The Restorative Justice Process
Restorative Justice does not happen overnight.
A trained Restorative Justice facilitator meets both parties before arranging a meeting, only if it is safe to do so.
Here are the steps which take place in a restorative process.
1. Asking for Restorative Justice
The first step in the Restorative Justice process is for the victim or offender to ask for it.
This often happens after the police inform them about the opportunity for Restorative Justice. Restorative Justice can take place at any time after an offender is identified, either pre or post-sentence.
A victim or offender can also get in touch with organisations like Why me? to seek access to Restorative Justice at any time.
2. Getting agreement from both parties
The other party will then need to be contacted, to see if they are willing to take part in a restorative process.
Restorative Justice can only go ahead if both the victim and the offender are happy to take part.
It is then time for the preparation process to begin.
A trained Restorative Justice Facilitator will meet the victim to hear about the impact of the crime, and discuss what they would like to say to the offender.
They will then meet the offender and go through the same process. The facilitator could have a number of similar meetings with the victim and the offender, moving back and forth between them over a period of months.
They can pass on information to the victim about what the offender is saying and vice versa – provided that they have permission to do so.
Both victim and offender can also nominate people to support them, such as a friend or a professional. Each of these people needs to be prepared too.
4. Who attends the Conference?
Once both parties are ready, and the facilitators have made sure it is safe to proceed, a Restorative Justice Conference is held. These conferences can be held in the community or in prison.
This is a meeting involving the victim of crime, the offender, and two Restorative Justice facilitators.
There are usually supporters present for both the victim and the offender as well. In some cases, there can also be community representatives present, or other relevant people (such as a youth worker, for instance).
All of those present sit in a circle, with the facilitator sat between the victim and offender.
5. The Restorative Justice Conference
The Conference starts with the facilitator setting the ground rules. These ground rules include no one being allowed to interrupt someone else, and anyone being able to take a break or stop the process at any time. The facilitator will then ask the offender questions: such as “can you tell me what happened”, “how did you feel at the time” and “who was affected by the incident.”
The facilitator then asks similar questions to the victim, and to the other people in the room.
This will help to facilitate a dialogue between the victim and offender,
If appropriate, the facilitator will help the participants to produce an outcome agreement. This lays out what steps the offender could take to put things right, or address the harm they have caused.
As always in a restorative process, everything in the outcome agreement will need to be agreed by both parties.
In the days following the Conference, the facilitator will speak to both parties to see how they feel, and check that they got what they wanted out of the process.