Restorative Justice & the Secure Estate: Alternatives for Young People in custody

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This is an international project that was funded by the EU (2009-11) and was carried out as part of the "Mediation and restorative justice in prison settings" (MEREPS) project, focusing on the role of restorative justice in prison settings and post sentencing.  

The IARS MEREPS project focused on the imprisonment of young people. The findings were included in the book "Restorative Justice & the Secure Estate: Alternatives for Young People in custody"  which was launched on 1 December 2011 in London at a national conference. The UK was one of the MEREPS country partners. Our research aimed to complement the evaluation and pilots that took place in Germany and the parallel research that was undertaken in Hungary so as to allow cross learning and information exchange.

IARS is continuing this project which aims to investigate the usage of restorative justice with sentenced and incarcerated young people. For more information contact the UK Project Lead Dr. Theo Gavrielides


 

As an international think-tank with expertise in restorative justice, IARS has chosen to investigate the usage of restorative practices with sentenced and incarnated young people. It is widely accepted that restorative justice is more commonly used within the juvenile justice system while it remains in the margins of the adult criminal justice system. After the passing of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, restorative justice gained some ground in its application with cases involving juveniles. There is evidence to suggest that restorative justice is more widely used in adult prisons and custodial settings than juvenile institutions. There appears to be a paradox that needs to be investigated in the interest of future policy and better practice within the UK but also within the MEREPS country partners.

The research aims to build on the work already carried out by the Youth Justice Board, NOMS, academics and independent organisations to:

  • Attempt a classification of restorative justice practices that currently exist in UK secure estate
  • Establish the extent to which restorative justice influences the regimes and programmes of the UK secure estate
  • Identify good practice that might be copied elsewhere
  • Identify the enablers and barriers in using restorative justice in prisons
  • Understand the aforementioned paradox and posit evidence based recommendations for UK and EU policy and practice
  • Explore the potential of a strategy for restorative justice in prisons.

Background to the MEREPS project

The key objective of the overall MEREPS project is to explore the opportunities for implementing mediation and restorative justice practices in prison settings. Further aim is to test if such practices can help in supporting victims of crime, increasing offender responsibility, supporting prison staff and inmates in resolving conflicts and reintegrating offenders back into their communities.

In particular, MEREPS aims to produce evidence-based recommendations for policy and practice so as to adapt current dispute resolution methods to help with:

  • The reduction of serious conflicts within prisons
  • The reintegration of offenders into their communities
  • The empowerment of victims of crimes and to help them in receiving material and/or symbolic restitution for the harm done against them
  • Communities in gaining some restoration for the harm done by crime
  • The empowerment of correctional staff e.g. through training.

The Consortium Partners

IARS is one of the six partners who have joined forces to carry out the MEREPS project. IARS represents the UK at a national level and will producing a stand-alone national report for the project which will be used to draft a final European report in 2012. This will be presented at a European Union funded conference that will be held in Budapest in 2012. The other partners are:

Foresee Research Group - is an interdisciplinary think tank of young social scientists. Its research and project activities focus on promoting the principles and practices of alternative dispute resolution and helping the integration of marginalized groups in the society.

The National Institute Of Criminology (Hungary) - as Central Europe's major criminological research institute, aims to conduct research on crime, to improve the theory and practice of criminology, police science and criminal law, to contribute to the utilisation of the research results, and to train the junior prosecutors.
University Of Applied Sciences In Public Administration In Bremen (Germany) — is a university specialised in law and security courses and research. The university hosts the Institute of Police and Security Research (IPOS), which is engaged in a variety of research projects dealing with restorative justice, prevention, and other related topics.
Victim Offender Mediation Service Bremen (Germany) — is an NGO that offers a variety of services in the field of restorative justice. Among those are several mediation offices in urban trouble hotspots throughout the city of Bremen, a European funded project dealing with stalking and domestic violence and most recently the European funded MEREPS project.
European Forum For Restorative Justice — helps establishing and developing victim-offender mediation and other RJ practices throughout Europe by stimulating open dialogue between RJ practitioners, policy makers, researchers and legal practitioners. 

Project updates, publications and resources archive

The final EU MEREPS report was launched on 18 January 2012 in Budapest. Click here for more information.

MEREPS has published a free Training Handbook on delivering restorative justice in prisons. This can be downloaded from here

Funded by EU Grant agreement no JLS/2008/JPEN/015-30-CE-0267156/0039.