Restorative practices is a social science that integrates developments from a variety of disciplines and fields — including education, psychology, social work, criminology, sociology, organizational development and leadership — in order to build healthy communities, increase social capital, decrease crime and antisocial behaviour, repair harm and restore relationships.
The thing about it is that it works.
After years of work in Pastoral care in schools I found that a lot of our practice simply failed. A child did something wrong. We punished them. They continued doing things wrong. It became a game.
Often the punishment would cause resentment and result in displacement behaviour. A bully would wait his opportunity to get back at the victim for telling on him and getting him into trouble.
Then I moved over to using restorative practice.
When there was a problem I would call in all concerned. Hear their stories. Ask them to explain. I would call in evidence if necessary. I would then apportion blame and see if we could reach agreement. Rarely was any incident black and white. There was usually fault on both sides. I got them to appreciate how their actions had impacted on others and how that had made each other feel. We would agree what all parties had done wrong and what they should have done to avoid the incident. I would then ask them what punishment they thought was appropriate for what they had done. They would usually volunteer a punishment. We ended with all parties reconciled, no built-up resentment and a way forward. The number of further repeat incidents diminished greatly. The aggression in the school diminished. The school became happier.
The students were usually very honest about what they had done and explained why they had done it.
They were open to accepting blame for their actions.
The fact of being listened to was appreciated.
The fact of apportioning blame to all sides was appreciated.
It reduced tension.
They would often come up with harsher penalties for their crimes than I would have given. I usually reduced the punishment rather than increasing it.
There was usually a genuine resolve of the situation with all parties leaving amicably on good terms.
Many situations were resolved without the need for further punishment through a mutual apology and understanding.
A way forward was always provided.
There were lessons to be learnt and taken on board and they usually were.
Students appreciated being treated as adults and not shouted at. They responded in a mature way.
Even the most violent situations or awkward of students responded to the process.
Confronting students with the people they had wronged, enabling them to see the effects of their actions, made them more aware of the wrongs they had caused and the effects. It stopped them reoffending.
It was not unusual to have even the toughest lads in tears out of remorse.
It reduced anger and resentment.
Behaviour greatly improved.
It was more time-consuming in the short-term but reduced incidents and thus saved time over-all.
I believe that restorative practice (or restorative justice) can work just as well in courts as it does in schools. Bring offenders together with victims to talk it through and appreciate each others perspectives is beneficial to all.
It is more effective than punishment and satisfies both victims and offenders.
It would cut down on recidivism and would be a lot cheaper.