Restorative Justice and restorative approaches
It’s vital to avoid any misunderstanding on the way the DARFA consortium and the Choices for Change model intend to work by looking at the difference between restorative justice and ‘restorative approaches’. Restorative justice takes place within a criminal justice context, where the approach is ‘official’ and those in the perpetrator and victim roles appear to be clear. The aim is empowerment of the victim through their meeting victim with the individual who has offended against them. Often the meeting is highly structured and more akin to a formal ‘conference’.
By contrast, restorative approaches or processes offer a ‘mindset’ applicable to a far broader range of practices that aim to reduce harm and conflict, in the family, workplace, in schools, in the community. The aim here would be early intervention and prevention, building and maintaining healthy relationships by developing trust and approaching everyone and everything with fairness. The intention is to enable families either moving towards more healthy relationships where they intend to stay together or where appropriate and their choice, to enable a relationship to come to an end safely and respectfully. There is a strong emphasis on process and not just outcome.
It is important to highlight this fact as ending a relationship and family break up may be the most restorative i.e. respectful, needs based, and reparative way forwards, for all affected. In the context of intimate rather than organisational relationships, restorative working can enable a potentially less risky discussion around partners’ separation and child and family access issues, that might otherwise prove more harmful and abusive without careful facilitation.
A survey of restorative practitioners was conducted as part of the Choices for Change research to practitioners via the Restorative Justice Council register. Practitioners consulted describe restorative approaches as providing “an underpinning ethos and philosophy for making, maintaining and repairing relationships and for fostering a sense of social responsibility and shared accountability” – Assistant Team Manager Children and Young Persons Services Vale of Glamorgan.
“Restorative approaches is a process that allows the harmed and the harmer to come together outside of the legal system, this can have a profound effect on both the victim and the offender” – Offender Supervisor Swansea Prison