This article is adapted from a keynote speech by IIRP president Ted Wachtel, at the International Conference on Serious Violence and Restorative Justice, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel, March 2006.

Can restorative justice conferencing be valuable in cases of serious offenses — crimes like murder, sexual abuse and arson? A restorative justice conference is a structured meeting between offenders, victims and their supporters in which they deal with the consequences of a crime and decide how best to repair the harm. Can victims of serious crimes benefit from a process where they face the people who have caused the crime? Can this process also have a positive impact on individuals who have committed such crimes?

What we do know is that almost everyone who participates in a restorative justice conference — victims, offenders, their family members and friends — has a favorable reaction to the process. They are satisfied and they feel a sense of fairness. Relationships are improved and a sense of community is achieved. In fact, many victims experience dramatic positive outcomes that they do not seem to be able to achieve any other way.

In a composite analysis of research from Australia, Canada, the UK and the US, Dr. Paul McCold, at the International Institute for Restorative Practices, found that victims and offenders almost universally have positive responses to restorative justice. Also, recent research published in a dissertation by Dr. Caroline Angel showed that restorative justice reduces the incidence of post-traumatic stress symptoms in victims (see article here).

View papers from the 8th International Conference on Conferencing held October 18-20, 2006, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA.

A lively discussion at “Down Country Roads, from Small Towns to Inner Cities: Restorative Justice in Illinois–See How it Works,” presented by Sally Wolf, Karen Lambert, Edith Crigler, Gary Balgemann, Elizabeth Vastine, Robert Spicer, D. Marie Goff, Donald Goff and Patricia Zamora. Photo by Thomas Kosa
 

The eighth International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, "The Next Step, Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," was a big success, according to participant feedback. The conference was held in the IIRP’s hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA, on October 18-20, 2006. More than 300 people joined in the three-day event, from Australia, Belgium, eight provinces of Canada, Costa Rica, England, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan and 25 states of the USA, plus Washington, D.C. and Guam.

In the plenary sessions alone, four nations were represented: England, Scotland, Israel and the USA. More information on the conference, including the schedule, papers and participant comments are available here: http://www.iirp.edu/beth06/index.html.

As is always true at IIRP conferences, a feeling of community quickly developed among participants. Although most had never met before, attendees found that they had plenty to talk about regarding their restorative work, doing things with young people and adults, not to them or for them.

The enthusiasm for learning and sharing was palpable in and out of the official presentations. Many "breakout sessions" spilled into overtime as people compared notes on the nitty gritty of their restorative work. To cite one instance, the session: "Communities Within Communities: A Partnership Between a School-Based and Court-Based Restorative Program," led by Virginia Wiley of the Bluewater School District in Ontario, Canada, became a discussion about the issues session participants were facing implementing restorative programs in their own communities.

Paper by Laura Rush, presented in a plenary session at "The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," the IIRP''s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006.

Paper by Gwynedd Lloyd, presented in a plenary session at "The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," the IIRP''s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006.

Paper by Christopher Hey and Gail Ryan, presented in a plenary session at "The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," the IIRP''s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006.

Paper by Anat Goldstein, presented in a plenary session at "The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," the IIRP''s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006.

Paper by Daniel Van Ness, presented in a plenary session at "The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," the IIRP''s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006.

Paper by Mark Finnis and Paul Moran, presented in a plenary session at "The Next Step: Developing Restorative Communities, Part 2," the IIRP''s 8th International Conference on Conferencing, Circles and other Restorative Practices, October 18-20, 2006.

By Joshua Wachtel

Graham Chaseling, creator of The Game, at Parklea Correctional Complex, New South Wales, AustraliaGrahame Chaseling, a 20-year veteran of corrections in New South Wales, Australia, critic of traditional criminal justice and restorative practices devotee for over 15 years, developed a unique model for supervising adult offenders in community-based programs. He calls it The Game.

Chaseling discovered the limitations of punitive justice when he began work as a prison officer. He was disturbed to see inmates stripped of responsibility and free will: “From arrest to release from the criminal justice system, whether gaol [jail] or supervision... decisions will be made for them. Things will be done to them, or required of them. In terms of fair process or meaningful engagement, the chances are that very little will be achieved.”*

Subscribe to IIRP News

Sign up for the IIRP News to receive periodic, hopeful emails including news and announcements about the growing field of restorative practices.
Please let us know your name.
Please write a subject for your message.
Please let us know your email address.
Invalid Input
Invalid Input
Invalid Input

Restorative Works 2020 cover
Restorative Works Year in Review 2020 (PDF)

All our donors are acknowledged annually in Restorative Works.