Using my heart, head and hands to transform lives through Restorative Justice

Published: Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

This is a blog by Why me?’s Director Lucy Jaffé.


Ten years ago I was hired to work at Why me? by Will Riley, Sir Charles Pollard and Anne McHardy. I was really delighted to get the job, but didn’t realise that I had stumbled upon such a powerful process in Restorative Justice, that can truly change lives.


I started out sharing a desk with fellow new recruit Sarah Morris. Ten years later I run a charity which employs 10 staff and enjoys the support of over 40 ambassadors and volunteers. Looking back over the past decade, it strikes me that leading an organisation like Why me?, and widening access to Restorative Justice for everyone affected by crime, is a challenge which brings together a unique mix of heart, head and hand.


The true heart of Why me? is the strength and passion of the people who’ve been through Restorative Justice. From talking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, advising the Bishop’s Commission on Long Term prisoners, and challenging the Parole Board, the fearless determination of people who have been through Restorative Justice is inspiring. This builds on the vision of our founder Will Riley, who wanted all victims of crime to be able to access Restorative Justice, to experience the same benefits that he did. People’s powerful lived experience of Restorative Justice moves me to make a difference, reminds me never to give up, and drives me to continue our mission of ensuring that Restorative Justice is available to everyone. 


This challenge requires me to use my head for strategic thinking. How can we support the systemic change needed to make this mission a reality? I had previously worked with parents in international child abduction cases, which led to the introduction of children’s passports to reduce the numbers leaving the country. Many parents and children were reunited and I established and ran the charity, Reunite, which is still working hard today. Over the last decade, Why me? has worked closely with Ministers and civil servants in Government Departments, Police and Crime Commissioners, Restorative Justice providers, Prison and Probation services, youth justice services and other providers and policy makers to influence change. Our focus has been on victims receiving their entitlement to information about Restorative Justice. This is still an ongoing battle, as only 5.5% of victims with a known offender recall Restorative Justice being raised with them, despite this being an entitlement in the Victims’ Code of Practice. This worrying gap between promise and delivery has driven us to focus on data, monitoring and evaluation through our annual Valuing Victims analysis, holding government and PCCs to account over their service to victims. Why me? were part of the national steering group for the last Government action plan for Restorative Justice until it was dropped in March 2018. The Government needs to introduce a new Restorative Justice Action plan, so that patchy provision becomes a distant memory and the many pockets of excellence are made available to everyone at their point of need. 


I was determined that Why me? would not just talk about change, but roll up our sleeves and come up with solutions based on practical application. So we got our hands dirty, working to transform lives by providing Restorative Justice through our own national service, created in 2015. This allowed us to support people like Janika Cartwright, who had fallen through the gaps in regional provision, and desperately needed Restorative Justice to help her turn her life around. This pioneering and creative service has helped people marginalised by society, such as Sherrall, who was subject to hate crime because of her disability, to be heard and to have their needs met through restorative encounters. Our work focuses on coming up with practical and safe restorative solutions in partnership with regional RJ services, increasing the use of Restorative Justice for hate crime and busting myths about who is and is not suitable to participate. We do not speak for the sector, but consult and support frontline services and practitioners who care enormously about doing the right thing. I love these connections and networks that the team at Why me? have supported and nurtured during the last 18 months, developing a virtual guide and mock-up conference for colleagues across the country.  


This winning combination of heart, head and hand is possible because of the people, Board, volunteers, ambassadors and staff, who have been alongside me in the last 10 years. 


I continue to be convinced that Restorative Justice transforms lives, but for it to truly be embedded in everyday life, it will take several decades. One decade down and I feel confident that the wind of change is blowing in the right direction to make Restorative Justice available for everyone.


If you want to help me to achieve this and support Why me? to continue transforming lives, then please support this amazing charity by making a donation.

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