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  Restorative Practices within Prisons

Prisons using restorative practice have found that bringing victims and offender together can have a profound effect on both the victim and the offender. Restorative practice puts the victim at the centre of the process allowing them to regain the control that being a victim of crime has removed from them. This empowers them by giving them an opportunity to have their say, maybe ask questions and to humanise their offender. Often victims have a distorted over fearful image of their offender that contributes greatly to the anxiety they feel by meeting their offender they often are able to minimize this fear and move on with their lives. Offenders often deny to themselves that their crimes cause harm, by engaging them within a process that allows the victim to be the primary focus it brings them face to face with their victims. When hearing the harm that their crimes have caused dramatically changes many offenders' views of the impact of their crimes. Offenders who participate within a restorative process are 30% less likely to reoffend.

All levels of crime can be dealt with by a restorative practice from low levels of crime to sexual crime and violent crimes including murder.

Types of restorative approaches used in prisons: Marian Liebmann and Stephanie Braithwaite
  • Victim empathy/awareness sessions
  • Victim enquiry work
  • Victim/offender mediation
  • Restorative justice conferencing
  • Victim/ offender groups
Restorative approaches can be used to:
  • Repair the harm to/meet the needs of the victims of crime
  • Develop victim empathy
  • Deal with disputes within prison itself
  • Prepare an offender for release by exploring the needs of victims, victims' families, their own families and anxieties of the community
  • Produce willing and voluntary participation by the offender to engage with ongoing treatment programmes
Benefit to the victim:
  • Opportunity to participate in a process that they are central to
  • Have their say
  • Take back some control of their situation by choosing to participate
  • Ask any questions
  • Have a say about reparation, unpaid work, financial restitution, or an apology
  • Witness genuine remorse
  • Reduces anxiety and possible post traumatic stress disorder
Benefit to the offender:
  • Learn about the harm they caused
  • Acknowledge that harm
  • Explain what happened
  • Opportunity to apologise
  • Attempt to repair the harm caused
  • Reduces re-offending
Benefit to the wider community:
  • Allows victims a voice within the Criminal Justice system
  • Is a solution focused process that is fair and effective
  • Holds offenders accountable
  • Reduces reoffending

Links:

Circles of Support and Accountability are an innovative and successful community contribution to reducing sex offending, working in close partnership with criminal justice agencies. www.circles-uk.org.uk

Restorative Justice Consortium: www.restorativejustice.org.uk

Restorative Justice Online: www.restorativejustice.org/prison

 
© Restorative Training Services, 2010