The Unheard Voices: Championing Children in the Restorative Justice Process

In a compelling session, Christine and Mark Rutledge unveiled the often overlooked aspect of the Restorative Justice (RJ) process: the perspective of children. With Christine’s extensive experience as a counselor, especially in representing the children’s viewpoint in the Restorative Justice conference process, and Mark’s rich 16-year journey facilitating RJ conferences with the Nelson Restorative Justice Trust, their combined expertise painted a holistic picture of the issue at hand.

Christine and Mark began their presentation with a poignant statement: children are the unseen and unheard victims of harm. Despite being present and experiencing events firsthand, children’s voices often get overshadowed or generalized in discussions. This absence of representation not only denies them a chance to share their side of the story but also deprives the RJ process of a vital perspective.

The Rutledges used their session as a platform to underscore the immense need for facilitators to recognize and prioritize children’s voices in the RJ conference process. By bringing to the fore real-life anecdotes and case studies, they drove home the point that every child affected by a harmful situation undergoes emotional and psychological changes, even if they aren’t overtly visible.

One of the standout moments from their presentation was the “teaser” the Rutledges had promised. Using an engaging narrative approach, they showcased a hypothetical scenario where a child’s voice was seamlessly integrated into the RJ process. This illustrative example not only demonstrated the sheer impact of including children in the dialogue but also highlighted the positive ripple effects such inclusion can have on the child’s well-being and emotional recovery.

Mark delved into the nuances of facilitating RJ conferences, sharing invaluable insights from his vast experience. He spoke about the challenges, the resistance faced from conventional thinkers, and the transformative moments when a child’s voice made all the difference in the conference outcome.

On the other hand, Christine shared poignant moments from her counseling sessions, revealing the profound effects on children who felt unheard and unseen. Her stories were a testament to the therapeutic potential of allowing children to actively participate and share their experiences in RJ conferences.

Their shared message was clear: integrating children’s voices into the RJ process isn’t just about amplifying their stories; it’s about holistic healing, empowerment, and ensuring justice is truly restorative. The benefits of this integration, as the Rutledges pointed out, aren’t limited to the children alone. The overall efficacy and credibility of the RJ process are significantly enhanced when children, as significant stakeholders, are actively involved.

In conclusion, Christine and Mark Rutledge’s presentation was a powerful call to action. Their combined expertise, heartfelt anecdotes, and practical solutions made a strong case for the essential role of children in the Restorative Justice process. By shedding light on the “unheard voices,” they urged facilitators and stakeholders to rethink and redesign the RJ process, ensuring that it is inclusive, holistic, and truly restorative in nature.