Monday, 27 September 2010

Restorative Practices

Restorative Practices are a 'touchy feely' thing that is evidenced to work and it's happening effectively already in several organisations in the city of Hull, UK. It took one school from special measures - i.e. failing - to outstanding in two years for example and the police are finding it an effective way of tackling wrongdoings and preventing reoccurence.

I'll explain it my way........

OK - so you have done something wrong and you got caught. The 'powers that be' have issued your punishment. Because of the punishment, you feel like a victim because all you can think about is the punishment you were issued. You do not reflect on the 'crime' you committed or the effect it had on others. Nothing has changed other than you feel resentment towards the authority that issued the punishment and you might try not to do the crime when 'they' are around - so your 'bad' behaviour might be occasionally suppressed by fear of receiving further punishment. You might re-commit the 'crime' and all that happens when you are caught again is that you are punished harder. Break the rules and you will be punished - that's the traditional mindset of many schools, courts, police, parents etc. This traditional way certainly does not take into account the feelings and thoughts of those involved. Punishment is done TO you and you have no say in it.

With restorative practices simple scripts/guidelines can be used during 'conferences' - where everyone involved in the wrongdoing attends - to basically investigate
what happened, ('why' questions are not used because they are actually quite hard to answer)
how the wrongdoing affected everyone involved and
what the wrongdoer could do to make amends. (reparation)

Restorative practice goes on the premise that we cannot assume everyone understands the impact of their actions on others. We don't all readily empathise. It is about making people meaningfully face up to the effects of their actions.

It's called restorative because:

•Sense of wellbeing
•Feeling of community
are restored. When these are restored a repetition of the crime is far less likely.

Restorative practices work because people prefer it when those in authority do things WITH them rather than TO or FOR them.

Restorative practices are not about people in authority losing control - they are still very much in control of deciding what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behaviour - but they are also providing a high level of support to help the individuals involved repair the damage they have done and actually create a want in the wrongdoer to remedy the situation by helping them see the impact their actions had on others.

Restorative practices also separate the person from their behaviour. Instead of labelling people as a 'bad lot', restorative practices sees those that get into difficulties as good people that make bad decisions. It trusts people with opportunities to make positive changes in their behaviour.

It works - but I suspect there are those that would have to see it in action before they believed it. Like I have said before - just because a lot of people are doing something (punishing) doesn't necessarily make it right!


  1. I will concede that it probably would not be overly effective with psychopaths.

  2. I don't understand the charty thing; but the rest of it makes perfect sense. And the bit about separating the person from the behaviour - you are not a bad person, you did a bad thing.

    As you say though, it's probably more suitable for some types of crime/person than others.


    Dreams and Reality

  3. Hi Juniper...
    The chart was the only illustration I had on my notes so I used it - lazily - without exaplaning it! Sorry! It just shows how issuing punishment TO someone is high control, low support whereas restorative practices are about high control ABD high support WITH someone. If you just issue support FOR someone whatever, you are permissive and no support or control is just negligent and does not do anyone any favours....

    I think it works for the majority of fortunately psychopaths are not that common. Most people can empathise with a bit of help...

  4. I must reflect now on crossing the street today not at the intersection. I hope I'm not psychopathic about irregular street crossing behaviour.
    Thanks, you've been very restorative.

  5. Molly, thank you for the explanation, I understand the chart now!

    I think I'm going to end up doing a Criminology+Psychology degree so I'm always interested to see this type of discussion.

    True, thankfully psychopaths are in the minority - even those with strange street-crossing habits.


  6. Mmm... you know normally Molly I'm with you and you say some great and interesting things. But do you really buy all this? Really, really?

    Strikes me at best as an example of inventing a plausible four box matrix that 'sort of works' (but actually doesn't if you really think about it) and wrapping it all up in a fancy name.

    I am absolutely not in the 'lock em up and throw away the key' camp - but it beggars belief to suggest this would work in the deprived areas of Newport (or similar) where education is feral and traditional values were lost three generations ago - or with the anti-social underclass that Winston Smith writes so well about (see his blog)

    Boy, do I sound negative today: I'm not generally and I suspect from stuff I write you know that. But its important to me that we don't get sucked into quasi-psychological / lexical theories because we emotionally like what they are proposing - and I have a suspicion that is what is happening here. That suff about TO and FOR and people being basically good just doing bad things.... really? Sorry, don't buy it; not at all.

    But hey, we can disagree can't we - keep writing!

  7. Whilst I accept Molly's statement that this kind of system has been demonstrated to work, I imagine there are also situations where it has failed.

    Winston Smith generally describes situations of high support and no control, so his examples of bad behaviour don't show that the high support/high control "restorative" things don't work.

    One of the main complaints about our justice (and school) systems is that there is no effective punishment for bad behaviour. There is no support either, so our criminal justice and school systems are essentially neglectful.

    I am prepared to believe that in all situations of bad behaviour, a high degree of control is required of the criminal's behaviour (to prevent recurrence) and that propensity to re-offend may be further reduced in some people by combining this with a higher degree of support than is usually offered.

    Is that fence-sitting?

  8. OOoo I went away and came back to this. I will blog more on RP as I learn more and more.

    Yes I REALLY, REALLY do buy into it Mark and the more I learn about it the more I buy into it. I have watched several videos of it in practice in schools for very 'damaged' kids in the states and in the UK - not made and edited by professionals - but staff and kids talking about their experiences. It was evidence enough for me that Collingswood Primary in Hull went from failing to outstanding in two years (very rare! - outstanding is less than 10% of schools and this was a 'rough school').

    As a teacher (in schools with really damaged kids) I intuitively employed a similar process because I quickly saw that simply applying a punishment was never effective - especially with really disturbed kids. Helping kids not to re-offend was obviously about more than just applying a punishment.

    The police in Hull (and now Norfolk) are using it and reporting fantastic results. The police don't strike me as an easy bunch to win over with respect to this kind of thing so the results must have played their part.

    Of course it won't have 100% success - nothing does and we would be daft to ever think there is a one glove fits all solution for anything!!! - but it has a lot more success than simply applying punishments does.

    It also utilises peer influence - and that can be far more influential than authority figures just applying punishments.

    I see it simply as addressing the behaviours rather than suppressing them. Surely this is more sustainable.

    In schools where there have been resistors like you Mark - they eventually came round when they saw its impact. A 'notorious' school in Norfolk has just said, 'This is what we needed twenty years ago - it has turned our troubled school around.'

    It's is funny - some of us by nature are more skeptical than others and there's a value in these people of course! But I struggle with automatic resistence to things before there is a solid understanding. I know it's far from my default position! However, I really welcome the debate because it is always great to raise awarenes of the different stances people take.

    Carry on if possible and I will blog more about stuff as I learn more. However, what I really want to do is go and see it directly in action!

  9. Oh...and the premise for RP was also that values and community have disappeared and this is why empathy has been so drastically reduced. RP works to restore both.

  10. This is a very interesting post and it has prompted some very interesting comments. I do believe that this approach works for some people, I have seen it in action, but I have also seen it fail. I guess it's like everything...there is no one size fits all solution but I do like this and I completely agree that doing something WITH someone is much better than doing something TO them.

    C x

  11. Hi Carol! You slipped in there inbetween my excited rambling!

    Yes the book I am reading gives examples of where RP has failed with individuals. However, it also states that while it might not impact on the behaviour of one young person, the 'conferences' will have given all the other kids an opportunity to speak their mind and express how the behaviour made them feel and problem solve. RP sees every situation as a learning opportunity. Even if the 'culprit' is not fond, a crime can still be discussed and have benefits. RP can be proactive and reactive.

    It also talks about the individual it failed with...they go away with the understanding that they did have a choice about how to respond and they could return to make amends. If a punishment is simply applied and everyone moves on...there is no opportunity further down the line to make amends, reflect, make reparation and the YP will just feel 'given up on'.

  12. I'm back...
    The best book I read on it is...

    The Restorative Practices Handbook
    by Bob Costello, Joshua Wachtel and Ted Watchtel

    I keep thinking of things I have read....this book says...rather than punishments think consequences...they can be the same outcome but have come from the wrongdoer wanting to make amends rather than it just being something imposed on someone. e.g. a child trashes a classroom. The punishment is that they have to tidy the classroom - imposed on them. Or they reflect, consider the harm they have done and then conclude tidying the classroom would make amends...same outcome, different process.

    Perhaps people's different stances come from thinking about what would best work on YOU as an individual...perhaps some people believe it's a punishment that would best stop them doing something again (perhaps they are people that have never done anything wrong?). I was punished many, many times as a child (hit, sent to room, shouted at, made to scrub the ground (!) made to stay in an break times, made to stand on my chair/on the stage, publicly humiliated in front of peers, reduced to tears regularly by teachers etc etc)- it did not stop me being naughty. As a child up until about 12 I was a handful.

    I'll share a funny and relevant example of something that did make me think....Once, when I was about 8 (I'd like to think younger but I might even have been older), I stole my cousin's troll pencil top! I just wanted it so I took it. I used to take my friends things all the time. I never thought about the effect it had on others. I knew it was wrong because my parents told me it was wrong. Usually when I took something it resulted in me getting punished and that is what I grew to expect. I didn't like getting punished but it didn't stop me taking things I liked. This 'pencil top' time my parents must have given up trying to remedy my behaviour (exhausted no doubt) and they just found and returned the pencil top to my cousin. I found out about this later and remember being confused at first (where was my punishment?). Then I realised that the punishment had been by-passed and the necessary outcome was just focused on which was all about making my cousin feel happy again: she really just wanted her pencil top back. This focus on my cousin's feelings as being the ultimate problem that needed solving - so much so that the punishment was not even bothered with - did make me stop and think about it from my cousin's point of view and, surprisingly stopped me nicking my friend's stuff...from that point onwards. Honestly! So I know RP would have created better outcomes in my behaviour as a child. Punishments just did not work with me.

    I need to point out that I no longer nick things and I do not have a criminal record!!!!


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