Restorative Practice

Restorative Practice


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.

Some observations:

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.

9 thoughts on “Restorative Practice

  1. My company introduced it as an element of the disciplinary procedure in 1979.
    On an adult level it’s a somewhat more complicated process. We wouldn’t be looking for people to start crying in remorse but to understand the domino effect. Every negative action counts towards a means test score which hits their pay packet.

    That claim of a reduction of recidivism is untrue and quite the opposite.
    Recidivism is one of the most fundamental concepts in criminal justice.
    Bureau of Justice statistics studies have found high rates among released prisoners.
    (I’ve given rounded approx figures)
    Within 3 years of release 65% of released prisoners are rearrested.
    Within 5 years of release 75% of released prisoners are rearrested.
    Of those prisoners who were rearrested, more than half were rearrested by the end of the first year.
    Property offenders were the most likely to be rearrested, with 80% of released property offenders arrested for a new crime compared with 75% of drug offenders, 75% of public order offenders and 70% of violent offenders.
    These figures highlight that recidivism in the criminal world really doesn’t relate at all to children’s school. They can not be compared under any circumstances.

    1. Thank you for that Merrick. I am sure that the process is slightly different with adults but I think it would work just as effectively. The psychology is the same.
      The reports I have read about applying Restorative Justice to criminals were all extremely promising and indicated that the high levels of recidivism in criminals was substantially reduced. That is different to what you seem to suggest.

      1. All I can suggest is that you read the stats reports on re-offenders, say for so far this century.
        Our company was large and employing thousands and by law we had to offer employment opportunities to a wide range of “disadvantaged” sectors, some of whom were ex-cons. Not always the most successful of employees as the above stats indicate.
        I’m sure you will have read reports that are “promising”, but if the woffle that I’ve had to listen to for years from some of these stupid and gullible social workers is anything to go by, they’d tell you there’s no chance that any ex-con would steal, cheat someone or beat someone up again. I had thought by now that everyone knew that at least half of all ex-cons go back inside again.

      2. Merrick – why do you not read the post. It isn’t about reoffending. It is about restorative practice. The recidivism rate for criminals is extremely poor but with restorative justice that comes right down. Do pay attention.

      3. Pay attention? That’s actually just downright rude and isn’t warranted at all considering I was the only person who even bothered to reply and also gave you some factual information. Therefore, suffice to say I was paying full attention.

        In your dreams does it come down. Which is why crime is on the increase and why there is no deviation from the general rule that at least half of all cons go back inside. Whether or not they appear to be sorry or have some regrets about previous crimes committed is neither here nor there. A lot of these people will tell anyone exactly what they think they want to here. Which also goes to explain why the majority of people in prison will tell you that they are in fact innocent of the crime that they were sentenced for. Why is that?

        The crime stats speak for themselves and you must be greatly mistaken to be thinking that “restorative justice” has any effect or preventing crime. Crime is governed by opportunities and calculated risk, these are the principle factors and not anything to do with how people feel towards each other on a one-to-one basis. You very obviously never employed any ex-cons!

        I think you must be confused with statistics regarding domestic murder, manslaughter and GBH crimes, where the perpetrators whom had committed serious crimes on a one-time-only basis and had seriously harmed a spouse or family member may well be treated with such a process, at least those that are granted license to walk about in public after a spell of prison time. However, sadly for a lot of them it comes too late as they are already doing lengthy prison time for such serious offences.

  2. Further to my previous comments of ten days ago, perhaps you heard the most recent government reports as featured on TV news reports today. Given that this isn’t a controversial topic, I wouldn’t argue with the latest report that states that 73% of female offenders re-offend with the first 12 months of release.
    Obviously this statistic makes a mockery of your unfounded assumption that restorative practice efforts are working.
    I hate to say it, but I already told you so. Adult substance addicted re-offenders and school children have no relationship whatsoever and your initial claims are absolute nonsense.

    1. What you say does not make sense. The reoffending rate is evidence that restorative practice (not being widely utilised at present) is greatly needed. It would bring down that reoffending rate considerably.

      1. Come off it, everything I’ve said is completely the case.
        Do you honestly think you can compare naughty school children with habitual criminals? I’m really struggling to understand how you got to that conclusion.

        On June 16 at 9:23 am, you said “The reports I have read about applying Restorative Justice to criminals were all extremely promising and indicated that the high levels of recidivism in criminals was substantially reduced. That is different to what you seem to suggest.”

        So what are you saying exactly? One minute you’re saying it’s working – as per the comment made on 16th.
        Then there’s your other latest one on 28th. where you say it’s greatly needed.

        Suffice to say that there’s all sorts of criminals and your point made on 16th doesn’t qualify what you’re referring to.
        Perhaps this idea might work with first-timer shop lifters or such, but for crims involved in house raiding and going about a bit of GBH with it, well I really don’t think so. They’re not going to be sitting there reflecting on the hardship woes of their chosen victims. They couldn’t give two f**** for them.

        I’ll say it again. What’s done in a school with teenage children might not too easily compute into the hardened world of a junkie habitual offender or violent criminal. They inhabit different worlds and operate under a completely different set of rules.
        With a lot of these people their lives were shaped and mapped out years before they succumbed to criminality – that’s just the end result. So in all honesty some “restorative practice” comes all too late for them as they are already damaged and the lives they lead are the only lives they know. You can’t turn Olive Oil into Mary Poppins.

      2. Andrew – it has been trialled in the justice system and worked very well. I would like to see it deployed further to bring down recidivism and to help victims. Obviously it would not be applicable to all people but it is for many.

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