What is the Restorative Justice Process?
Posted on: 2nd, March 2023
The process of Restorative Justice looks different for everyone, but there are certain steps that are taken in every case to make sure that the victim feels safe, comfortable and empowered throughout their journey.
It’s important to highlight that Restorative Justice is a completely voluntary process, so either party can opt-out at any point. Sometimes, victims may feel as though they’ve got what they need early on, or other life events can occur and take priority. As a victim-focused service, the process is determined by the requirements of the person harmed, whilst taking into consideration the circumstances of the offender.
Direct Restorative Justice takes place via a face-to-face meeting, but this is only if both parties agree. Indirect Restorative Justice is available if the victim and/or offender would prefer to communicate indirectly. This can be facilitated through phone calls, video calls, letter writing, emails or passing on messages through a third party, with the same benefits for victims of crime as a face-to-face conference.
Both victims and offenders can initiate Restorative Justice, but in this article we address how the process of Direct Restorative Justice may look when initiated by a victim.
The key steps in the Restorative Justice process are:
1. The victim contacts a Restorative Justice provider
2. Restorative Justice facilitators meet with the victim
3. Restorative Justice facilitators meet with the offender
4. Facilitators undergo prep work, making sure that participants are prepared for the meeting and it will fulfil its intended purpose
5. The victim and offender meet, discuss the crime or incident and an Outcome Agreement is produced
6. Following the meeting, Restorative Solutions will check in with the victim and signpost them towards further support services if needed
Below, we go into greater detail of each of these steps in the Restorative Justice process.
A victim may contact Restorative Justice Dorset directly, or via a third party, such as their Victim Liaison Officer. Once a victim has reached out, we aim to return contact within 48 hours.
We contact the victim to establish when is best to meet for an initial discussion, and how they would like to conduct the conversation - whether that is via a phone call, video call or an in-person meeting. If the victim opts for a face-to-face initial meeting with us, the location is at their discretion. This could be at a coffee shop, or perhaps their home - wherever they feel most comfortable.
Initial meeting with a Restorative Justice facilitator
Cases are assigned two Restorative Justice facilitators, who remain on the case for its duration, alongside anyone else involved that they are working with in order to best assess risk. This consistency provides the opportunity for trust to be built between the victim and facilitators, and reduces the need for the victim to have to repeat case details to new individuals.
In this meeting, it isn’t necessary to share the details of the case if the victim would prefer not to at this point. It can serve solely as an information session, with the facilitator explaining the Restorative Justice process and what it can realistically provide. Following this meeting, the victim can decide if they would like to proceed.
If the victim decides they would like to proceed with the Restorative Justice process, they will be required to sign a consent form. This consent form allows Restorative Justice facilitators to discuss the case with secondary organisations in order to further the process.
If it is a criminal case, Restorative Justice facilitators will need to consult the police, who via our information sharing agreement will be able to put us in contact with the offender’s Offender Manager and provide details regarding the offender’s whereabouts.
Restorative Justice facilitators meet with the offender
If all parties surrounding the offender are amenable following contact, the Restorative Justice facilitators, and other individuals they are working with to best assess risk, will meet with the offender.
The facilitators will establish whether the victim and offender’s intentions for Restorative Justice are well-aligned, and establish whether the offender will be able to provide the victim with what they need. For example, this could be clarity regarding the situation, answers to questions regarding the incident or acknowledgement of the impact their actions had for the harmed person.
Our Restorative Justice facilitators will undergo prep work prior to the victim and offender meeting. The time required for this part of the process varies depending on a range of factors, such as the mental health status of those involved or ongoing wider life events that may delay the meeting.
Both parties must be simultaneously ready to meet. If it seems as though this is unlikely, the facilitator may suggest Indirect Restorative Justice so as not to rush the process. This can present the opportunity for victims to see how they feel following indirect contact with the offender, and influence whether they decide to later commit to a face-to-face meeting.
If the victim decides to proceed with a face-to-face meeting, a script is prepared and shown to the victim and offender prior to the meeting. This provides the opportunity for edits, removal or rephrasing and makes sure that everyone knows what to expect at the meeting.
The victim and offender meet
We make sure that there are a limited number of individuals present at a Restorative Justice meeting; usually just the victim(s) and offender(s), two Restorative Justice facilitators and the Offender Manager. There is the option of both parties bringing someone else to a meeting for support. These people would also be fully risk assessed prior to a meeting. No one would be present that both parties were not previously aware of.
Meetings often follow a pre-planned format; introductions are made and ground rules are established. The victim and offender will each have the opportunity to speak about the incident, which tends to lead to an organic discussion. Following this conversation, an outcome agreement is established.
The outcome agreement consists of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) future planning. For example, this may include what both parties should do if they were to bump into each other in public, or perhaps the victim would like to stay updated on the offender’s activities. This agreement provides guidance for future actions, providing practical and case-specific plans.
Feedback and aftercare
Facilitators will check in with both parties in the days that follow the meeting. Victims can be signposted to further support services if necessary. Once the meeting is complete and feedback and aftercare have been provided, the case is considered closed.
Restorative Justice is an incredibly personal journey, so the victim remains in charge throughout. Restorative Justice is there to facilitate, so we may offer guidance or advice, but ultimately the process is victim-led and focused.
If you think Restorative Justice might be helpful for you, please get in touch.