4 January 2011

Any thoughts on restorative justice in the ACT?

| Androyd
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We had a break-in in our inner north house last year, though the police caught the three 15-16yo boys who did it within a couple of days when they were attempting the same thing in an adjacent suburb. Our stolen property was returned shortly thereafter (great job AFP!). Months later, we’ve now received a letter from the ACT Restorative Justice Unit saying that one of the three “has taken responsibility and is sorry for what he did. He … would be willing to meet you in a restorative justice conference… [to] provide you with a safe way to tell the offender how you feel about his action and also you would have a say in how he can make amends for the effect it has had on you”.

I’d be interested to know if any other Rioters have had experience of the RJ system and whether it worked for you? We’re in two minds on whether to take it up – not so interested if it’s just a way for youngsters to tick a box to help them get off lightly, but if one of them is actually trying to face up to himself and turn things around, I’d be happy to help move that process along.

We’re not necessarily looking to recover full cost of damage and loss but it would be nice if he could make it up to our kids somehow. Wonder if the other two offenders are going to take up the option as well? Someone told me that the RJ process is specifically intended for indigenous youth, but haven’t seen anything to that effect on ACT Govt websites.

Any thoughts? Informed comment preferred, and generic RA lynchmob comments to a minimum please!

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Thanks all for your very helpful comments! Have had a chat to the RJ people and we’ll see how we go.

At least you’d get a good look at the scumbag for future retribution.

Would love to know if CRK took part in restorative justice.
Restorative Justice is just the thing for wealthy intellectual parents who have discovered their little darling has grown up to be a sociopath.
It’s the sort of psycho-babble social psychologists have been trying to flog for years.
Police and judiciary have every right to be cynical.

Jack out of the box11:40 pm 05 Jan 11

Check out the relevant ACT Gov webpage on RJ here: http://www.justice.act.gov.au/criminal_and_civil_justice/restorative_justice.

While RJ is about both victims and offenders, it is particularly aimed at reducing recidivism. To this end, the data suggests that it is pretty effective. If you can deal with the emotional pressure of being involved, then it is a really great way to be an actively involved in the future betterment of the offender’s life, which is in turn of benefit to the community at large.

+1 to fozzy @#11

In addition, in an Educational context, at least; the guided discussions revolve around what happened, who was ‘harmed’, how they felt about it, and what they’d like to see done now (and then agreeing on where to). You may find you are talking more about feelings than you are really comfortable with or used to, but remember the intent is to get the offender to consider the damage they have done, and therefore give them internal motivation to change (in the way locking them up usually doesn’t).

I wouldn’t expect any kind of restitution (at least in monetary terms) to result as suggested in your OP; that’s not what RJ is about.

I’d suggest it would be a good experience, and would encourage you to participate. If you still question your decision, as you’ll be told when it starts, if you feel it isn’t going anywhere at any time, you’re free to end it there. But I rather think that won’t be the case. I’ve been involved in some very powerful moments in conferences at various schools I’ve worked in (though many repeat offenders learn to speak the speak very quickly and have all the remorse of teaspoon).

Get the little turd to cut your lawns for 6 months!

I don’t think there’s anything more I can add than what has already been said from first hand accounts. I would particularly like to thank Beau Locks for their personal insights.

Could I ask that if you go ahead with RJ, that, to the extents you are able/allowed, give a follow up post of the experience from the victim’s perspective.

RJ and Educational counterpart Restorative Practices are very effective in changing behaviours in a majority of cases where people are willing to participate. Especially in early prevention; not so, once poor behaviour has been “normalised” in an individual. By all means participate, at worst, you’ll have a great story to post here.

Regardless of his motivation for participating in RJ, it’s definitely an excellent opportunity for you to give him feedback on the experience, at a time in his life that he will be more likely to learn from it and grow into adulthood. The alternative is that he doesn’t fully realise the consequences of his actions (on other human beings) and is far more likely to repeat offend. It could be a very timely opportunity to help him change his life, even if he’s not aware of it yet…

I’ve known people such as Beau Locks who have gone through the RJ program. They have pretty much said the same. It is not an easy thing to have to face the victim of your crime and is quite nerve wracking. Yes, it can be an alternative to a criminal conviction, but the people I knew who participated did so having already been convicted. Contrary to ConanOfCooma’s comment, their participation wasn’t to receive an early release, but rather to face the victim’s of their crime and achieve some sort of closure from their perspective to enable them to move on from a horrific part of their life. It also gave the offender a more realistic view of how the victim felt and gave the victim/s the chance to put across how the crime affected their life.

Grumpy Old Fart10:54 am 04 Jan 11

RJ is far more powerful in most cases than what a court seems to want to do short of a term of imprisonment. It was interesting to note that the legal fraternity were up in arms about their exclusion from this process (oh what a shame).

The conference if run correctly can be a process that may turn a young offender around as they have to face the victim and explain their actions. If you just want to tick the box you go to kids court and get a slap on the wrist.

If the young person is willing to participate in the RJ process you should give it a go and really get an explanantion from the young person as to why they believed they had a right to enter your house and steal your property.

+1 gp, ConanOfCooma, willowtree, miz, and georgesgenitals.

I have had a personal experience of RJ, and can attest to its effectiveness. During my recalcitrant youf I got caught shoplifting (a pack of ciggies, as I recall). I could have been taken off to the children’s court and landed myself a slap on the wrist and a criminal wreck chord. I doubt I would have offended again, although anything’s possible when you’re young and stoopid.

Instead, I was one of the first people to go thru the RJ program in the ACT, which I understand was developed with the assistance of Prof Brathwaite from ANU. This was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. Having to sit with my parents, a friend from school, a teacher, the shop owner, his wife, and the cop that hauled me into the station when I got busted nearly did my head in. Having to look the dude in the eye and apologise might sound token, but the way they set things up during the course of the meeting really set the tone.

The shop owner and I agreed to a twelve month ban from his shop (quite a bummer considering it was over the road), and I offered to do any work about the place and write an official letter of apology. In return he agreed that the charges against me should be dropped. I have never stolen since. I was also able to get into a job that required a clean bill of health from the AFP when I finished school a few years later.

I’ve no doubt that RJ won’t work for everyone. If you’re willing to participate, however, I can attest to the potential of the program to change a young person’s behaviour. And if not, at least you’ll give the little toe rag some serious food for thought, and have the opportunity to get some stuff off your chest.

georgesgenitals9:56 am 04 Jan 11

Perhaps talk to the people who run the RJ programs about what type of outcomes they want to achieve, and how your participation fits in with that.

I’m all for the perps having to talk to the victims. It makes the consequences more real.

RJ is a highly effective way to shut down criminal behaviour by making the offender realise how their criminal actions affect the victims. Good on the lad concerned for wanting to make amends.

It also can provide some level of closure to victims. I agree with gp and willowtree’s comments, and strongly encourage you to participate.

re Conan’s comments: RJ is ideal for juvenile offenders. It MAY be an alternative to ‘time’, but is likely to be much more effective than just chucking kids into Bimberi (where they just learn new tricks and don’t learn to face up to their victims). Crime prevention strategies like RJ prevent entrenchment of criminality, consequently (1) saving the community from crime and (2) saving mega$$$ by halting a potential life of crime and incarceration.

Restorative Justice used well provides victims a vehicle to meet and address offender/s in regard to how they feel about their situation. Used with young offenders the process provides a face to their victim/s and an opportunity to develop empathy. Restorative Justice hours allocated to the offender should be to work with and on community based projects that connect the offender with their community and increase sense of belonging.

ConanOfCooma8:45 am 04 Jan 11

Normally this is a way for the offender to receive some sort of early release.

This program has been around for many years. It CAN be very powerful if managed correctly. Schools use a modified program for behaviour management, and when a problem is extreme, can organise ‘conferences’ where most people end up crying and deeply moved.

Done badly, it can be tick box time. If the other two young gentlemen have not chosen this option, it can’t be forced upon them, as that is counter productive.

It has nothing to do with indigenous or otherwise. It is a step in preventing people from ending up locked up. Go in there and be honest, and they will too. Don’t go looking for revenge or payback, as this is not the aim. I hope it goes well.

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