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Founded in 1998, CRJI aspires to build a tolerant, responsive and inclusive community by providing restorative justice services to local areas. 

We are what we inherit from those closest, this can have profound consequences, writes Paula Kerr

Social Inheritance

As Practitioners we often come across people, who have faced or are impacted by barriers; these may be related to Adverse Childhood Experiences or in my experience they may be impacted or diverted by Social Inheritance, by that I mean they are restricted by beliefs and prejudices about themselves.

Those researching social inheritance in terms of education and personal development describe social inheritance as being a set of beliefs and prejudices that you are taught as you grow up, by those who are closest to you; these beliefs and prejudices explain to your young, growing, sponge-like brain how to view the world and what your place is in it. These beliefs are often passed on, generation to generation.

You might be lucky enough to grow up and be educated in an environment that values you and aspires for you, or you might not; your experience might be based on negative lifestyle, values and habits. In the latter case your social inheritance may have a profound effect on your life experience and chances because they have confined any possibilities or sense of potential - very few children will question this mind set, and this social inherited mind set will continue and develop into adolescence and early adulthood.

I felt compelled to write about this after recently meeting with a very young person who I got to know during a series of workshops on Restorative Practices & Justice. As we talked over a series of weeks he made certain statements which stuck with me and inspired me to look into it a little further. For such a young person he was very familiar with anger, fighting, dissidents, rioting and he knew how to get out of class, which was a regular occurrence. He declared that he didn’t need to do any homework as Mum didn’t care, nor did school and he wouldn’t need to learn anyway. This narrative reminded me in many ways of offenders of various ages who I have come across during my Practice who like many people, have inherited a set of beliefs that were handed down by parents, schools, mass media and other institutions which tells them, or at least indicates to them, that they have no value.

This is where CRJI can have an impact – there is a potential that with a restorative intervention we can gain an understanding of the negative beliefs and outlooks that have been taught, learnt and lived. Once there is understanding then there is the opportunity to prevent further damage or to negate damage done to date – it is an opportunity to repair and renew. Sounds great doesn’t it but how do we achieve this? In practical terms what does this mean?

Really it is quite simple, it is about changing mindset… social inheritance helps to form and develop your mindset which is like a compass of personal beliefs about you and your world. The values and standards of Restorative Justice and Practices is the tool that will help you to shift that mindset and remove barriers that are set by you or your family and community.

To put this into a realistic context let me refer you back to the young person I spoke of earlier; CRJI were able to offer practical solutions which helped him to change his mindset, about himself, his behaviours and his education. We did this by meeting with him and his teacher and helping them both to develop a plan that would help him to look at himself and his place in school and the local community. This plan began with mediation which helped him to deal with a conflict at school, by working with him we were able to show him that there are different ways to respond to conflict. The plan also included asking the school to approach discipline with this young person with a restorative mindset rather than a punitive mindset; switching fear for respect, instead of rules use engagement, swap control for support and reflection instead of punishment, use dialogue instead of suspension.

This young person inherited a set of beliefs, from his family and community that told him he had no value or future, barriers were set from an early age and he believed them and lived within them. Restorative Justice and Practices offered the opportunity to change his mindset and develop a new belief that he was part of the school, to feel that he has some sort of control over his behaviour, that he has worth and value, as a student and as a young person growing up in this world, in this community.

Paula Kerr


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