When a child misbehaves it is often punished by its parents or teachers. This is called “retributive justice”. Most rulers and governments have used this system for thousands of years. The aim is to punish the offender. The same system has been used for international conflicts, when victorious nations claim payment, land or other retribution from the losers.
But a revolution is currently taking place in the way justice is applied.
Restoration and reconciliation are replacing retribution. Restorative Justice (RJ) brings together those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward. In the case of conflict between groups or nations, reconciliation brings together those who have fought and seeks ways to help them to live together peacefully. Without reconciliation, conflicts often recur.
There are many names for these processes: restorative justice, transitional justice, truth commissions and so on. They cover all levels of social organisation, from a dispute between colleagues to a war between nations. But the common factor in all these processes is that both the offender and the victim talk and listen to each other in the presence of a mediator. Here we use “restorative justice” to cover all of these processes.
The UK Ministry of Justice aims for good quality, victim-focused RJ to be available at all stages of the criminal justice system in England and Wales and wants the general public to be informed about RJ and the benefits it brings.
The United Nations Association (UNA) in Coventry, working with the Coventry Schools Peace & Justice Forum, have established the Coventry RJ Forum to increase knowledge of RJ within the city. We believe this fits in well with the aims of the United Nations. We also believe that Coventry, the City of Peace and Reconciliation, should be at the forefront of the RJ movement.
It turns out that the Probationary Service has had a relatively long history in implementing RJ Services. Recording this history is one of the aims of this Forum.
We have already begun to run workshops in schools with the aid of UNA Ambassadors from the two universities. The next stage in the project is to find out what RJ programmes are currently being implemented in schools and the youth offending service, and how we can support those programmes. We also aim to communicate RJ to the wider public.
If you would like to get involved with this Forum, please complete the application form at coventrycityofpeace.uk/coventry-restorative-justice-forum.