I'm sensing a lot of vibrant discussion going on in the UK about how to reinvent the justice system to include a lot more restorative justice (see recent posts here and here.) Here's the latest example via RJ Online which has published excerpts from a piece by Lawrence Kershen writing for The Law Society Gazette:
....What might a justice system which embodied restorative principles look like? What might be the judge’s view – the view from the bench - of a more restorative justice system? To answer such questions we need to give ourselves permission to dream. And what a wonderful dream it is – of a justice system where healing and changing behaviour is central, rather than retribution. Where the victim comes away restored and empowered, where the offender learns from his mistakes and develops understanding.
Making justice systems more restorative: A view from the bench
Of course this isn’t all going to happen overnight. Working out the practicalities of implementation are live issues that also have to be considered, indeed the Restorative Justice Council (RJC) has been preoccupied with them for some time now, and professor Joanna Shapland’s careful work has addressed some of them. What is key is that many of the foundations for this new environment are already in place.
....What might an overview of a restorative legal world look like?
- restorative policing, with street RJ being part of every police officer’s armoury (if that the right word in a restorative context), or in his or her toolkit,
- police officers might actually be peace officers, where conflict resolution is their primary role, where those who are sent to prison are those who are dangerous and not susceptible to the kinds of change possible through RJ,
- restorative lawyers (although some might say that is an oxymoron) - for example, collaborative lawyers who look to resolve their clients’ problems through negotiation,
- restorative magistrates. ‘Every magistrate trained as a restorative justice facilitator’ is a wonderful vision that came from then justice minister Crispin Blunt MP, and should give us all real hope that this dream can be realised,
- and lastly the idea of restorative sentencing - as an example the sentencing circles taking place in Canada, where the judge is part of a circle that sets out to arrive at a consensus for an appropriate sentence.
The full piece is a joy to read and can be found here.