Amidst the picturesque landscapes of New Zealand, the justice system has witnessed a significant evolution over the years. At the heart of this transformation stands Mike Hinton, a man whose two-decade-long military career in training and development paved the way for his venture into Restorative Justice. In a compelling presentation, Mike delved into the profound transition of Restorative Justice from its community roots to its current mainstream standing.
Mike’s credentials, both in leadership within the New Zealand Army and his significant contribution to the realm of Restorative Justice, bring a unique blend of authority and authenticity to his discourse. Establishing the Restorative Justice programme at the Manukau Urban Māori Authority (MUMA) in 1997, Mike has been instrumental in pioneering and navigating this transformative journey.
The core of Mike’s presentation revolved around a poignant question: “Have we just become a tool in the justice system?” This question set the stage for an explorative analysis of the challenges that accompany the mainstream integration of Restorative Justice. While the mainstream approach undoubtedly brings with it increased visibility and recognition, it also begets a slew of challenges that can potentially dilute the very essence of Restorative Justice.
Mike elucidated how, as Restorative Justice has been increasingly adopted within the mainstream justice system, it has been subjected to a higher degree of regulation and compliance. Practitioners and provider groups often grapple with this bureaucratic aspect, which, at times, can conflict with the foundational principles of Restorative Justice. The soul of Restorative Justice is anchored in healing, community reconciliation, and mutual understanding. However, as it becomes entangled within the intricacies of the mainstream justice system, there’s a risk that these core values might get overshadowed by procedural formalities.
Drawing from his experiences, both from his tenure at MUMA and his current role as the General Manager of Restorative Practices Aotearoa (RPA), Mike shared anecdotes and insights that painted a vivid picture of the ground realities. He discussed the initial days of the Restorative Justice programme at MUMA, a period marked by community-driven initiatives, grassroots mobilization, and a fervent commitment to upholding the values of the Māori community. This community-based approach, Mike posited, encapsulated the true spirit of Restorative Justice.
As the presentation neared its conclusion, Mike left the audience pondering about the future of Restorative Justice. Will it retain its essence as it further integrates into the mainstream, or will it morph into a mere procedural tool, losing its heart in the process?
Mike Hinton’s session served as both an enlightening exposition on the state of Restorative Justice and a call to action for practitioners. To safeguard the core principles of Restorative Justice, it’s imperative for stakeholders to strike a balance between mainstream integration and preserving its foundational ethos.
In a world grappling with complex socio-judicial challenges, Mike’s insights shed light on the delicate dance between tradition and evolution, underscoring the importance of always staying rooted in one’s core values.