Restorative practice

I turned up on time to the restorative practice event at Coin Street Conference Centre and it was already packed to the brim.

As usual, we got introductory speeches to set the scene but what was different about this event was that it was organised for practitioners and the community. There was not a shortage of testimonials about how lives had been transformed through restorative practice.

And just to make it clear, restorative practice is quite different from restorative justice – the former is the entire restorative body of work and the latter is a subset that focuses on the victim and perpetrator.  On the other hand, restorative justice gives them a safe space and the opportunity to apologise and forgive so that either party can move on to become ‘a different person’.

We were reminded that we have to aim to change the mind-set of the perpetrator and it is important that the practice must be delivered well and consistently. Ah! But there is no budget!

Does restorative practice really work? Specific questions to be asked are

  • does restorative practice reduce re-offending, and
  • does it meet the victim’s need?

The beneficiaries of the restorative practice programme advocated that every offender should be put through the process so that they can keep on the straight and narrow. They get to challenge each other at their meetings.

Let’s face it, when you place someone in a room and make them face the truth about their deeds, there is nothing else they can do but to listen! What they do after that is what we need to know.

We were told that Hull City is said to be committed to working towards becoming a restorative city and encourages organisations to consistently build and manage relationships in the community. This would be wonderful but at my workshop, practitioners struggled with defining a ‘community’, as most of them did not operate at the grassroots.

So what is a ‘community’ in restorative practice terms?