Restorative Justice has steadily gained acceptance and demonstrated its effectiveness around the world, yet challenges remain. Often they are not directly related to the process itself, but instead arise from economic and political considerations. We hear from Hong Kong and Australia about obstacles to implementing Restorative Programs and how it seems that the UK has found a way to implement effective programmes that address the needs of all.

Restorative Justice has steadily gained acceptance and demonstrated its effectiveness around the world, yet challenges remain. Often they are not directly related to the process itself, but instead arise from economic and political considerations.

From the abstract in the Journal of Asian Public Policy, Volume 5, Issue 3, 2012,

Practical considerations in the implementation of further restorative justice programmes for juvenile offenders in Hong Kong.

“Despite some initial interests in and recommendations for further implementing restorative justice (RJ) programmes to deal with juvenile offenders, the Hong Kong Government has rejected such an agenda being moved forward. This article reports on the findings from a small-scale, qualitative study that examined various obstacles hindering the implementation of RJ programmes in Hong Kong. It explores, from the perspectives of 12 professional practitioners who have experience dealing with juvenile offenders or who have been a part of the Hong Kong justice system, the desirability and feasibility of introducing RJ as an alternative form of dispute resolution for juvenile offenders. The views and ideas of these practitioners provide insights into the practical difficulties of establishing RJ in Hong Kong. These difficulties mainly involve a lack of resources and expertise for setting up RJ components within the existing criminal justice system.”

In this instance the opposition is not to the process itself, but instead to insufficient personnel with experience and money to implement the programs.

From the Brisbane Times in Queensland, Australia,

“More than half of the full-time staff have been cut from a juvenile offenders justice program with a success rate of 98 per cent. But the cuts have been defended by the Newman government as being in the interest of victims. Sixty-five full-time equivalent positions will be cut from a pool of 119.65 in the coming months as the cost of stopping courts referring juvenile offenders to the Youth Justice Conferencing Program. The program brings offenders together with their victims and family members for mediation through a police officer and has garnered praise for its effectiveness. Official figures from the Children’s Court of Queensland show 95 per cent of participants reach an agreement in the conference, 98 per cent of participants being satisfied with the resolution reached and 97 per cent would tell a friend to undergo a similar process.”

In Queensland, with a conservative leaning government, the opposition is couched in terms of providing more funds for victims’ rights, despite the high satisfaction rate of participating victims. Referrals from the court make up over half of the cases handled in the program, and without them the impact will be greatly decreased. As one commenter noted, the action is short sighted and ignores the savings inherent in a restorative approach.

Lastly, consider the approach of the Ministry of Justice in the United Kingdom. As outlined by the Restorative Justice Council,

“[a] recent Joint Justice Inspectorates report found that restorative justice in the UK is limited by ‘patchy’ availability across the country, gaps in access across the stages of the justice system and inconsistent quality of restorative justice being delivered. This action plan aims to tackle these limitations.”

The action plan will be coupled with pending legislation permitting pre – sentencing meetings between victims and offenders. In this instance, advocates for restorative justice have included victims’ rights groups, placing their needs foremost. Also, the U.K. program uses evidence based practices that have been shown to be more effective than traditional punitive approaches.

It seems that the U. K. has found a way to implement effective programs that address the needs of all involved, surmounts logistical obstacles, and supersedes the scoring of political points for short term gain.

Written by Youthpolicy Team

Youthpolicy Team

At youthpolicy.org, we are building a global evidence-base for youth policy. We are published by Youth Policy Press, a global publishing house on youth issues. We generate and consolidate knowledge and information on youth policies; critically report from and about global youth events; and more. Email us at curious@youthpolicy.org.