David* served a 15 year prison sentence after killing someone and pleading guilty to murder. He sought Restorative Justice after finding out about it on a victim awareness course that he completed in prison. Eventually, David met with a family member of the person he killed and was able to give them the answers that they needed to get closure.
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Whilst serving his prison sentence, David took part in a victim awareness course called the Sycamore Tree Project, where learners explore the effects of their crime on victims and the wider community, and discuss what it would mean to take responsibility for their actions. Through this programme he was introduced to the idea of Restorative Justice and contacted his Probation Officer to see if he could take part.
David wanted to have a conversation with someone who had been affected by his crime, anyone who was willing to speak to him. The process of accessing Restorative Justice took several years and the meeting didn’t take place until David had been released from prison.
Why did you want to take part?
“It was a personal choice. It wasn’t something that I felt that I had to do, or was obliged to do, it was something I wanted to do. I didn’t do it for me… I did it for them.”
The Sycamore Tree Project that David took part in while serving his sentence helped him understand the impact of his actions and see the ripple effects that the crime had on the victim’s family. He thought that Restorative Justice would be a good idea and knew that the family would have questions that they needed answers to. “You put yourself in their position, they must have had a lot of questions and stuff going around in their heads, ‘who, why, what?’. So you just think, if it was me I’d want to know what happened. I just felt that it was the right thing to do. If they hate me for the rest of their life, fair enough. But they know now exactly what happened and they know it wasn’t their fault.”
David said, “I had 15 years behind the door to think about it, now it was time to help somebody else.”
In the lead up to the Restorative Justice meeting, David did not feel concerned about meeting the family member as he knew it was coming. Instead, he focused on the fact that he had committed to taking part. “I made a commitment that I was going to do it. You’re only as good as your word at the end of the day, if you haven’t got that, you haven’t got anything.”
During the meeting itself, David explained why the incident had happened and how he felt about it, giving the family member the chance to see his perspective and walk away knowing what had happened.
What was the impact?
David believes that the meeting had a positive impact on the family member that he met, saying that it appeared to take a weight off of their mind. “I’m just happy in the sense that it gives someone else closure and they’ve got definitive answers, instead of spending the rest of their lives wondering and blaming themselves for something that they have no control over.”
When asked what he would tell others in his position, David said that he would encourage people who are considering it to do it as they might feel better for it. He argues that letting things out and explaining your actions can help you as well as the people that you hurt, “it’s not just good for the victim, it’s good for yourself.”
“How are you supposed to live with yourself, if you can’t let those people live with themselves, because they’ll carry it around for the rest of their lives. That will never go away. At least now they’ll have something definitive to work with. They might not like it, they might not accept it, but they have it. Sometimes you’ve got to look through other people’s eyes and see how they’re feeling.”
If you are interested in Restorative Justice, find your local Restorative Justice service through our map or learn more about how the process works. If you have a story you would like to share with us, please get in touch via email@example.com.