Restorative Justice moves centre stage

There has been a great deal of political and media activity around punishment recently. Not a month seems to go by without a new announcement about how prison regimes will be toughened up. So it was refreshing that last week was Restorative Justice week.

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Restoring the balance

There has been a great deal of political and media activity around punishment recently. Not a month seems to go by without a new announcement about how prison regimes will be toughened up. So it was refreshing that last week was Restorative Justice week. It was marked by a great deal of activity across the country and, in particular, by the Ministry of Justice. This post focuses on three key MoJ developments.

Giving victims a voice

The MoJ launched its “Giving Victims a Voice” campaign which aimed to raise awareness about Restorative Justice. The centre piece of the campaign was a YouTube video which was a straightforward explanation of MJ, focusing on both the benefits to victims and the impact on reoffending. It blends both animation and interviews with victims and offenders who have been through an RJ process. You can see it below:

The video is accompanied by a booklet.

Funding

Justice Minister Damian Green announced that £29 million (appropriately enough funded by the assets confiscated from offenders) would be provided to Police and Crime Commissioners and charities to deliver restorative justice over the next three years.

£10 million a year might not be huge but it is genuinely new money for RJ. The details of the funding (taken from the official MoJ press release) are set out below:

“For the remaining six months of the current financial year, £5m has been provided by the Ministry of Justice for Restorative Justice. Of that, £3.85m will be distributed to Police and Crime Commissioners. A further £10m will be made available for 2014-15, with £6.25m distributed to PCCs. In 2015-16, at least £14m has been set aside.

 

Action Plan

The MoJ also published two documents. A report on progress on 2012’s RJ action plan. And a new “2013 Restorative Justice Action Plan for the Criminal Justice System.”

The focus of the reports is on embedding restorative justice within the2013 RJ Action plan criminal justice system and making RJ available to all victims (and offenders) across England and Wales. Both reports are short (essentially four pages each) and well worth a read.

The 2013 action plan prioritises four key areas:

1. Strengthening Capacity

The action plan emphasises the importance of RJ being only delivered by skilled practitioners. This section focuses on developing standards, accreditation and guidance.

2. Raising Awareness

Obviously Restorative Justice Week and the associated videos and booklets are key to this strand of the action plan.  The other main piece of work is to ensure that RJ is offered at key points throughout the criminal justice system.

3. Improving Access

The aim here is to ensure that victims can access RJ when they want. The MoJ is committed to improving the current database of RJ facilitators and introducing guidance on information sharing with the CJS to help increase referrals.

4. Evidence

It is acknowledged that the evidence base for restorative justice is far from complete and this strand of the action plan is about ensuring that clear guidance about best RJ practice in different settings (out of court, pre- and post-sentencing) and with both young and adult offenders is developed.

Looking forwards

Overall it seems that the RJ movement is slowly becoming embedded in our criminal justice system.  Restorative Justice Week managed to secure considerable coverage across the country, greatly aided by the fact that PCCs were keen to announce their newly won funding for local initiatives. I found events easy to follow by creating a dedicated #restorativejustice column in my Tweetdeck screen. You can follow the latest contributions below:

 

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