Probation – a new opportunity for Restorative Justice
This is a blog by Why me?’s Director Lucy Jaffé.
An audit of the 12 new plans produced by the National Probation Service Regional Directors reveals that Restorative Justice is considered as a useful intervention but is not uniformly treated. This is a prime opportunity to open access to Restorative Justice for people on probation and their victims, and should not be missed. It is an effective intervention, both as a restorative approach to address conflict in custody, and as a way of both harmer and harmed moving on from the crime.
Each of the new probation regions issued a ‘Reducing Reoffending Plan’ last month to run through to April 2022. The plans map out priorities for rehabilitating and resettling people who are on probation, both in prison and in the community. They (should) also cover the priorities for the Victim Contact Scheme. All 12 plans are available on the Ministry of Justice website.
Overall they are hugely ambitious for the timeframe available and the commitment can be non-specific. An example of this is “By April 2022 we will: Continue to develop the provision and access to Restorative Justice services for people on probation and their victims”. My concern is that this is too vague, does not establish a baseline from which to develop and does distinguish victim from offender referral routes or provision – two distinct services within probation.
Alarmingly, three areas do not mention Restorative Justice at all, despite it being a recommended intervention and an entitlement under the Victim Code of Practice for victims to be informed about it. These areas are Yorkshire and the Humber, London (MOPAC), and East Midlands.
More promising is the fact that some Regional Directors understand the potential of Restorative Justice and state their intention to deploy it, and to co-commission, where practical, with the Police and Crime Commissioners in their area (each Probation area covers several PCC areas, except London). One such Director is Steve Johnson-Proctor who writes “Our aim over the next three years is to… Pilot restorative justice provision in the region.” and “By April 2022 we will: Align with our partners to build on local appetite for restorative justice provision, learning from good practice and drawing on evidence from other regions.”
The newly formed National Probation Service has the potential to be a game-changer in terms of people’s access to Restorative Justice. If Regional Probation Directors want to make a lasting difference to people’s lives and reduce reoffending, investment in Restorative Justice is a smart choice.