice is “a new way of thinking”, this may be true, particularly in the western world. Restorative justice has evolved from the learning from indigenous cultures, in which principles such as community healing; reconciliation, reparation and reintegration were central in these society’s legal traditions.
When CRJI speak of restorative justice, we are referring to a different way of responding to and thinking of crime; this can be used as an alternative or complimentary process to the traditional criminal justice system, depending on the situation. As mentioned CRJI often use mediations as a Restorative Justice tool. This involves the bringing together of the offender (when they accept responsibility for the harm), with the victim and any other relevant parties who have been affected by the crime, to engage in dialogue with the clear purpose of ensuring accountability, repairing harm and relationships, exploring ways to move forward and prevent the conflict from reoccurring.
The process is voluntary and based on active participation, it is facilitated by a trained practitioner who will meet with both parties to complete a risk assessment and preparation work prior to the mediation. This consultation stage is crucial for creating space for reflection and emotional regulation. It is period in which expectations can be established, ensuring that participants fully consent to reconciliation, both of which points are key in safeguarding the success of the mediation and participants’ safety.
Mediation can have a transformative effect, it provides a safe forum in which the victims voice is heard, offenders acknowledge the impact and consequences of their actions, understanding occurs and dialogue is focussed on healing and change. The core of these interactions are restorative as opposed to retributive, they are underpinned by a set of key values such as respect, fairness, inclusivity and should preserve the dignity of all involved, reparation and agreed actions should be reasonable and proportionate. This work is hugely advantageous as it generates outcomes that promote community values, support reintegration, and encourage collaborative working.
Victim-offender mediations are just one aspect of our work, CRJI are always looking at situations through a restorative lens, to resolve neighbourhood disputes, under-threats, familial conflicts and so forth. CRJI are delivering the STARS (Striving To Achieve a Restorative Society) Project, and are engaging with individuals in Derry, Lurgan, North and West Belfast to increase understanding and awareness of restorative justice and practices through a range of training. STARS aim to empower individuals to look at how this can be translated and implemented into a range of settings within the community, for example, school environment, family life, local youth provisions and so on. CRJI are fluent in restorative and we endeavour towards everyone understanding the restorative dialect. Restorative is our language… And our language is restorative.
If anyone would like further information on the STARS project please contact Andrea McLoughlin at firstname.lastname@example.org