Beyond the Courts – RJ for newcomers

The key paradigm of restorative justice

In a conventional criminal justice system, crime is often defined as being perpetrated against the state. One major deficiency within this definition is the fact that the victim is often not taken into consideration. When ‘justice’ is accomplished in any given law case, the offender generally receives a custodial sentence, while the victim and the community where the crime is perpetrated are removed from the picture. A restorative justice model turns the situation around and seeks to meaningfully consider the needs and trauma of victims and the larger community, recognising them as important figures on the pathway to justice. How does a restorative justice model change how this looks?

“Since justice should seek to put right, and since it is victims who have been harmed, restorative justice must start with victims.”

The Little Book of Restorative Justice by Howard Zehr with Ali Gohar

In 2003 Howard Zehr and Ali Gohar clarifyingly suggested that our current legal systems unhelpfully focus on what offenders have done and the sentences, or punishments, that they deserve. In contrast, a restorative justice mentality urges society to reorientate its focus and consider the needs of the victims, communities, and offenders as a higher priority. This change of vision causes a reconsideration of what justice looks like in each situation and what are to be upheld as important pillars in this justice process.

Two models of questioning:

What law has been broken?

Who did it?

What do they deserve?

or…

Who has been hurt?

What are their needs?

Whose obligations are these?

The Little Book of Restorative Justice by Howard Zehr with Ali Gohar

When contrasted to restorative justice practice, you can very starkly see the absence of the victim in a retributive, or just deserts, judicial and penal process. Why is a victim needed in this process? According to a restorative justice paradigm, human relationship is extremely important. Every crime has implications for the people and community where it is committed – it also has implications for the offender. Amidst human relationship crime is committed, but when an offender is processed in the criminal justice system, suddenly many of the community and interpersonal ties are dramatically reduced or severed. Restorative justice considers the voices of victims, offenders, and the broader community as vital to the justice process, and conversation so profoundly serves to break down barriers that participating individuals experience.

One of the remarkable benefits of a restorative justice methodology is that it is applicable at every step of the traditional criminal justice system. Not only can it be employed prior to arrest, but it is relevant during court procedures, incarceration, and even after release. Restorative justice practices seek to give all stakeholders a voice to talk about their experiences, trauma, and expectations. Crime does not just have monetary consequences, but it also involves relational breakdown.

Over the course of the eConference, RJ World is going to be a place to come and hear stories of restorative justice in action, and to learn about the cutting edge research that is shaping the future of restorative justice practices. We hope you will join us in this endeavour to share voices, vision, and values.

Restorative Justice from a Nigerian Perspective

RJ Professional Spotlight

With less than a month to wait until the commencement of the RJ World eConference, we thought it would be a good opportunity to highlight different speakers and their issues from across the globe. In this article, we draw our reader’s attention to restorative justice and professionals in Nigeria. Over the days of RJ World, we will be hearing from experts and practitioners, who are leading the way in restorative justice practice and research in this country.

Professor Don John Omale PhD, a British Chevening scholar, is eager to share about the future of restorative justice in Nigeria considering legislative revisions that have occurred at a national level. Other speakers from Nigeria also include Kelvin Ugwuoke and Osariemen Omoruyi who are both speaking on the rise of restorative justice practice in their country.

Similar to many countries across the globe, Nigeria has gained much of its modern legal and political framework from English heritage, dating back to when it first gained independence in 1960. Ever since then much of the focus of Nigeria’s criminal justice system has been on retributive goals. However, with a new governmental head and a broader research base, government policy is starting to shift in this country towards a restorative foundation and framework.

Osariemen Omoruyi who is a restorative justice advocate and current leader of REJA, a social profit organisation committed to the development of restorative justice practice in Nigeria and greater Africa, will be sharing with us a presentation that will highlight the possibilities and opportunities for restorative justice practices to be enshrined into the Nigerian criminal justice system.

Kelvin Ugwuoke is a psychologist and criminologist who will share with us his experiences working in and around the Nigerian Correctional Service. It is important to consider the practical manifestations and implications of justice theories and programs.

It will be exciting to hear the unique perspective and stories that each of our presenters will offer. Each will show us fresh insights and introduce us to the criminal justice system and restorative justice in Nigeria. In this context, restorative justice has much room and potential for success, when we consider the massive overcrowding of the local prisons. Unlike retributive practice, restorative justice initiatives lead to lower recidivism and a growing number of healed relationships.

Keep a lookout for these speakers over the course of the RJ World eConference!

Restorative Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in India: Insight into CSJ (Counsel to Secure Justice)

Mission: “Advance restorative justice for children harmed by sexual harm and violence in India.”

CSJ (Counsel to Secure Justice) is an Indian organisation, with Nimisha Srivastava as the active Program Director. Urvashi, Kshipra and Arti are also part of this organisation and will be speaking at our RJ WORLD conference! CJS’s vision is to enable people who have experienced sexual abuse and other forms of violence in India to access justice systems that repair harm, empower the vulnerable, and reconcile broken relationships. The key in achieving this agenda lies in keeping each survivor’s needs central to the process. One of the key concerns of CSJ is to educate a local pool of trainers so they can facilitate circles themselves in a sustainable way. After the training, this project was implemented in collaboration with UNICEF, Rajasthan and the Department of Children’s Rights.

Circles. An extremely useful way to address such traumatizing experiences in a safe way is through circle processes. Let me share with you some insights in the form of short stories and the training of local trainers, starting with one of the numerous astonishing and touching circles done with children in Rajasthan. To protect people’s privacy, all names are replaced by pseudonyms. The case was a misdemeanour. Harm had been created. This harm was felt by every present soul. It was almost like an elephant in the room, which needed to be addressed. Both, Chandan (the harming person) and Shivani (the harmed person) were in one room together…

Feeling safe. Right in the beginning of the session, Shivani (the person harmed) could immediately feel the safe space created by the circle. The non-judgemental and humane environment enabled by both facilitators and participants allowed her to sit with her emotions and disappointments while being connected with others, instead of feeling isolated. She states, “I am sad and confused since I have not received court order, but here (in the circle) I feel I am safe.”

The crucial moment. One of the most powerful, and healing moments of the session was when Chandan (the person who had harmed) said sorry to Shivani. What lit up the whole room was the biggest smile everyone had seen on Shivani’s face, who had been close to tears until a second ago. What happened was that Shivani forgave Chandan. Now, both participants, Shivani and Chandan were connected by a huge and peaceful smile – a smile of acceptance. Simultaneously, a sense of relief was visible for all. Previous tension had vanished and was replaced by human connection.

Zivesh looked the person harmed in the eyes and said, “I am sorry”.
The person harmed smiled and said, “It’s okay”.

Training. Sometimes, the only thing needed for healing to occur is a genuine apology, a look in the eyes and forgiveness. However, if reconciliation would be that easy to achieve, there would hardly be any need for training. In many cases, a restorative process involves many conversations between different stakeholders. The picture above is from the training done in Rajasthan, aiming to bring the values of CSJ closer to prospective local facilitators.

Going with the flow and personalized talking pieces. One of the important attributes a Restorative Justice facilitator must have is some degree of flexibility throughout the process. For example, there was a conversation scheduled between Ishan and his father. Just before the meeting, and since the whole family had come, they all wanted to meet him. Ishan gave his permission to speak about the facts in front of everyone. As a result, at the last minute, the facilitator of this session decided to let the process flow organically. This decision enabled the whole family to be part in the circle, in which a talking piece hand-made by Ishan’s sister was used (picture above). This way, the whole family could take part in the healing conversation and re-connect.

This is a talking piece created by one of the trainers trained in Rajasthan for the UNICEF project.

Taking Responsibility. One of the requirements before entering a restorative process is that the person who has harmed accepts the responsibility for the harm done. Sometimes many individual meetings are needed to help the person who has harmed own up to their actions. However, when this is achieved, a big step towards establishing justice and healing is taken. “If that person accepts his mistake, then there is no bigger justice than that,” one woman from the ABHAS (“Action Beyond Help and Support”) community group circle processes stated. She found that what is needed most is, “Saying sorry and realizing [the harm] would be enough for me, nothing else.” Circle processes are conducted over three months with women from the community. These sessions were closely examined and published in the study conducted by CSJ on Restorative Justice and Child Sexual abuse in India “Perspectives of Justice”.

…If you want to hear more exciting insight-stories from our three speakers from CSJ Urvashi, Kshipra and Arti, we would strongly recommend you sign up to our RJ WORLD CONFERENCE 2020

Restorative Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in India

Mission: “Advance restorative justice for children harmed by sexual harm and violence in India.”

CSJ (Counsel to Secure Justice) is an Indian organisation, with Nimisha Srivastava as the active Program Director. Urvashi, Kshipra and Arti are part of this organisation and will be speaking at our RJ WORLD conference!

CSJ implemented a project with UNICEF and the Department of Child Rights, Rajasthan. The aim of the project is to train a local pool of people to conduct circle processes in observation homes (detention centre) for children, who are in conflict with law.

Their vision is to: “repair harm, empower the vulnerable, and reconcile broken relationships.” The key in achieving this agenda lies in keeping each survivor’s needs central to the process. CSJ is especially concerned with educating a local pool of trainers so they can facilitate circles themselves in a sustainable way.

Circles. An extremely useful way to address such traumatizing experiences in a safe way is through circle processes. Let me share with you some insights in the form of short stories and the training of local trainers, starting with one of the numerous astonishing and touching circles done with children in Rajasthan. To protect people’s privacy, all names are replaced by pseudonyms. Harm had been created. This harm was felt by every present soul. It was almost like an elephant in the room, which needed to be addressed.

Feeling safe. Right in the beginning of the session, everyone could immediately feel the safe space created by the circle. The non-judgemental and humane environment enabled by both facilitators and participants allowed participants to sit with their emotions and disappointments while being connected with others, instead of feeling isolated. One boy in the circle from Rajasthan said, ‘ “I am sad and confused since I have not received court order, but here (in the circle) I feel I am safe.”

The crucial moment. One of the most powerful, and healing moments of the session was when Chandan (the person who had harmed) said sorry. What lit up the whole room was the biggest smile everyone had seen on peoples faces who had been close to tears until a second ago. What happened was forgiveness. Now, all the participants were connected by a huge and peaceful smile – a smile of acceptance. Simultaneously, a sense of relief was visible for all. Previous tension had vanished and was replaced by human connection.

Zivesh looked the person harmed in the eyes and said, “I am sorry”.
The person harmed smiled and said, “It’s okay”.

Training. Sometimes, the only thing needed for healing to occur is a genuine apology, a look in the eyes and forgiveness. However, if reconciliation would be that easy to achieve, there would hardly be any need for training. In many cases, a restorative process involves many conversations between different stakeholders. The picture above is from the training done in Rajasthan, aiming to bring the values of CSJ closer to prospective local facilitators.

Personalized talking piece by Ishan’s sister

Going with the flow and personalized talking pieces. One of the important attributes a Restorative Justice facilitator must have is some degree of flexibility throughout the process. For example, there was a conversation scheduled between Ishan and his father. Just before the meeting, and since the whole family had come, they all wanted to meet him. Ishan gave his permission to speak about the facts in front of everyone. As a result, at the last minute, the facilitator of this session decided to let the process flow organically. This decision enabled the whole family to be part in the circle, in which a talking piece hand-made by Ishan’s sister was used (picture above). This way, the whole family could take part in the healing conversation and re-connect.

This is a talking piece created by one of the trainers trained in Rajasthan for the UNICEF project.

Taking Responsibility. One of the requirements before entering a restorative process is that the person who has harmed accepts the responsibility for the harm done. Sometimes many individual meetings are needed to help the person who has harmed own up to their actions. However, when this is achieved, a big step towards establishing justice and healing is taken. “If that person accepts his mistake, then there is no bigger justice than that,” one woman from the ABHAS (“Action Beyond Help and Support”) community group circle processes stated. She found that what is needed most is, “Saying sorry and realizing [the harm] would be enough for me, nothing else.” Circle processes are conducted over three months with women from the community. These sessions were closely examined and published in the study conducted by CSJ on Restorative Justice and Child Sexual abuse in India “Perspectives of Justice”.

…If you want to hear more exciting insight-stories from our three speakers who are part of the organisation CSJ

Urvashi Tilak: Director, Restorative Justice
Kshipra Marathe: Counsellor, Restorative Justice,
Arti Mohan: Program Officer, Restorative Justice

…we would strongly recommend you sign up to our RJ WORLD CONFERENCE 2020!

From Restorative Communities, to Restorative Cities to Restorative States

“My approach to building “restorative communities” is centred on the belief that global change occurs at the local level.”
(Lee Rush, speaker from the US)

If you’re seeking for more hands-on advice and some practical methodology to support the transition to restorative cities, make sure to catch Lee Rush, our expert from America. His presentation will equip us with a better understanding of how to create “economies of compassion”. The methodology required to achieve this kind of – friendly, and very pleasantly sounding – economies, is called “A Small Group” methodology. If you’re curious to learn more, say hi on his Website justCommunityLee is in the role of Executive Director!

Europe leads the way in restorative cities

Get to know the EFRJ “Restorative Cities” Working Group

What… actually … does the concept of “Restorative Cities” mean? To get some clarity on this, I visited the Website of the European Forum For Restorative Justice (EFRJ), where I stumbled across the following explanation:

“Restorative Cities aim at disseminating restorative values (inclusion, participation, respect, responsibility, solidarity, truth seeking, etc.) in different settings where conflict may occur, such as families, schools, neighbourhoods, sport organisations, work places, intercultural communities, etc. The final goal is to strengthen relationships, encourage active citizenship and look at conflict as an opportunity for change, rather than a threat.”

Alright, basically a broad scale, (or better city-wide) implementation of restorative values that encompasses all social institutions and cultures. Make sense? If not quite yet, this year’s RJ WORLD 2020 has tons of eloquent speakers, researchers and change-leaders from all over the world to flesh out the idea of Restorative Cities for us!

One of them is Chris Straker from the UK. He is a national and international conference speaker who worked with cities on strategic, city-wide, implementation of restorative values. He is also part of the international Working Group on Restorative Cities hosted by the EFRJ. The agenda of this working group is to “bring together different local experiences which have the intention of creating a cultural change with citizens who are empowered in their conflict resolution skills and decision making.”

In his workshop, Chris will inquire further into the meaning of living together restoratively. Part of his talk focusses on debunking myths behind the concept of restorative cities. To do so, he uses the UK as a backdrop for participants to explore their own ideas on what a restorative city means. Further, he will also introduce some models for restorative cities but he is particularly interested in using the opportunity of the conference to create dialogue.

Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? Especially, since Restorative Practice only unfolds its full potential in conversation. The belief in the transformative potential of dialogue is perhaps the connecting element between all our speakers of this year’s RJ WORLD 2020 conference.

Three other presenters who are eager to structure their joint presentation according to this motto are Prof. Grazia Mannozzi & Gian Luigi Lepri & Chiara Perini from Italy. Grazia was the first chair of the EFRJ Working Group on Restorative Cities and Gian Luigi is the current chair of the same group. Their presentation will open a dialogic space in which both former and current chair have a conversation.

In this talk, they will firstly discuss the “conceptual transition from restorative justice theory to the elaboration of the idea of restorative cities” to give insight into potential gap between theory and practice. Secondly, challenges around restorative cities will be explored whilst shedding light on the reasons why this has become a pivotal theme in the action of the EFRJ. Lastly, the speakers will analyse the idea behind restorative cities with regards to their popularity concretely in Europe. But that’s still not all this workshop holds for us: After that, the speakers will apply a “SWOT Analysis” to current restorative cities- projects. This will serve to evaluate the project’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Wow, what a holistic talk this will be…

Teaching and learning after Covid?!

If you, like me, are struggling to imagine how teaching after the pandemic will look and feel like for both students and staff, you shall not be disappointed by this year’s RJ WORLD conference. No worries- many international speakers are there to give us some support and guidance in our pondering about the “new normal”…

Mark Goodwin, from the UK, will tell us how to reconnect after this experience, the mindset teachers need, and the learning kids can do. And more importantly, the relationships that need to be built (spoiler: restorative relationships). He will equip us with practical tools that “anybody working with young people can take away and use.”

Dr Belinda Hopkins, an author from the UK, will explain how a Whole School Approach can ease the anxiety of “returning to strange new environments facing guidelines that keep people at a distance, hidden behind masks, unable to socialise.” Together with Monika Alberti, she will present a package of resources designed by UK restorative practitioners to support the mental and emotional health of the whole school community at this time of crisis.

Laura Mooiman’s presentation will also be of interest for you. Especially if you are aware that the current pandemic is not the only crises that needed, needs or will need our response. Laura is interested in creating a positive school culture that can face “(…) crises including earthquake, multiple student suicides, Napa wildfires, and student protests.” For her, the PBIS model is the answer, but more of that in her talk…!

– Excited? Secure your tickets NOW here: RJ WORLD 2020 CONFERENCE TICKETS

Three perspectives on school culture

If you’re interested to learn about Australia’s initiatives to implement Restorative Practice in schools, have a look at the Real Schools Academy, and even better: Listen to the CEO Adam Voigt tackle the question “How do we work on the culture of a school if we’re not sure what it [culture] is?” *Psssst… his book Restoring Teaching will be launched soon… You can save your copy now!!! *

Margaret Thorsborne, who has a history of experience with implementing Restorative Practice in different schools and organisations in Australia, US, UK, South East Asia and New Zealand will shed light on the concept of “deep culture change”. Her presentation might be the perfect accompaniment to Adam Voigt and his exploration of the meaning of school culture. Additionally, Margaret offers some helpful tools to assess the “readiness” for the introduction of Restorative Practice initiatives, using a relational approach. More can be found here: Ready4RP. She will also share her key findings from her experiences supporting a variety of organisations in their efforts to acquire a restorative mindset.

Tom Shaw, a teacher, researcher and senior leader from the UK, is part of developing the Restore Our Schools Project. Curated by “a restorative collective of researchers, practitioners and school leaders”, stakeholders plan together for the return to the classrooms, playgrounds and corridors of schools. He will introduce the astonishing CMCS (Carr Manor Community School) model. This model bucks several local and national trends: “It has had zero permanent exclusions for 14 years, consistently has the lowest rate of fixed term exclusions in Leeds, high staff retention and the lowest staff absence for stress in Leeds. Pupils self-report higher than city-wide measures on the annual well-being survey”. Curious to find out what’s behind this magical model? Don’t miss his talk!

The disputed concept of (school-) culture

If you’re interested to learn about Australia’s initiatives to implement Restorative Practice in schools, have a look at the Real Schools Academy, and even better: Listen to the CEO Adam Voigt tackle the question “How do we work on the culture of a school if we’re not sure what it [culture] is?” *Psssst… his book Restoring Teaching will be launched soon… You can save your copy now!!! *

Margaret Thorsborne, who has a history of experience with implementing Restorative Practice in different schools and organisations in Australia, US, UK, South East Asia and New Zealand will shed light on the concept of “deep culture change”. Her presentation might be the perfect accompaniment to Adam Voigt and his exploration of the meaning of school culture. Additionally, Margaret offers some helpful tools to assess the “readiness” for the introduction of Restorative Practice initiatives, using a relational approach. More can be found here: Ready4RP. She will also share her key findings from her experiences supporting a variety of organisations in their efforts to acquire a restorative mindset.

Tom Shaw, a teacher, researcher and senior leader from the UK, is part of developing the Restore Our Schools Project. Curated by “a restorative collective of researchers, practitioners and school leaders”, stakeholders plan together for the return to the classrooms, playgrounds and corridors of schools. He will introduce the astonishing CMCS (Carr Manor Community School) model. This model bucks several local and national trends: “It has had zero permanent exclusions for 14 years, consistently has the lowest rate of fixed term exclusions in Leeds, high staff retention and the lowest staff absence for stress in Leeds. Pupils self-report higher than city-wide measures on the annual well-being survey”. Curious to find out what’s behind this magical model? Don’t miss his talk!

Restorative Practice in Schools – beyond behaviour management?

Some leading experts understand the restorative approach in schools as a great way to manage behaviour. Amongst those presenting at RJ World are David Vinegrad, a well experienced trainer and conference facilitator in teacher education with wide ranging experience with international and Australian schools. Laura Mooiman, an international educational consultant based in the Netherlands, will share the insights as a project director for the Wellness Program and PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support). The goal of PBIS, on which she will elaborate in her presentation, is to create “(…) systems and structures to prevent problem behavior, make students and staff feel safe, and shift staff mindset toward positive approaches to managing student behaviour.” If you want to learn more about this vision, check out her page: https://www.lauramooiman.com/about.

On the other side, some pioneers claim that a restorative approach can only unleash its full potential when thinking beyond, or outside behaviour management. Michelle Stowe, a name mentioned the Blogpost “Culture Change Starts in Schools“, explicitly articulates her passion to move “(…) conversations beyond ‘behaviour management’ and towards growing relational learning communities. In her presentation, she will explore the concept of leadership as modelling. In her view, thinking restoratively informs “how we think, speak, share, listen, ask and show up, all day every day in our classrooms and beyond.”

And also, check out our other posts about the topic “RESTORATIVE SCHOOLING”:
Culture change starts in schools: Meet the international changemakers behind the movement
The disputed concept of (school-) culture
Teaching and Learning after Covid?!