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!