Why Me? http://www.why-me.org Working for Restorative Justice Thu, 28 Apr 2016 12:00:16 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 http://www.why-me.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/cropped-Favicon-32x32.png Why Me? http://www.why-me.org 32 32 Creative restorative practice offers victims a voice http://www.why-me.org/2016/creative-restorative-practice-offers-victims-a-voice/ http://www.why-me.org/2016/creative-restorative-practice-offers-victims-a-voice/#respond Fri, 22 Apr 2016 16:58:02 +0000 http://www.why-me.org/?p=2004 Restorative Justice takes courage: courage on the part of the victim of crime to face the offender and courage too on the part of the offender. Anyone who has been through it will say it is not an easy option.

How much more courage therefore, would a victim need to face not one offender, but a group of twenty? And in prison. Granted it would not be the offender who committed the crime against them, but twenty offenders guilty of a range of crimes. That is the essence of the unique form of restorative justice offered by the Sycamore Tree course.

Sycamore Tree is a six-session course and is currently running in a range of custodial settings working with groups of up to 20 prisoners. Sycamore Tree adopts a restorative ethos and practices: working with prisoners, the course explores how restorative justice works, and models a restorative justice encounter by inviting a victim of crime to share their story with a group of prisoners. This meeting is at the heart of the course. Like a restorative justice conference, it is based on the power of personal story-telling. A victim of crime is invited to share a personal account of how crime has affected them. Prisoners often say that hearing from a victim on the course is the first time they have really understood the personal impact of a crime.

In abstract it is difficult to see how this could possibly meet the needs of the victim without creating more trauma. And how could hearing from a victim of an unrelated and possibly very different crime, have any consequence for an offender?

But experience in over 2000 Sycamore Tree courses over 18 years shows this has a powerful positive effect on all involved.

Suzanne (not her real name) had wanted to meet the offender in her case: she was the victim of a brutal assault and attempted robbery and having heard about RJ she was sure it could help her. To Suzanne’s frustration, the offender was deported before the RJ conference could happen. Suzanne was angry about the crime, fearful, and now also frustrated by a system that had not listened to her needs. Coming in to talk to a group of prisoners in a Sycamore Tree session was not the obvious solution but Suzanne was prepared to think about it.

As a Sycamore Tree tutor, I am used to explaining the apparently inverted logic of the course. Suzanne was open to exploring the possibility of coming to Sycamore Tree and, working with Why Me?, we identified a London prison. I explained to Suzanne that on Sycamore Tree we explore the impact of crime and also issues of offender responsibility and that prior to her visit, the group would look at the “ripple effect” of crime and talk about victim experiences with a group of trained facilitators. They would also be encouraged to explore their own offending stories.

Sycamore Tree is a unique way of giving a victim a voice and it has a surprising impact. In much the same way as can happen on a conference, victims report that is makes them feel that they have some control back over the situation; that it feels good to have had the opportunity to talk about an event that may have caused great upset and trauma, and to have people listen. Victims of crime who contribute to a session of Sycamore Tree are able to see that offenders are not the monsters they imagine, but a group of individuals whose lives are often impacted by damaged backgrounds and who respond to the very human experience of being given time and space to talk and a unique opportunity to hear first-hand how a crime may have devastated someone.

The conversation is initially one-sided, but often after speaking to the whole group, victims will agree to join in conversations in small discussion groups where there are often poignant and heartfelt responses from prisoners and a refreshing and unusual honesty as many start to think for the first time about what they have put their own victims through.

As a tutor I couldn’t count the number of times I have heard men say, “I never thought about my victims” or “I had no idea what I did could cause hurt like that”. The power of these encounters is very real. It is different of course from a restorative justice conference between related parties, but because of the follow up work in the three subsequent sessions, Sycamore Tree often achieves a very real change in attitude and a marked determination to make amends and to get life back on track. It contributes to vital desistance building blocks, building self-esteem and social capital and is a powerful motivator. Increasingly, tutors are able to signpost direct restorative justice for those for whom it is an appropriate next step.

But what about a victim of crime like Suzanne? All victims who volunteer to come in to session 3 are invited back to see the final session of the course. On session 6 prisoners are offered an opportunity to respond to what they have seen and heard and to offer a symbolic act as a way of indicating an intention to make amends or put something back. These sessions are always surprising as prisoners pluck up courage to talk openly about personal relationships, their offending and their intention to put things right. Sadly for Suzanne, she was not able to attend the final session of the course, but this has not lessened the power of the experience for her.

After her visit she said, “ It was truly a good experience for me to be involved and I am sure it has helped heal my wounds a lot quicker.”

If you would be interested in visiting a Sycamore Tree course as a victim of crime please contact Louise Raven-Tiemele at louise.raven-tiemele@why-me.org or Penny Parker.

More information on Sycamore Tree

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Victim centred policy and campaigns officer http://www.why-me.org/2016/victim-centred-policy-and-campaigns-officer/ http://www.why-me.org/2016/victim-centred-policy-and-campaigns-officer/#respond Thu, 10 Mar 2016 13:30:56 +0000 http://www.why-me.org/?p=1951 Immediate start: Deadline to apply, midnight Sunday 20 March 2016

Interviews will take place at Why me? office in Borough, London, SE1 4YR on Wednesday 23 March 2016.

Salary £32,000 to £35,000 FTE (depending on experience)

Part time, 2 – 3 days per week (negotiable) until 30th September

To apply, please submit a 1-2 page letter and a CV, addressing how you meet the criteria, to lucy.jaffe@why-me.org.

A policy and communications background is needed for this position campaigning for restorative justice services for victims across England and Wales. Funds have been secured for a 2 to 3 day per week position based at the charity’s London office. The work will involve:

  • policy analysis
  • writing compelling briefings and campaign materials aimed at increasing victims’ access to restorative conferences and
  • securing publicly available funds for the charity’s own successful restorative justice service, launched in 2015.

Applicant needs to demonstrate:

  • knowledge and experience of criminal justice system and/or victims’ rights
  • experience of campaigning
  • skill in written communications including via social media (Twitter, Facebook, web content)
  • strong personal communication skills;
  • confidence, determination, and ability to build solid networks

Also desirable

  • understanding of or experience in restorative justice
  • ability to fit into team including volunteer RJ facilitators, victims, offenders and other beneficiaries of our RJ
    service.

All the above information is  in this document too: Why me Policy Coordinator Position – advertisement and job description

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Wanted: New Trustees for Why me? http://www.why-me.org/2016/wanted-new-trustees-for-why-me/ http://www.why-me.org/2016/wanted-new-trustees-for-why-me/#respond Tue, 08 Mar 2016 11:26:25 +0000 http://www.why-me.org/?p=1937 Why me? is seeking new trustees to join our Board. We are looking for enthusiastic people who have an interest in Restorative Justice and are keen to see more victims get access to it. Deadline for application is 1st April 2016. Interviews 13th April if available. Download this pdf  Board Recruitment for Why me 2016-2 or read on!

 

The trustees have oversight of the organisation’s activities and ensure that they meet the aims and objectives of the charity; they set the strategic direction; support the Director and staff in managing the organisation; and take responsibility for financial probity, accounting and risk. Trustees are responsible to the Charity Commission for the proper functioning of Why Me?.

The Board meets 5 times a year and there are some further strategy and fundraising meetings as and when required. Meetings are held in London and last from 1.5 to 2 hours.  Reasonable expenses are reimbursed.

We are looking for people who:

  • Support the aims and objectives of Why me?
  • Have time to commit to Board meetings
  • Understand the responsibility involved in being a Charity Trustee
  • Have experience of charity work as a volunteer, trustee, paid staff or beneficiary
  • Are experienced in one or more of the following areas:
  1. Criminal Justice
  2. Finance Fundraising
  3. Staff Management
  4. Governance

Some experience of Restorative Justice would be an advantage, whether as victim of crime, practitioner or through the criminal justice system.

We welcome applications from everyone irrespective of age, gender and ethnic group, but, people from younger age groups and black and ethnic minority groups are currently under-represented on the Board, we would encourage applications from members of these groups. Appointment will be based on merit alone.

Appointment process

Any questions can be directed to Will Riley intermediapartners@btinternet.com or Sara Nathan, sara@natsing.co.uk

Application

Please send the following to Will Riley and Sara Nathan by the 1st April

Personal statement
Write up to 2 sides of A4 about:

  1. In your view, what is the most important function of Why me?.
  2. What do you think the charity could do In the future?
  3. For what reasons do you want to be a trustee?
  4. What is your relevant experience? (please don’t repeat c.v.)
  5. Please state that you can meet requirements of the post and tell us about any which you cannot meet.

Curriculum Vitae – if available
Deadline: 1st April 2016

Interview
We will ask you to come and meet us or run a Skype interview, depending on availability, on 13th April 2016.

 

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The story behind the media storm http://www.why-me.org/2015/the-story-behind-the-media-storm/ http://www.why-me.org/2015/the-story-behind-the-media-storm/#respond Wed, 02 Dec 2015 14:06:36 +0000 http://www.why-me.org/?p=1877 Why me? has just launched a service offering Restorative Justice to victims and one of the first cases we’ve facilitated is that of Paul Kohler and his wife Samantha MacArthur – victims of a violent attack at their home which left Paul seriously injured.

The crime generated much media coverage when it happened during the summer of 2014, then again when the four men responsible were sentenced to long periods in prison in January 2015.  Pictures of Paul with his face badly bruised and swollen were in all the papers and on TV.

Why me? contacted Paul after he said publicly in the Autumn of 2014 that he was interested in talking directly to the men who’d been found guilty of beating him up.  Paul was pleased to hear from us and we agreed to start the Restorative Justice process.  That was the point at which a year of hard work, hours spent on trains, multiple phone calls, visits to prison and many meetings with people from various sections of the criminal justice system kicked off.

Charlotte Calkin, a Restorative Justice practitioner with several years of experience and Lucy Jaffe, a co-director of Why me? and also a qualified practitioner, facilitated Paul and Samantha’s case from start to finish.  The Restorative Justice conference – the part of the process where the victim meets the offender, and the bit that attracts all the media excitement – is actually just a small portion of Restorative Justice in terms of time.  Before the meeting happened, Charlotte and Lucy had spent hours talking to Paul and Samantha, getting a feel for what they wanted out of the conference and preparing them for it.  They also visited all four of the men in prison and talked to them at length, gauging how much remorse they were showing and forming a picture of whether they really understood what Restorative Justice would entail.  These conversations often had to be done through a Polish/English translator.  Then more time was spent consulting people that were responsible for the men such as prison officers, probation staff and one of the prison chaplains.

Eventually on Tuesday 24th November 2015, Charlotte and Lucy travelled to the prison with Paul, Samantha and one of their daughters for the conference with one of the men.  The family said they got a great deal out of it and were very impressed with the Restorative Justice process along with the way that Charlotte and Lucy had facilitated it.

Paul then decided he’d like to take part in several media interviews to talk about the meeting.  He appeared on BBC Breakfast News and BBC London and he and Samantha talked on BBC 5Live radio.  The story was on the front page of the London Evening Standard, appeared in the Daily Mail online (an extremely popular news website) and in the Daily Mirror, to mention a few.  We estimate that over fifteen million people will have heard about Restorative Justice thanks to Paul’s willingness to speak out. Everyone at Why me? is extremely grateful to him and Samantha for sharing their story with the media.  We hope that it will help public understanding of this important and valuable process and will result in more enquiries to Why me? and all Restorative Justice providers throughout England and Wales. Why me? also want to thank Charlotte Calkin and Lucy Jaffe who gave their time voluntarily to facilitate this case.  Travel expenses were met by Why me? which relies on charitable funding.

Here are some of the online pieces from the Mail, Mirror and Standard:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3341150/Shocking-image-released-horrific-injuries-suffered-lecturer-beaten-four-Polish-burglars-meets-one-attackers-FORGIVE-him.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/lecturer-beaten-pulp-four-burglars-6932334

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/academic-i-forgive-thug-who-raided-my-home-and-savagely-beat-me-a3126906.html

One small footnote: Much of the media coverage has highlighted Paul’s “forgiveness” of the offender.  Why me? believe it is important to understand that willingness to forgive is NOT a precondition for taking part in Restorative Justice.  Many victims who take part never express forgiveness and successful Restorative Justice does not rely on it.

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New Parliamentary Inquiry into Restorative Justice http://www.why-me.org/2015/new-parliamentary-inquiry-into-restorative-justice/ http://www.why-me.org/2015/new-parliamentary-inquiry-into-restorative-justice/#respond Wed, 25 Nov 2015 15:53:35 +0000 http://www.why-me.org/?p=1873 The House of Commons Justice Select Committee has announced its intent to look at Restorative Justice. Why me? has already contributed to the process by sending each member a copy of our “Barriers and Solutions to RJ” report. http://www.why-me.org/2015/too-few-victims-are-offered-restorative-justice-why/

We hope to continue to influence the inquiry and would urge anyone else with experience of the use of Restorative Justice in the Criminal Justice System to make a submission.  More details are here.

 

 

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Successful RJ – the views of service providers http://www.why-me.org/2015/successful-rj-the-views-of-service-providers/ http://www.why-me.org/2015/successful-rj-the-views-of-service-providers/#respond Thu, 19 Nov 2015 16:44:57 +0000 http://www.why-me.org/?p=1868 What does successful RJ look like?  Charlotte Calkin, Why me?’s facilitator-in-residence attempted to answer this in her previous blog entry.  She asked Becci Seaborne of the Thames Valley Restorative Service and Steve Jones of REMEDI in Sheffield for their contributions.  Here their submissions are reproduced in full.  Please note that their views are their own.

 

What is successful Restorative Justice? – Becci Seaborne

I think the answer is that we still don’t know because we’ve spent so much time dealing with offender initiated RJ in the criminal justice system that we’ve tended to focus on reconviction rates.

Successful RJ, really, is any process which puts the victim and offender into communication (in any direct or indirect way), which meets the needs of the victim, as expressed by then and enables them to move on from what has happened in a more positive way than before. We’d want to achieve the same with offenders too, but at the very least we’d not want to cause further harm or make things worse. We needs to develop much better ways of understanding what this might look like so we can begin to measure it in some way.

 

Also there is, permanently, in the RJ world a tension between whether we focus on the process or the outcome – there are lots of very interesting philosophical and ethical considerations with this.

My natural instinct is always to shy away from targets as I’ve heard of too many examples (in other fields, and mostly in health), where targets have had (sometimes unintended) adverse effects. However, I think we live in a world where it’s important to be accountable and if we’re spending public money or money gained through fundraising we have to be able to describe in fairly clear terms what that money is paying for.

 

At TVRJS we have set ourselves internal targets around numbers of conferences, but the way I dealt with this as a manager was to say if we don’t meet this target we’ll take a look at the cases – we’ll look at the ones that didn’t come to conference and examine the reasons, pick out themes, see if it’s linked to our practice or to something else. It wasn’t about penalising or performance managing practitioners if they didn’t meet a target. What we found on one occasion was that quite a few offender-initiated RJ cases didn’t go to conference despite the victims wishing to meet, because their partners did not want them to go ahead. This was an incredibly useful exercise as it enabled us to understand the wider dynamics affecting outcomes for victims and offenders. We are now developing literature focused on information for family members and supporters to help them understand what their loved one might gain from RJ so they might feel able to be more supportive of the process.

 

So if you’re setting targets to help point you to areas of practice you need to explore more and understand better, then yes, great. But those targets should never interfere with a decision about how to progress a case, as clearly the needs of participants should be the driving factors. For me it’s essential to write into any service or service specification, or contract arrangements what the approach to statistics and targets is. I’ve always felt that numbers can be a useful signpost to what is going on, but that we shouldn’t stop there. Numbers tell us where we should be looking more closely at things to find out what is going on, not to say you’ve missed this target so there’s a penalty, but to see if anything can be done to improve things – sometimes it can’t, and that’s just how things worked out because that’s what the participants wanted, or other aspects of the case just fell a certain way. And that should always be alrtight as long as the affected parties have had their wishes respected and upheld. In any event targets and statistics should only ever be part of the story, and should be supported by relevant and good quality narrative, including qualitative analysis if possible, and case studies where relevant, to give a full picture of what is going on and being achieved.

 

What is successful Restorative Justice?  Steve Jones

 

 

What quantifies/qualifies as successful RJ (moving away from it being quantified by desistance and number of conferences).

Good question.

Successful RJ for me is relatively easy to identify. You know you’ve achieved a successful outcome if the people who should own the experience in the first place (victim/offender, harmed/harmer) say so. If participants express satisfaction with the process that should be the measure of success.

That of course can be quantified via an effective assessment process- how did the individual feel, what negative affects were they experiencing? before the ‘event’ or crime and how does the individual feel this has changed as a result of taking part in a restorative process?

For example we consider the 8 areas of need to identify, as a starting point, ‘where’ the victim is emotionally and physically prior to any intervention and assess this afterwards. This is achieved via self assessment.

Surely the person best placed to define something as having ‘worked’ is the beneficiary of whatever that thing is.

In regard to the ongoing direct/indirect RJ debate- this for me is the most frustrating issue in the restorative world. The starting point (which seems to have secured full statutory support and belief) is that conferences, face to face, direct RJ are very very good and letter exchanges, shuttle communication, indirect RJ is not only a ‘waste of time’ but also ‘a failure on the part of the restorative practitioner’ – both of these statements are quotes made directly to me by ‘restorative champions’ in the UK.

My response to this position-

Why?

What are you basing that on?

Better for who?

The problem is that this argument has taken centre stage and those advocating it have largely won the, never had, public debate to such an extent that directs/conferences now in the vast majority of statutory contracts (OPCC/Police/CRC etc etc) are the ONLY countable intervention and INDIRECT processes are entirely disregarded.

So why do I think the position is wrong? and it isn’t because, as has also been suggested, I want an ‘easy life’ because ‘after all conferences are harder’. I think the position is wrong because-

It is NOT RESTORATIVE. Victims and offenders (in the CJS context) must have the opportunity to make an informed choice as to how they wish to be involved. By all means explore direct options first but if the conclusion of that exploration is that a direct meeting isn’t possible then INDIRECT options should be considered.

If you claim to be VICTIM LED (another term I disagree with) and the victim, after consideration does not want to meet the offender but desperately wants the opportunity for questions to be answered or to simply know that their views have been passed to the offender- why on earth would you deny that opportunity? or why would you quantify that as irrelevant? unworthy of being counted as a restorative intervention?

For example in a recent death by dangerous driving case we facilitated we met Claire who’s 19 year old son had been killed as a result of a drink driver who had subsequently fled the scene. Our practitioner met with Claire over several meetings given her emotional state to discuss restorative options and to see if this was something Claire might receive from benefit from taking part in. After taking part INDIRECTLY (so none of that work [several hours] counts as part of the contract it was facilitated under) Claire said

“There was no way I think I could ever bring myself to meet him face to face. I can see why some people would but it wasn’t for me. I thought about it and Remedi gave me all the information and time I needed to make my mind up but it wasn’t for me. Instead I wrote a long letter explaining what a beautiful person inside and out my son was and the devastation our family has gone through losing him. It took me ages to write the letter, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and just doing that helped me so much as it allowed me to let out all I had inside of me. I also wanted to know what the offender thought now. He pleaded guilty in court and we never got the chance to know if he even had any regrets so I asked for a letter back.

I got the letter back a couple of weeks later and I was surprised at how much reading his words really helped me. I will never ever forgive him for what he did and I never want to see him again but I am happy that I took part in this and I cant praise the Remedi staff enough for how supportive and caring they were. Nothing will take away the pain of losing my baby boy but taking part in this has helped me cope with that loss more than anything else I have done. Thank you so much”

3. I suspect that the position where cases like the above are disgracefully disregarded is partly motivated by a complete and utter lack of understanding as to what INDIRECT processes actually are and how they should be delivered. I feel this is due to the never ending use of terms like ‘letter of apology’ and the fear that practitioners will abuse the process by just getting the offender to dash of an apology and thats that.

Let’s be honest – that practice has existed- I’ve seen it. I’ve seen practitioners claiming to be restorative who use pre printed ‘letters of apology’ which they just get the offender to sign and then pass on to the victim!- Appalling but lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The answer is to address bad practice and ensure that quality INDIRECT services are facilitated.

I do not believe that there has been sufficient consultation with the sector regarding best practice in regard to identifying best practice for indirect restorative processes and that the conclusions drawn have been to frequently misinformed. Here’s an idea- lets be restorative, lets have a discussion, perhaps even a circle and let us really drill down into why we feel we believe what we believe. Perhaps we might all learn something and that can only benefit future service users.

The current state of play where the number of conferences is the measure of success is in my opinion dangerous and the greatest threat to RJ. Why? Firstly – because practitioners are cutting corners and side stepping risk assessments simply to chase an arbitrary target and secondly because volume does not necessarily equal quality, Macdonalds sell a lot of burgers but I wouldn’t necessarily define it as haute cuisine. That has to be wrong.

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Successful RJ – a victim’s view http://www.why-me.org/2015/successful-rj-a-victims-view/ http://www.why-me.org/2015/successful-rj-a-victims-view/#respond Tue, 17 Nov 2015 12:47:26 +0000 http://www.why-me.org/?p=1866 Charlotte’s previous blog mentioned Margaret Foxley who met the man who burgled her home.  Here Margaret explains what happened and why she considers the meeting to have had a very positive outcome

.

“My family and my home are the most precious things in my life. With my husband, I have worked extremely hard to provide a home which is loving, warm and comfortable for my family. Somewhere we can feel happy, safe and secure.

“Three years ago someone caused me to feel scared and nervous in my own home. He made my children and my husband feel worried about me returning home first, in the evening to an empty house. No one was particularly concerned about the things that had been taken; they were material things which formed part of an insurance claim. It was the fact that someone had felt it was their right to enter someone else’s home, break and smash what was in their way and take whatever they wanted.

“I believe that there has to be a reason behind everyone’s actions and not being able to try to discover what was in the person’s mind when he bashed my front door down was extremely frustrating. I needed to know why he chose our house, what he had touched , picked up, how long did he spend in each room, did he look at our happy family photographs? I wanted to tell him how angry I felt about having my privacy invaded.

“When our beautiful daughter was killed, six months later, I felt a greater need for some answers to my questions. At the time of the burglary, our daughter was more concerned with the reasons behind somebody breaking into a house and taking things for personal gain. She wanted to know what made a person do it and was more interested in helping and understanding rather than condemning.

“I knew when I was offered the chance of meeting with the man who burgled our home that I had to do it, even if it was simply to respect our daughter’s wishes.

“I was NOT wanting an apology. I wanted the meeting to be about ME, and the opportunity to tell him how he had made me feel and to receive some answers. We had lost things that he had taken, which meant so much more since our daughter’s death, and I needed to tell him how that felt.

“The meeting was about our family, our loss, our grief. I did not expect an apology; I did receive one, which was heart felt, genuine and not forced. Our meeting has made this person think about the effects of his actions on ordinary people and for the very first time he had to look his victim in the eye and read for himself the pain he had caused.

“This meeting was one hundred percent successful for me, the victim. I came away feeling I had received answers to all of my questions and that this person was no longer a mystery and above all, the fear had gone. I felt at peace with myself and could begin to enjoy my home again. I could have drawn a line under the whole thing as the RJ was completed and had given me my life back.

“The fact that the offender gained so much from our meeting and remained out of prison for two years, the longest period he’d ever spent without reoffending, and that we met frequently and began to get to know each other was a bonus as far as I was concerned. There is no doubt whatsoever that he learnt so much about himself and was able to try to understand some of the reasons for his actions and, more importantly, how his actions effected someone else’s life.

“When people, particularly from the media, question the success of my RJ in relation to the fact that the perpetrator reoffended, I have no hesitation in saying that this does not impact in the slightest. The RJ was about meeting my needs, answering my questions, allaying my fears and it did this, in a way that I would never have thought possible, from the moment I left the RJ conference in the prison. What followed was entirely positive but supplementary to the RJ conference.”

 

 

 

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What does successful RJ look like? http://www.why-me.org/2015/what-does-successful-rj-look-like/ http://www.why-me.org/2015/what-does-successful-rj-look-like/#respond Mon, 16 Nov 2015 11:59:23 +0000 http://www.why-me.org/?p=1864 How do you define successful RJ? How do targets affect your provision and how do you measure success?

For a long time I have been concerned that the provision of RJ is measured by how many face-to-face conferences take place.  Budgets and funding bids are won on the promise of delivering a certain number of face-to-face conferences.

But does this criteria negatively impact on the provision of RJ and how do you define successful RJ anyway? These targets are potentially harmful for RJ – for example, would an organization go for some ‘quick wins’ rather than the more complex and lengthy cases?

I have been thinking about this whilst working on a very complex case where both parties want to meet.  If my primary concern was targets then I could bring them together.  In my professional opinion (and that of my supervisor and co-facilitator) a meeting would do more harm than good and as the primary purpose of RJ is to heal harm not inadvertently cause more it would be deeply unethical for me to bring them together.

Is using my professional judgement (built over many cases and after careful thought) therefore deemed to be a success or a failure?!

  • Is the face-to-face conference the measure of success?
  • Are the recidivism rates of offenders the measure of success?
  • Shouldn’t we be measured on the capacity to use professional standards?

I asked around amongst the key organisations for their opinions on what defines successful RJ.

Jon Collins, CEO of RJC says:

Firstly, I think that every service should be able to demonstrate that they are able to manage a reasonable caseload given their scope and capacity. The volume of restorative interventions conducted does matter. But quality of delivery matters too.

Tony Walker, Director of Training at Restorative Solutions, also comments on poor figures; saying that most counties are happy with 75 face to face conferences a year, which roughly equates to 1% of all victims in that county and that that isn’t good enough.  He says:

The perennial problems seem to be a combination of lack of referrals (always an issue)… and this stems from professionals who won’t, can’t and don’t refer for a plethora of reasons, none the least the continued belief that they know best.

Tony states which I wholeheartedly agree with:

Successful RJ… means ‘real’ access to the process for all victims.

I long for the day when restorative justice is seen as standard provision offered in all counties and is measured by case flow and outcomes – whatever that outcome is. I believe it is the flow of cases that should be measured – the number of victims and offenders requesting RJ and being able to access a skilled service and measuring that, whatever the outcome of the engagement itself, they were dealt with by a professional service provider.

Of course if a face-to-face meeting never comes to fruition then one has to question what is holding practitioners back from bringing parties together?  Are organisations too risk averse or is the organization as a whole lacking in confidence?  Are the logistics of RJ at odds with the working hours of its employees?  All of these issues are surmountable and as fledgling restorative hubs are emerging they can source the relevant training to give them the expertise they require – and keep an eye on whether the number of face-to-face- conferences is growing.

As Jon Collins says another measurement becomes the skill of your service – through, for example, the RSQM via the RJC, a quality mark of assurance of your skill as a provider.  Measurement is about the whole service you offer – the types of cases you can take on, the depth of experience of your practitioners and the management of the cases.

I am constantly reminded of the couple that I spoke to after their son was brain damaged in a driving accident. It was a year after the event and they spoke in depth about the impact on themselves and their family and each other.  It was the first time they had heard each other talk about the impact; up until that point they had simply been firefighting.  That was several years ago but it informed my desire to push for the needs for victims and for a different measure of success.

Had that work not resulted in a conference (it did) how could I have measured the benefits of that meeting and the long-term benefits for that family.  The mother has spoken publicly about how life changing her experience of restorative justice was at a couple of conferences and in Resolution and she is very clear that the first meeting was as impactful as the rest of the experience.

Fiona Turner from CALM agrees:

If there has been some information gained during the restorative process or a participant has been referred to a support service these can be a catalyst for change, sometimes people can be assisted by someone simply taking the time to listen to them.

I asked Ellie Acton at the Ministry of Justice how she defined successful restorative justice and she gave me a whole list of different scenarios, all of which could be qualified as successes, here is just one:

Input – victim wants to discuss about RJ

Output – victim has preparation and then decides what they actually need is some victim counselling – positive!

Ellie assured me that the measurement of restorative justice is something that the Ministry of Justice will be consulting on in 2016.

Becci Seaborne from Thames Valley Restorative Justice Service sent a really interesting reply that shows the value of understanding stats and how they can help resolve issues.  She says:

I think we live in a world where it’s important to be accountable and if we’re spending public money or money gained through fundraising we have to be able to describe in fairly clear terms what that money is paying for. But targets and statistics should only ever be part of the story, and should be supported by relevant and good quality narrative, including qualitative analysis if possible, and case studies where relevant, to give a full picture of what is going on and being achieved.

Numbers can tell us where we should be looking more closely at things to find out what is going on………At TVRJS we have set ourselves internal targets around numbers of conferences and if we don’t meet this target we’ll take a look at the cases and find out why – pick out themes, see if it’s linked to our practice or to something else. What we found on one occasion was that quite a few offender-initiated RJ cases didn’t go to conference despite the victims wishing to meet, because their partners did not want them to go ahead. This was an incredibly useful exercise as it enabled us to understand the wider dynamics affecting outcomes for victims and offenders. We are now developing literature focused on information for family members and supporters to help them understand what their loved one might gain from RJ so they might feel able to be more supportive of the process.

When I first trained all of the talk in the RJ world was about recidivism rates with a tiny mention of the needs of the victims.  Ellie remembers how at the bottom of the feedback form there would be one solitary question:

Was the victim satisfied: Yes/No

Thankfully that has changed and the benefits for victims of restorative justice have been recognized.

I heard Margaret Foxley talk at a conference a couple of years ago, she spoke eloquently on the impact of restorative justice for her as a victim of a burglary.

When our beautiful daughter was killed, six months later, I felt a greater need for some answers to my questions. At the time of the burglary, our daughter was more concerned with the reasons behind somebody breaking into a house and taking things for personal gain. She wanted to know what made a person do it and was more interested in helping and understanding rather than condemning.

She talked about how the offender in her case, who had recently re-offended and gone back to jail.  She was often asked, “How do you feel now your RJ has failed?”  To which she replied, it didn’t fail, I got what I needed.  Her testimony really impacted on me and I got in touch with her and asked her for her opinion now.

“When people, particularly from the media, question the success of my RJ in relation to the fact that the perpetrator reoffended, I have no hesitation in saying that this does not impact in the slightest. The RJ was about meeting my needs, answering my questions, allaying my fears and it did this, in a way that I would never have thought possible, from the moment I left the RJ conference in the prison.”

My hope is that more research will be done on the long-term health benefits and reduction of PTSD as a result of RJ engagement for victims.

Steve Jones from Remedi says:

Surely the person best placed to define something as having ‘worked’ is the beneficiary of whatever that thing is.  The current state of play where the number of conferences is the measure of success is in my opinion dangerous and the greatest threat to RJ. Why? Firstly – because practitioners are cutting corners and side stepping risk assessments simply to chase an arbitrary target and secondly because volume does not necessarily equal quality, Macdonalds sell a lot of burgers but I wouldn’t necessarily define it as haute cuisine. That has to be wrong.

My personal plea is, please can we start measuring RJ primarily qualitatively and secondarily quantitively. And where we are measuring RJ quantitatively instead of numbers of conferences can we measure the number of people asking for RJ and the quality of the service they receive and the number of outcomes, whatever they happen to be.

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Too few victims are offered Restorative Justice. Why? http://www.why-me.org/2015/too-few-victims-are-offered-restorative-justice-why/ http://www.why-me.org/2015/too-few-victims-are-offered-restorative-justice-why/#respond Wed, 04 Nov 2015 11:42:44 +0000 http://www.why-me.org/?p=1852 Much hard work, time, good will and Government money has been invested in Restorative Justice, yet it still doesn’t happen much. Why me? has compiled a report into why this is and what can be done to rectify the situation – to give every crime victim in England and Wales who wants it the opportunity to participate.  We are sending this report to Government ministers, to MPs and senior figures in the criminal justice world.  On Monday 16th November – the first day of International Restorative Justice Week – we will have a round table discussion at REMEDI in Sheffield bringing together some key figures including a representative from the Ministry of Justice, in an attempt to break down barriers  and find solutions.

Click below for a summary or a full version of the report.

Why me Restorative Justice Summary Barriers and Solutions

Why me Restorative Justice Full Barrier and Solutions report October 2015

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Restorative Letters http://www.why-me.org/2015/restorative-letters/ http://www.why-me.org/2015/restorative-letters/#respond Mon, 05 Oct 2015 15:18:49 +0000 http://www.why-me.org/?p=1797 Why me?’s resident facilitator, Charlotte Calkin explains why letter writing has a vital part to play in the restorative process in some cases.

By Restorative Letters we do not mean the initial contact letters that are sent to victims inviting them to participate in a restorative process; instead, we mean the letters written by harmers for their victims.

The purpose of this blog is to look at the difference between Letters of Apology and Restorative Letters and also the value of Restorative Letters when they are managed truly restoratively.

This blog was initiated by a meeting that Lucy Jaffe (Why me? Director) and I had with Baroness Newlove, the Victims Commissioner, during which she aired some of her concerns about Restorative Justice. One of her primary concerns was that she had heard of several instances of victims receiving unexpected ‘restorative’ letters from the offenders of their crime and she was, quite rightly, concerned about the harm this can cause.  In some cases these letters had arrived through the post and the victim had no idea they were going to arrive. She had good reason to feel concern. An unwanted letter from the harmer to the harmed person is akin to inviting the harmer into your front room and can be wholly unwelcome.

When I trained there was a lot of discussion about the principle of Restorative Letters but I was not trained in how to write a letter restoratively.  When I first worked on a restorative case that had resulted in a letter as an outcome I worked with an experienced practitioner who trained me in the process of Restorative Letters and I discovered the nuances of restorative letter writing.

Many prisons offer programmes (such as TSP) offering offenders the opportunity to write a letter to their victim, to build on their victim empathy skills and young offenders are often invited to write letters of apology to their victims as part of their sentence plan.  In both cases the work done during these exercises is often of huge benefit to the harmer, but these are not restorative letters per se. In both cases victims may well be happy to receive these ‘letters of apology’ but only if a facilitator has checked in with the victim about their thoughts and feelings about the harmer and the possibility of receiving a letter.  The letter cannot be primarily for the benefit of the offender with the victim as an add-on.

Steve from Remedi says:

I’ve seen practitioners claiming to be restorative who use pre printed ‘letters of apology’ which they just get the offender to sign and then pass on to the victim! Appalling – but lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The answer is to address bad practice and ensure that quality INDIRECT services are facilitated.

A restorative letter differs from a letter of apology because it responds to the needs and questions of the offender’s own victim – not a generic victim.

 Victims have very specific requests and it is extremely important that a restorative letter from the harmer is managed to meet that victim’s needs.

In what circumstances are letters appropriate?

If, after a careful risk assessment, a letter is considered the most appropriate option – or alternatively the only option that either party will agree to – then the practitioner needs to prepare for the letter writing as they would any other restorative intervention – so that expectations and outcomes for both sides are managed appropriately.

Some victims might want to know about the harmer’s history; some might want practical questions answering. Some victims may want to write a letter himself or herself and explain to the harmer about the impact of their crime alongside asking questions.  It is important to gauge in preparation what the harmer is willing to answer.

Letters are extremely effective tools and it is frustrating that when delivered through best practice guidelines, which often requires many, many hours of facilitator’s time, they are given so much less value than a face-to-face conference.

Here is an excerpt from my continuing dialogue with Steve, which was echoed by many experienced practitioners:

In regard to the ongoing direct/indirect RJ debate- this for me is the most frustrating issue in the restorative world. The starting point (which seems to have secured full statutory support and belief) is that conferences, face to face, direct RJ are very very good and letter exchanges, shuttle communication, indirect RJ is not only a ‘waste of time’ but also ‘a failure on the part of the restorative practitioner’

Never underestimate the value of communication via letters.

Here is a report from a victim who worked with Remedi. Claire’s 19 year old son had been killed as a result of a drink driver who had subsequently fled the scene Here is her account of the healing she received through communication via letters:

“There was no way I think I could ever bring myself to meet him face to face. I can see why some people would but it wasn’t for me. I thought about it and Remedi gave me all the information and time I needed to make my mind up but it wasn’t for me. Instead I wrote a long letter explaining what a beautiful person inside and out my son was and the devastation our family has gone through losing him. It took me ages to write the letter, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and just doing that helped me so much as it allowed me to let out all I had inside of me. I also wanted to know what the offender thought now. He pleaded guilty in court and we never got the chance to know if he even had any regrets so I asked for a letter back.

I got the letter back a couple of weeks later and I was surprised at how much reading his words really helped me. I will never ever forgive him for what he did and I never want to see him again but I am happy that I took part in this and I can’t praise the Remedi staff enough for how supportive and caring they were. Nothing will take away the pain of losing my baby boy but taking part in this has helped me cope with that loss more than anything else I have done. Thank you so much”

FAQs

How much should you help the harmer with letter writing?

The process of letter writing can be very therapeutic for the harmer. During preparation ask what they might think the victim would want answering – prior to receiving the questions.  It is important that the letter is in the harmer’s own voice and authentic to them and you need to check whether they need support for this.  The Offender Supervisor in a prison can be very helpful but the OS needs to understand the purpose of restorative letters.

How should the letter be delivered?

Deliver the letter in person. Arrange with the victim whether they would like to read it themselves or for you to read it. Allow time to discuss the impact of the letter.

Should you leave the letter with the victim?

A letter can be powerful ammunition.  I have spoken to many offenders who are concerned that their letter might end up on social media.  I have equally spoken to many facilitators who explain to the victim during the preparation that they will not be able to keep the letter.

What happens if after writing letters both parties decide they want to meet each other to resolve any final points?

If the initial decision to write letters was because the parties would not contemplate an alternative, but they had been risk assessed as safe to do so,  then a meeting can go ahead.

Key Tips On Restorative Letters

  • Make sure that the letter responds to the victim’s questions
  • Give the victim an opportunity to write a letter expressing how they have been impacted and ask their questions
  • Do not write the letter for the harmer.
  • Prepare for manageable expectations and outcomes as you would a conference.
  • Explain to the victim that they may not be able to keep the letter.
  • Arrange how the victim would like to receive the letter.

If the letter is actually a ‘letter of apology’ then do not send it to the victim without

  1. The victim’s permission;
  2. Discussion with the victim about how they will receive it;
  3. Checking the victim’s resilience.
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