Revolutionising the Criminal Justice System through Restorative Justice

Published: Friday, June 9th, 2023


In this blog, Kate Aldous, our new Strategic Programmes Manager shares what interests her about Why me? and Restorative Justice.

 

I am excited to be starting as Strategic Programmes Manager at Why me? because I see the potential of Restorative Justice to revolutionise our Criminal Justice System. Imagine if, instead of judging, blaming and labelling people as “bad”, we sought to understand and heal. 

Moving away from those labels is hard, especially when working with the Criminal Justice System. And yet most people working in the field recognise that those in the Criminal Justice System have often experienced significant harm during their lives. The “victim”, “offender” binary is a fiction. Our system labels people as “bad” and punishes them, which can bring a sense of security to society. But how many of us can honestly say we have never behaved in ways we have come to regret? How would we feel if those acts were used to judge and define us? Overall, through removing labels, and increasing understanding to all involved, Restorative Justice brings change for the better. 

I have seen how Restorative Justice can be transformational for all parties, bringing healing, understanding, and connection. My experience from 12 years at Clinks, supporting the voluntary sector working with people with convictions, will bring this perspective to Why me?. Hearing directly from the person affected by the impact of their behaviour can change people – a positive outcome for all involved. 

This is powerfully demonstrated by the story of our founders, Peter Woolf and Will Riley. Both found Restorative Justice so inspirational that they set up Why me? in order to bring its benefits to more people. Peter, who had broken into Will’s house, and had a history of being in and out of prison, now promotes Restorative Justice around the world. For Will it brought understanding about what happened and why, and through ensuring Peter understood the impact of his actions on Will and his family, he helped steer him in another direction. This not only changed Peter’s life, but also those who would have been impacted in the future if he had continued with his old way of life. Peter never offended again. 

I am also excited that Why me? demonstrates Restorative Justice’s effectiveness for a range of scenarios – including those that gatekeepers often block. This includes hate crimedomestic violence, and across cultural and language barriers. One of my first encounters with Restorative Justice was hearing on the radio the amazing testimony of a woman whose son had been killed, talking about how Restorative Justice had allowed her to forgive and let go of her anger – certainly healing, possibly life-saving. The fact that I still remember this, 15 years later, is testimony to the power of this story and what Restorative Justice can do. 

For me personally, it brings many strands of my experience together. Early on in my career I worked for an environmental mediation organisation, through which I learnt dialogue and facilitation skills that I have used ever since. I was a volunteer neighbourhood mediator for some years and through Why me? Trustee training in restorative practice, I was introduced to Nonviolent Communication, which shares many approaches and principles with Restorative Justice. I was also trained, along with other Trustees and staff, in cultural humility – a journey that continues for Why me? and which I am also encountering through Nonviolent communication training. 

I am excited about what Why me? can achieve, even in this challenging funding environment. I look forward to working with many of you over the coming months, and would be happy to talk to you about our work and ambitions at kate.aldous@why-me.org.   

© 2024 Why me? Charity no. 1137123. Company no. 6992709.