Restorative Justice and Race: becoming an antiracist sector

Published: Friday, October 21st, 2022


This is a blog written by our Director, Lucy Jaffé.

Racialised groups are disproportionately and adversely affected by crime and by institutional responses to crime. They are frequently over-policed and face increased trauma when trying to access justice. When it comes to Restorative Justice, there is anecdotal evidence that people from these communities are underrepresented, not only as participants but also as facilitators.

The Restorative Justice sector faces a unique challenge as we move to expand the use of Restorative Justice. We must actively challenge and avoid replicating existing harmful structures within justice systems, and ensure that the voices of these communities and those with lived experience are at the centre of the work that needs to be done.

As the director of a leading Restorative Justice organisation, I have a personal responsibility to lead an organisation that embraces equitable, diverse, and inclusive practices. That’s why earlier this year, the Why me? team began working with Mabadiliko CIC to embark on their Cultural Humility 365 training.

Cultural humility is a life-long process of critical self-reflection and evaluation that leads us to becoming more comfortable with the uncomfortable. We began to have more effective conversations about identity, lived experience, and antiracism, and each of us committed to tangible individual behaviour changes and we came away with a whole roster of practical improvements to organisational policies and processes.

This learning and experience provided a solid foundation for Why me? to address how Restorative Justice can better meet the needs of individuals. I had the opportunity to build on this learning after attending a meeting convened by the Restorative Justice Council and the Criminal Justice Alliance earlier this week which explored the intersection of restorative work and race.

Leadership

At Why me? we are on track to diversify Board membership, which will be announced soon, and all staff and Board have undergone the Mabadiliko CIC antiracism training in the last six months to better understand individual and institutionalised bias.

As Director, I have gained a lot from participating through co-mentoring on the Lloyds Bank Foundation funded 2027 Partnership programme. This pilot offers a platform for people from working class communities an opportunity to enter the grant-making sector.

As restorative organisations, we need to create more opportunities for Black, Asian and minoritised people to take leadership positions and to be supported to flourish and thrive in them and Why me? is on a path to make this change.

Practice

Moving towards a Restorative Justice sector in which any and all restorative practice is equity-informed will ensure that power dynamics which can exist in a restorative setting are recognised and addressed thereby enabling everyone to engage in Restorative Justice.

The restorative practitioners at Why me? are deeply aware of this in our work with marginalised communities, particularly in regards to the needs of people who speak English as an Additional Language, as the Project Articulate team have worked closely with both community and statutory organisations to create an intersectional and restorative response to crime and conflict.

The Restorative Justice Council is pioneering this space with the introduction of their Black Practitioners Network which will both encourage Black communities to engage in restorative practice, and support Black individuals and organisations who work in Restorative Justice.

Grassroots

Equipping people and communities to create their own restorative responses to crime and conflict so that they are not being ‘done to’ but have agency over systems and processes put in place to keep them, their families and friends safe, can assist in addressing systemic racism that persists in traditional justice systems. Restorative practice is a great vehicle for developing community voice as well as a means for repairing harm and moving forward.

Smart investment

Restorative work is frequently underfunded. With smarter investment, Restorative Justice could attract a more diverse workforce through the introduction of more recognised Restorative Justice qualifications, better salaries and clearer career development from apprenticeships to leadership. The Criminal Justice Alliance are pioneering this space with their ELEVATE programme which guides emerging lived experience leaders into rewarding careers.

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