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Toolkit on Diversion and Alternatives to Detention



Restorative Justice

• Types of restorative justice responses
• Sample project descriptions for restorative justice
1. Types of restorative justice responses
Restorative justice is an 'approach' more than a defined set of 'programmes' or 'projects'. The key elements are that the process should acknowledge and address:
     • the harm caused by the offence (to the victim/survivor, community and to the offender);
     • the needs of the three parties (victim/survivor, community and offender);
     • and the obligations (of the offender to the victim/survivor and community, but also of the community towards the offender - in order to address the root causes of offending behaviour and prevent recidivism).

Restorative justice responses usually involve some form of 'mediation' / 'conflict resolution' (preferably referred to as 'conferencing' or 'dialogue'[1]) and often result in apologies, reparation, compensation and community service.

Restorative justice responses can take place at other stages, in addition to diversion. For example, if a case is proved by a court then a restorative process can be put in place to decide on the sentence. Restorative justice approaches can also be used inside detention facilities.

The International Institute for Restorative Practices refers to the 'Restorative Practices Continuum' ranging from simple, informal responses for use in 'everyday' interactions to more complex, formal interventions which involve more people, more time and more planning and which are more structured. These interventions can be used in response to an incident / to address problem behaviour (i.e. as 'restorative justice') but most of them can also be used to encourage positive behaviour (i.e. as a 'restorative practice' - for example positive affective statements and groups / circles to acknowledge and praise good behaviour). The continuum is described as follows, starting with informal and moving towards formal responses:[2]

     1. Affective statements: e.g. [Negative] “You really hurt my feelings when you act like that. And it surprises me, because I don’t think you want to hurt anyone on purpose.” [Positive] "I'm really proud of you for owning up to this and for trying to make things right."
     2. Affective questions: e.g. [When challenging behaviour] "What happened?"; "What were you thinking about at the time?"; "What have you thought about since?"; "Who has been affected by what you have done? In what way?"; "What do you think you need to do to make things right?" [When someone has been harmed] "What did you think when you realised what had happened?"; "What impact has this incident had on you and others?"; "What has been the hardest thing for you?"; "What do you think needs to happen to make things right?"
     3. Small impromptu conference: e.g. taking aside the affected parties immediately to discuss the incident (no forward planning needed).
     4. Group or circle: e.g. when the culprits of an incident are not known or there are many people responsible for, or affected by, the problem, a circle can be held to allow people to talk about how the adverse behavior affects them and to ask individuals to identify their part in the problem.
     5. Formal conference: e.g. family group conference, community group conference or victim-offender mediation. This is planned in advance, follows a specific structure and often requires documented outcomes.

Restorative practices can be used as part of formal, informal and traditional systems, and - provided they are child rights-based - they can be very useful in many (but not all) diversion and alternatives programmes. However, practitioners should not attempt to use restorative justice processes unless they have received training: an untrained intervention can do more harm than good.

Download the full paper by Ted Wachtel, My Three Decades of Using Restorative Practices with Delinquent and At-Risk Youth: Theory, Practice and Research Outcomes, November 2009
2. Sample project descriptions for restorative justice
The document here provides a brief summary of 3 sample restorative justice models from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and a range of other restorative justice examples from the UK and other countries.

Download sample project descriptions for restorative justice

1. The terms ‘conference’, ‘conferencing’ or ‘dialogue’ are increasingly preferred to the term ‘mediation’ which implies that parties on all sides are on the same ‘moral playing field’ and share equal blame for a situation – an assumption which can be inappropriate from the standpoint of victims/survivors.
2. The information in this section is based on a paper by Ted Wachtel, International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), Graduate School, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA called My Three Decades of Using Restorative Practices with Delinquent and At-Risk Youth: Theory, Practice and Research Outcomes, delivered at the First World Congress on Restorative Juvenile Justice, Lima, Peru, November 5, 2009. The 'Affective Questions' are taken from the IIRP website www.iirp.org.

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