Restorative justice (RJ) is an idea which is carrying increasing influence in the debate about effective responses to offending in the UK. Admittedly the extent of its implementation has not always lived up to policy-makers’ rhetoric, but since the turn of the century it has been playing an ever greater part in our criminal justice system. Government has announced plans to build out ‘a more strategic and coherent approach’ from RJ’s existing youth justice stronghold to the wider system in England & Wales.
On the face of it, RJ is a simple idea which brings together the instigator and sufferer of harm to resolve an issue/problem between them, rather than forcing them through the complex and expensive mechanisms of modern criminal justice. As such it has an understandable appeal – purporting to offer a way of resolving problems which directly involves the parties affected and which according to a number of studies, is capable of leaving all satisfied and better off as a result, while at the same time reducing re-offending.
Yet this simplicity is deceptive: a range of complications need to be taken into account, particularly in the context of adversarial British justice systems which are set up precisely to take matters out of the hands of those directly affected. Care needs to be taken in the delivery of RJ to ensure it is being done for the right reasons and in a manner which delivers on its core values and attributes.
This e-book of Safer Communities, guest edited by the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers Chair Gareth Jones and Graham Smyth from Manchester Metropolitan University, brings together academics and practitioners to explore what is good about RJ and some of the complexities inherent in making it work well.
Issues considered include the competing imperatives at play when RJ is delivered in a policing or a pre-sentence context, the tricky question of how and where it can be fitted in alongside our criminal justice system, the psychological processes involved when RJ successfully contributes to desistance from offending and the story of its slow and steady implementation in Ireland.
This timely publication offers food for thought for those tempted to see RJ as a cheap option for delivering justice in austere times. Some of the financial savings which may be associated with RJ are in any event the result of taking counter-productive shortcuts in its delivery. The message implicit in all the chapters included here is that RJ has a great deal to offer – if it is done properly."
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