Who takes ownership of a restorative justice programme?
Dec 30, 2010
....At the European Forum for Restorative Justice’s 10th Anniversary conference in Bilbao,Spain in June 2010, retired Concord,Massachusetts Police Chief LenWetherbee and I presented a session with the above title. I spoke about the issues that set a community/statutory agencies partnership approach to restorative practices apart from those that are managed and delivered solely by the statutory agencies. Len gave an example of such an approach, speaking about the community/statutory agencies partnership Communities for Restorative Justice (www.C4RJ.com) project in Concord and how effective a non-profit partnership of community members and police departments can be.
....My support, as a police officer, for Restorative Justice came from an awareness of the frustration towards the criminal justice system felt within the communities in which I worked. A great deal of that frustration came from the belief that people who had been involved in, or affected by, crime and offending behaviour were not only further victimised by the system, but also that ownership of the situation they found themselves in had been taken from them by that system. I believed at the time, and believe even more passionately now, that Restorative Justice was a concept that could return ‘ownership’ of behaviour that causes harm or offence to its rightful owners, the community.
....Many restorative projects are managed and delivered by the statutory agencies and the community (including those who have been victimised,witnesses and other stakeholders) only provides a service to the system. Ownership has, therefore, remained with the statutory agencies. Whilst, rightly, holding the person who has caused harm to account, the aims of those projects tend to be focused on reducing offending and re-offending with involvement from the community, especially those who have been victimised, being inconsistent. Much of the emphasis is on quantitative evaluation,with qualitative evaluation being of secondary importance. Outcomes are more likely to be imposed and the gate-keeping for access to such programmes excludes many who may benefit from participating in a restorative practice, because they do not fit the referral criteria.
In community and statutory agency partnerships, the project is more likely to provide a service to the community. Ownership is then shared between members of the partnership. The aims of such a partnership approach are likely to focus on creating and maintaining safer communitiesand put equal emphasis on qualitative and quantitative evaluation. Outcomes that are realistic and acceptable to everyone are negotiated, not imposed.Because these partnership projects empower the community at all stages, the support of the community is assured and they are much more likely to be sustainable. This is also a tie-in with ‘the Big Society’.