Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Ideas to revisit (2) - restorative justice

When I was writing my Swarthmore Lecture (see right) I was concerned to draw in Friends who might not yet have engaged with sustainability issues; so in Chapter 3, I drew a number of comparisons and implications from other issues where Friends have a had a public voice and presence. In one paragraph I wrote:
There are other areas where Friends have a track-record of concern and action on an issue, from which we could extrapolate to bring time-honoured concepts to bear upon the current environmental situation. For instance, arising out of our long-standing concern and work in the field of criminal justice, can we bring models of restorative justice into the climate change debate? In this case, the ‘victims’ are both the environment itself and poor people in the parts of the world most devastated by the effects of climate change. What would restorative climate justice look like, on a global scale?
My final question in this paragraph was part rhetorical, part hoping to get Friends thinking about this issue.

A couple of months after delivering the lecture, I received, out of the blue, a letter from Tim Newell. Tim, now retired, was, for the last ten years of his working career, Governor of Grendon and Spring Hill prisons. Grendon is a unique prison offering a therapeutic community experience for some of the most difficult prisoners, and has remarkable results with them. Tim has also been much involved with enabling and encouraging Restorative Justice practices and gave the Swarthmore Lecture in 2000 on this theme: Forgiving Justice – a Quaker vision for criminal justice.

The book is still in print and may be purchased from the Quaker Bookshop. The text is also available online.

In his letter, Tim wrote:

The key principles of restorative justice are:

1. the principle of repair – justice requires that we work to heal victims, offenders and communities that have been injured by crime

2. the principle of stakeholder participation – victims, offenders, and communities should have the opportunity for active involvement in the justice process and as fully as possible.

3. the principle of transformation in community and government roles and relationships – the relative roles and responsibilities can be rethought, and this might be the most challenging aspect of restorative justice. In promoting justice, government is responsible for preserving a just order, and community for establishing a just peace.

All these apply very closely to sustainability:

1. The principle of repair is crucial in considering the damage we continue to do to the earth and our environment and is central to your discussion.

2. The principle of stakeholder participation is critical as well in that unless we are all involved matters will not change and reverse the harm. No one else can decide on my use and abuse of resources – they will eventually limit my choice when things run out and they are doing through price rises of things like fuel.

3. The most difficult one for justice agencies and I expect for governments is that they cannot do it themselves – they have to involve and trust people to act in accordance with the risk.

In the restorative process for almost any sort of type of meeting, conversation, mediation or ultimately conference there are key questions that guide the dialogue to bring about the possibility of transformation. They are:

1. What happened? Letting people tell their truth is vital. Your book tells us some more of the truth about ourselves and our earth. Taking it in is important and listening carefully to each other in the process is part of the respectful attention we give in restorative work.

2. Who has been affected by what happened? The impact of what we are and have been doing are clearly shown in the book

3. In what way have they been affected?

4. What do you think needs to happen to make things right?

After this process a written document describes the agreement to action from those involved in the process – all sign it and get a copy. Follow up is agreed also at the time – like reporting to someone about outcomes etc so that the process helps accountability.

I was, of course, delighted to receive this, and two ramifications have ensued. One is that I put the people behind the Ecocide Trial in touch with Tim - next week I'll post here some reflections from Tim about the Restorative Justice sentencing process that followed from the Trial; the second is that Tim and I are planning to run a weekend next summer (that's 2013!) in the Woodbrooke programme to look at this issue - putting Restorative Justice principles to work in relation to sustainability.

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