Debating restorative justice
reviewed by Martin Wright:
This is the first of a new series of law books, each containing two essays of about 30,000 words on different sides of a current debate. Carolyn Hoyle suggests that there is more talk than action, and some of the action called restorative is actually punitive, such as the community service performed in conspicuous clothes. In her discussion of communitarianism she regards community participation as the presence of supporters and others at a restorative conference, but does not refer to the involvement of independent voluntary-sector mediation services (and admittedly they are thin on the ground). She considers that communitarians go too far in rejecting the state. In her view restorative justice and criminal justice are complementary: courts are necessary if the accused doesn’t admit involvement. This is true; Hoyle does not exclude the use of prison for retribution, but surely in a fully restorative system the courts would impose reparative, not punitive, sanctions. She does not explore whether these should try to be proportionate to the offender’s culpability or the harm suffered by the victim.
Response by Dr Martin Wright to European Commission consultation document: Taking action on rights, support and protection of victims of crime and violence
The key to this reply is in the last answer: that in principle restorative justice practices should be available to all victims, subject only to the safeguards mentioned in the reply to Question 17. Restorative processes are in the interests not only of victims, but also of offenders and the community.
Victim-offender dialogue is valuable as an end in itself as well as a means to an end. For many victims, action to make the offender less likely to re-offend is at least as high on their list of priorities as monetary compensation or reparation through work. When the victim and offender agree on one of these methods of reparation, it is incumbent on the community to provide the resources to enable offenders to carry them out.
Restorative justice is not just saying 'Sorry'
Martin Wright's letter to the editor that didn't get published:
Mark Johnson’s critique gives a chance to correct some common misconceptions about restorative justice (‘Apologising to victims will not reduce reoffending rates’, SocietyGuardian, 18 August). It is not about dragging offenders to see their victims, telling them to say “sorry”, nor making them do menial tasks wearing conspicuous clothing. It does not humiliate offenders (provided it is done properly, of course); they are enabled to show that they can do something useful and be valued for it.
It lets victims explain, and offenders understand, the damaging effects of their actions (and in some cases, such as fights, both have been at fault in some ways). Both are asked questions like ‘What happened?’ ‘Who was affected?’ ‘What do you think and feel about it?’ and ‘What needs to be done to make things better?’ Victims often ask for an apology and/or reparation, but what most of them want is answers to questions and action to make a repeat less likely. This could mean that the offender makes reparation by co-operating with whatever support he or she needs, programmes such as anger management, drug treatment or vocational skills.
Just care: Restorative justice approaches to working with children in public care.
More and more schools are turning to restorative methods,` often helped by Belinda Hopkins’s previous book Just schools. Now she has applied the same principles to meeting the needs of the troubled and troublesome children who are looked after in state institutions. The ethos is similar, and the approach is spelt out clearly for those who do not have previous knowledge of it, with numerous diagrams and a good index. The examples are chosen to reflect the needs of the staff in children’s homes; others such as youth workers and foster parents could also find this book helpful.
Book Review: The penal crisis and the Clapham Omnibus: Questions and answers in restorative justice.
253 pp. ISBN 978 1 9043 8047 4
There has always been a temptation to regard restorative justice as an accessory to the conventional process, in which less serious cases may be diverted out of the system, but for more serious ones a restorative process is only available as an addition to punishment.
After two books explaining the theoretical and political case for restorative justice (Cornwell 2006, 2007), the author has drawn up a proposal for basing the whole system on restorative principles. His book is structured in three sections of five chapters, each addressing one of the questions which the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ (the lawyer’s stereotype of the ordinary person) would want answered.
A comment on Do Better Do Less: The report of the Commission on English Prisons Today
by Martin Wright
The Commission on English Prisons Today is an independent commission set up in 2007 by the Howard League for Penal Reform. Its 77-page report details the growth in prison population in the UK, accompanied by a rise in the reconviction rate, and aggravated by 49 ‘law-and-order’ laws between 1980 and 2009. By contrast England in 1908-39, and Finland in 1960-2000, have shown that imprisonment can be deliberately reduced with no effect on the crime rate. Scotland is planning to do likewise.
Book Review: Restorative justice: From theory to practice, Holly Ventura Miller, ed.
"Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance" is an annual series published by Emerald Group Pub, Ltd. of scholarly work in criminology and criminal justice studies, sociology of law, and the sociology of deviance. This volume, edited by Holly Ventura Miller, is dedicated to restorative justice.
Martin Wright: We need restorative justice
While these figures do not directly relate to restorative justice, in my opinion they demonstrate the need for it.
May 25, 2009 Correspondent:Martin Wright
Martin Wright: Victims' needs and rights
An ICM survey of 1,085 victims of non-violent crime in the UK, for the Ministry of Justice in England, found that 81% would prefer an offender to receive an effective sentence rather than a harsh one, and nearly two thirds (63%) disagreed that prison is always the best way to punish someone. An overwhelming majority of respondents (94%) said the most important thing to them was that the offender did not do it again. This figure is higher than the last survey in 2006 (91%).
May 19, 2009 Correspondent:Martin Wright
Martin Wright: Review of Peacemaking Circles & Urban Youth: Bringing Justice Home
In 1988 a young woman named Molly Baldwin started working with young people in deprived suburbs of Boston, MA, including many immigrants from the world’s trouble spots. Her programme, Roca (Spanish for ‘Rock’), developed into a place where young people could relate to adults, who support them and help to meet their needs. Seven years ago, Roca adopted the Indigenous practice of holding Circles, in which each person only speaks, in turn, when holding the ‘talking piece’.