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The words 'restorative' and 'prison' seem somehow incompatible. Consequently, it ought to be acknowledged that '[a]t one level there can be no such thing as a restorative prison' (Coyle 2001b:7). However, as Coyle (2001b:8) also notes, 'in the interests of prisoners, of prison staff and of civil society one has to set one's ambitions higher than that'. It is already acknowledged that the prison systems we have in the developed world fail to compel offenders to take responsibility for the harm they have caused, fail to recognise the importance of victims in the equation, and fail to demonstrate values inherent in civil society. Accordingly, this article explores the notion of the restorative prison and looks at ways in which restorative and therapeutic processes might work to establish a wholly restorative and therapeutic prison in Australia. That is, a prison whose regime is run entirely on restorative and therapeutic principles rather than a prison that might have established a therapeutic or restorative unit or a prison which runs therapeutic or restorative programs. As Liebmann (2007:250) suggests, 'it is not enough to have a single project to demonstrate "look how restorative we are" - rather a prison needs to look at all ways it can fulfil the values'
Restorative Prisons: Towards Radical
Prison Reform
Dot Goulding
, Guy Hall
and Brian Steels
The words ‘restorative’ and ‘prison’ seem somehow incompatible. Consequently, it ought
to be acknowledged that ‘[a]t one level there can be no such thing as a restorative prison’
(Coyle 2001b:7). However, as Coyle (2001b:8) also notes, ‘in the interests of prisoners, of
prison staff and of civil society one has to set one’s ambitions higher than that’. It is
already acknowledged that the prison systems we have in the developed world fail to
compel offenders to take responsibility for the harm they have caused, fail to recognise
the importance of victims in the equation, and fail to demonstrate values inherent in civil
society. Accordingly, this article explores the notion of the restorative prison and looks at
ways in which restorative and therapeutic processes might work to establish a wholly
restorative and therapeutic prison in Australia. That is, a prison whose regime is run
entirely on restorative and therapeutic principles rather than a prison that might have
established a therapeutic or restorative unit or a prison which runs therapeutic or
restorative programs. As Liebmann (2007:250) suggests, ‘it is not enough to have a single
project to demonstrate “look how restorative we are” – rather a prison needs to look at all
ways it can fulfil the values’.
One of the major features of the Australian criminal justice system has been the
extraordinary growth in prison numbers. The Australian Institute of Criminology monitors
prison numbers in Australia and notes that the average prison population in Australia has
grown by 5 per cent each year between 1984 and 2004 (Australian Institute of Criminology
2007). This phenomenon of increasing incarceration rates appears to be a world wide trend
with no jurisdictions reporting reductions in prison numbers over that time. As Garland
(2001:199) contends, the prison has moved ‘from being a discredited institution destined for
abolition, to become an expanded and seemingly indispensable pillar of late modern social
life ... today’s reinvented prison is a ready-made penal solution to a new problem of social
and economic exclusion’.
Such growth in prison populations and associated cost might be justifiable if either there
was a concomitant growth in crime and/or imprisonment was an effective mechanism for
reducing crime. Sadly, there is no such justification since crime rates have fluctuated over
this period showing both increases and declines in various offence categories.
Restorative Justice Research Unit, Centre for Social and Community Research, Murdoch University.
Law School, Murdoch University.
Restorative Justice Research Unit, Centre for Social and Community Research, Murdoch University.
Today’s world of crime control and criminal justice was not brought into being by rising crime
rates or by a loss of faith in penal-welfarism, or at least not by these alone … It was created
instead by a series of adaptive responses to the cultural and criminological conditions of late
modernity – conditions which included new problems of crime and insecurity, and new attitudes
to the welfare state (Garland 2001:193).
There is no evidence that increasing imprisonment results in decreasing crime. Indeed there
have been many studies related to the counterproductive, harmful and brutalising nature of
imprisonment (Aungles 1994; Carlen 1994, 2002; Coyle 1994; Foucault 1977; Garland
1990; Stern 1998, 2005) yet imprisonment rates continue to increase alarmingly in the
developed world. For example Coyle (2001a:6) also notes that:
One should be very cautious of any suggestions that an increased use of imprisonment is an
efficient form of crime control. There is little evidence from anywhere in the world that there is
any relationship between high rates of imprisonment and low rates of crime. Indeed the contrary
is often the case. High rates of imprisonment are frequently an indicator of the break down of
society’s sense of community values.
The effectiveness of imprisonment both as a preventative measure and as a tool of
rehabilitation is indeed questionable. Prisons by their nature, their hierarchical organisation
and their architecture, are the embodiment of secrecy, invisibility, isolation, and lack of
accountability. These factors encourage, rather than discourage, coercion, brutality and
violence amongst prisoners and prison staff (Goulding 2007:140). One of the consequences
of this is that imprisonment, as it is presently constituted, does not prepare inmates for
productive and pro-social living in the wider community. As Mace (2002:2) claims:
There is a real risk that people will emerge from prison feeling numb, dispirited and fatalistic
rather than to any degree reformed or better equipped to lead a law abiding life when they return
to the community. There is also a danger that when released they will lack a network of links
with the community which might be helpful in bridging the distance between institutional life
and the challenge of resuming a law abiding life outside prison walls.
Not only do prisons destroy law abiding networks, they often build anti-social networks.
When a prisoner is released from prison, many previous pro-social contacts have been lost
and have been replaced with anti-social networks built up during the period of incarceration.
It can then be argued that imprisoning more people for longer does not make
communities safe. Indeed it is often argued that prisons are part of the problem of crime in
communities. It is evident that the Australian public have been asked to pay more each year
for our prisons with no real benefit; but more critically, with decreasing benefit. That is,
continued high rates of imprisonment have few if any benefits but very high costs. In short,
in their present form, prisons have served their time and real reform is called for. With such
reform in mind, this article seeks to explore the notion of the wholly restorative and
therapeutic prison as an acceptable alternative to the current system. This article also
outlines how such reform might be introduced within at least one Australian jurisdiction.
Restorative Justice: The Underpinning Philosophy
For the purpose of this article, we have defined restorative justice as:
An approach to justice that focuses on repairing the harm caused by crime while holding the
offender responsible for his or her actions, by providing an opportunity for the parties directly
affected by a crime – victims[s], offender and community – to identify and address their needs
in the aftermath of a crime, and seek a resolution that affords healing, reparation and
reintegration, and prevents future harm (Cormier 2002).
The concept of restorative justice has, in recent years, attracted much attention from penal
reformers, justice activists, criminologists and others within the field of criminal justice. In
the first instance restorative justice presents a challenge to prevailing adversarial criminal
justice systems, which are organised under the notion that crimes are perpetrated against the
state rather than recognising that crimes are perpetrated, in the main, against victims and/or
communities. Restorative justice is a ‘philosophy that moves from punishment to
reconciliation, from vengeance against offenders to healing for victims, from alienation and
harshness to community and wholeness, from negativity and destructiveness to healing,
forgiveness and mercy’ (Consedine 1995:11). Further, restorative justice is based on the
concept of re-integrative shaming which stands in stark contrast to the notion of stigmatic
shaming which is prevalent within current criminal justice systems. Put simply, the re-
integrative shaming process attempts to shame the action rather than the actor and encourage
mutual understanding, healing and forgiveness amongst all parties involved. Braithwaite
(1989:55) describes the concept of re-integrative shaming in this way:
Re-integrative shaming means that expressions of community disapproval, which may range
from mild rebuke to degradation ceremonies, are followed by gestures of reacceptance into the
community of law-abiding citizens. These gestures of reacceptance will vary from a simple
smile expressing forgiveness and love to quite formal ceremonies to decertify the offender as
deviant. Disintegrative shaming (stigmatization), in contrast, divides the community by creating
a class of outcasts.
Broadly speaking, restorative justice is a process that involves active victim participation,
requires offenders to take responsibility for the harm they have done and to make apology
and amends to their victims. One of the fundamental principles of restorative justice is a will
to restore ‘the balance between the victim, the offender and the community’ (Coyle
2001a:6). Keeping in mind that ‘in many respects the victim is badly served by our current
adversarial system of criminal justice’, restorative justice also seeks to bring all parties
(victims, offenders and communities of interest) together with a view to achieving some
form of reconciliation through a mutually acceptable outcome. In support of restorative
justice principles, Judge McElrea (cited in Consedine 1999:56) argues that:
Criminal justice has been divorced from the community for far too long. Justice has come to be
seen as a contest between the state and the defendant … As a result there is little incentive for
anyone to take responsibility for the offending itself or for putting right the wrong. By contrast
restorative justice is essentially a community-based model that encourages the acceptance of
responsibility by all concerned and draws on the strengths of community to restore peace.
The contention here is that the basic principles of restorative justice could be successfully
adapted for use within the prison setting; thus moving the brutalising and punitive
characteristics of current prison regimes, as previously outlined, towards a more reparative
and healing approach. This, we argue, would be to the benefit of victims and communities
as well as prisoners. Restorative justice offers demonstrable benefits to victims of crime in
such areas as satisfaction with the criminal justice system through to reduction of the impact
of crime (Maxwell & Morris 1993; Beven et al 2005; Goulding & Steels 2006). Restorative
justice also results in a reduction of offending behaviour of around 7 per cent (Latimer,
Dowden & Muise 2001), but more critically, if combined with effective therapeutic
interventions, has been shown to have a combined 31 per cent reduction in offending
(Bonta, Jesseman, Rugge & Cormier 2006).
The Restorative Prison at Work in Other Jurisdictions
This section on the functioning of restorative prisons is heavily reliant on Newell (2001) and
Coyle’s (2001) work. Basically, the concept of restorative prisons is relatively recent and
more or less limited to the Belgian prison system and the current research in this area by the
International Centre for Prison Studies. Accordingly there is a paucity of other published
Restorative prisons are a relatively new concept. In Belgium an action research project
involving the introduction of restorative justice practices into six prisons was introduced in
1998. Newell (2001:1) reports that this was in response to ‘the horrors of the Dutroix affair
of child abuse and child murder in the summer of 1996’ and subsequent community
concerns regarding the ‘malfunctioning of the criminal justice system’. The fundamental
concern within the Belgian community was that victims of crime and concerned
communities were effectively ignored within the criminal justice process. The dreadfulness
of the Dutroix crimes gave victim groups and communities the necessary impetus to lobby
parliamentarians and to push for radical change. Newell goes on to say:
The decision was made to involve victims within the criminal justice system using the principles
of restorative justice … This focus was partly in response to the repeatedly formulated
requirements of an active self-help group of parents of murdered children and several groups of
battered women and because there were trends within criminology that gave some direction
towards the possibility of reform … From surveys of victims Belgian research showed there was
great dissatisfaction with the way that public agencies like the police, public prosecutors and
judges dealt with the aftermath of crime. Victims expected there to be a public reaction to
delinquent behaviour, which includes listening to the needs of victims … repairing the harm
done to individual victims and of the need to restore the confidence of the victim, his
neighbourhood and the public belief in the functioning of the criminal justice system (2001:1).
This catalyst for change within the Belgian criminal justice system was widespread
community concern that what existed did not achieve the basic aims of crime deterrence,
rehabilitation of criminals and general community safety. It was this awareness of the failure
of prisons to challenge offending behaviour, the victim’s need to be heard, together with
insistence on more effective actions to implement greater community safety, that provoked
the Belgian authorities to seek alternative options within the criminal justice system. It was
also the courage and vision of prevailing politicians that directed such public outcry towards
a restorative rather than a more retributive criminal justice system.
Newell (2001:2) states that the Belgian experience ‘focused on the restoration of damage
caused by crime and towards the resolution of conflict between people and communities’.
He goes on to comment that there have been some very good examples of restorative
projects with juvenile offenders, ‘a project about material damage at the police station …
and the experiments of victim-offender mediation in cases of serious violent crime’. Each of
these projects has undergone evaluation and the outcomes suggest that most victims, judicial
decision-makers and offenders support the restorative process. Newell (2001:2) sums up by
saying that ‘it became clear to be really effective, the victim’s perspective must be
integrated in all stages of the criminal justice procedure, including any period of custody’.
The positive evaluation of the restorative initiative in the six Belgian prisons concerned
resulted in the Minister for Justice introducing restorative justice practices to all Belgian
prisons. According to Newell (2001:2), ‘each of the thirty (Belgian) prisons now has a
restorative justice counsellor appointed to work with the governor in order to introduce
concepts and practices in line with those developed within the community’.
In January 2000 in Britain, the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College,
London, also embarked on a restorative prison project. This was the result of one of the
recommendations from A New Agenda for Penal Reform, an international conference on
prison reform organised by the International Centre for Prison Studies. One of the main
themes to emerge from the conference was the recognition that ‘formal criminal justice
systems have marginalized victims of crime and have failed to oblige offenders to face up to
the damage and harm which their actions have caused’ (Coyle 2001a:6). The ensuing
argument was that prisons could become more effective as places of rehabilitation if they
were run within a restorative framework which actively encouraged ‘prisoners to take
responsibility for the consequences of their behaviour by providing greater opportunities to
make amends, and by establishing formal channels of mediation between prisoners to
resolve conflict’ (Coyle 2001a:7).
The British restorative prison project has been implemented in collaboration with the
Prison Service in England and Wales and includes the active involvement of three prisons in
the north east of England. One of the main aims of the project is to generate debate ‘about
the purpose of imprisonment and prisons by examining the relationship between the prison,
the prisoner and the wider community’. There was also an effort to discover whether the
‘development of a restorative regime inside a prison can contribute to altering human
relationships and to changing the perceptions that prisoners, prison staff, victims and the
wider community have of each other’ (International Centre for Prison Studies Web Page:
November 2001).
Indeed the restorative prison project has effectively enhanced relationships and
perceptions amongst the aforementioned social groups. For example, the Albert Park Project
in the north east of England, involved prisoners from two local prisons in a total renovation
of the badly run down public facility. A boat had been ‘rebuilt by prisoners in the workshops
of one of the local prisons. Men in nearby prisons had also produced mosaics for the …
visitors’ centre, had built tables for its café and had constructed the ornamental railings
surrounding the lake’ (Stern, 2005:8). At a press conference held to launch an information
booklet on the Albert Park renovation, the Director General of Prisons (cited in Stern
2005:8) said:
It gives me enormous pleasure to launch this publication. I was brought up just round the corner
from Albert Park. I saw it gradually fall into disrepair. Now it is being refurbished with a major
contribution from prisons in the area … The prisoners are putting something back into the
community. They are learning useful skills. And, hopefully, when they leave prison they will
feel that they have more of a stake in the community and be able to make a new start in life.
Another restorative justice park project in Reading was completed by young prisoners. A
public park area which had also fallen into disrepair, become a dumping ground for rubbish
and was frequented by drug abusers was cleaned up and is now used again as a local park
and children’s playground. During the clean up there were reports of local community
members taking refreshments to the teams of young offenders. According to Leathlean
(2004:3) the parks projects gave:
offenders a chance to undertake active, meaningful work, and make direct amends to the
community. Offenders have clearly valued this opportunity, and have been moved to see how
much it has meant to the residents. In the words of one offender: ‘You can feel good that you are
doing something for the community, not just sitting back and doing your time. And it was nice
to see that they had faith in us, that they believed that we could be rehabilitated. In that sense,
they were giving something back to us’.
Within a restorative prison setting, prisoners have the opportunity to make some form of
reparation to local communities through meaningful work. This could be by way of
supplying goods manufactured in the prison to charitable organisations or through the sale
of such goods with profits donated to the relevant organisation. According to Coyle
The prisons are working with a non-government organization called ‘Inside-Out’ refurbishing
goods, such as motorcycles, spectacles and books, for use by disadvantaged people in the United
Kingdom and in other countries … Non-governmental organizations and other voluntary groups
report that, when offered the chance, prisoners will work with enthusiasm on projects they know
will help people who are more disadvantaged than they are: the old, the ill, the poor … The high
motivation, active commitment and on-going enthusiasm that people in prison can bring to work
of this kind and what they can achieve should not be underestimated.
Prison therapeutic communities have also been established in several prisons in England and
Wales. HMP Grendon, arguably the best known therapeutic prison, contains more than 200
high security prisoners. At Grendon, ‘the program is based on therapeutic community
principles, where a dedicated multidisciplinary team of staff works together with prisoners
… This therapeutic dialogue leads to greater understanding of their usual behaviour’
(Liebmann 2007:247). Importantly, more than 30 years ago in 1973 a therapeutic prison unit
was established in Barlinnie Prison in Scotland. The Barlinnie Special Unit was set up to
hold Scotland’s most violent and troublesome prisoners. Disturbingly, and despite its
success in rehabilitating many violent offenders, the Unit was closed in the late 1980s
because of high running costs (Boyle: 1984). The Barlinnie Special Unit was a crucial
breakthrough in the treatment and rehabilitation of the most violent offenders.
Various restorative and reparative processes are currently in place in prisons in several
other jurisdictions around the world. However, these have been described as ‘piecemeal,
uncoordinated and largely dependent on the initiative or chance involvement of enthusiastic
individuals’ (Liebmann & Braithwaite, cited in Mace 2001:2). Liebmann (2001) goes on to
say that such initiatives ‘can often be short lived or become marginalised under the pressure
of other priorities if they have not been integrated as part of the prison’s regime’. Currently,
Belgium is the only country which has its entire prison system based on restorative justice
practice which includes, but is not limited to, prisoner reparation to victims and community,
victim and community involvement in the process and prison staff who are trained in the
principles of restorative justice.
Within the West Australian prison system, for example, a few reparative projects are
currently in place. In Casuarina maximum security facility a few prisoners re-classify used
spectacles as part of an international eye care project to enhance sight within the populations
of third world countries such as Nepal. In support of Coyle’s previous argument, these
prisoners have a sense that they are contributing to society in a positive manner by helping
those they perceive to be worse off than themselves (personal observation and conversations
with the prisoners and prison officers concerned, Casuarina Prison 2001). These reparative
activities do not, however, occur within a restorative prison setting. In line with this,
Liebmann and Braithwaite (cited in Mace 2001:2) found, that there were few prisons
worldwide which had adopted restorative justice as a ‘total philosophy informing all their
Restorative Processes within a Prison Context
We have argued that the current operation of prisons offers very little to the community.
Victims of crime are not recompensed for their losses. The community is not safer. Prisons
do not reduce crime but, conversely, are themselves criminogenic. And finally, the
community gains little benefit because the continued high cost of incarceration eats into the
public purse with ever increasing imprisonment rates. Granted, incapacitation does in most
cases limit the criminality of prisoners to the prison, but since almost all prisoners are
eventually released, the community is rightly justified in demanding a system which reduces
future criminal activity rather than one which supports the further development of
criminogenic attributes.
We have also shown that restorative justice offers victims, offenders and the community
better outcomes than traditional criminal justice sanctioning. Our work with adult offenders
in the West Australian Magistrates’ Courts resulted in significantly better outcomes for both
victims and offenders (see Beven et al 2005; Goulding & Steels 2006 for a full discussion).
It also illustrated how restorative justice works towards the reduction of offending through a
decrease in levels of offender neutralisation (Beven et al 2005). As part of that discussion
we have shown that restorative justice can be transposed to a penal philosophy and that it
now operates throughout the Belgian prison system.
In order to work effectively within the prison setting, restorative justice processes should
address some fundamental areas of concern. These are (in no particular order):
1. Providing reparation to victims and communities through meaningful prisoner work
activities which effectively assist individual victims and/or local communities.
2. Restructuring of all grievance procedures within prisons to include and promote
alternative dispute resolution processes. This would include prisoner to prisoner
disputes, prisoner to prison staff disputes and all prisoner and prison staff grievances.
3. Encouraging prisoners to recognise that their criminal actions have caused harm to
victims and their families, their own families and communities.
4. Encouraging prisoners to engage in counselling and/or therapeutic programs within the
prison with supportive networks of family or peers in order to address the underlying
issues which resulted in their offending behaviour patterns.
5. Encouraging prisoners to engage in interaction with victims (not necessarily their own
victims) where appropriate within the prison setting.
6. Building positive relationships between prisoners and prison staff.
7. Fostering new relationships between prisoners, the prison and the local community as a
first step towards reconciliation and successful prisoner reintegration.
8. Counteracting the negative stereotypical images of prisoners within local communities,
thus effectively increasing the opportunity for successful reintegration.
According to Coyle (2001:10), the truly restorative and therapeutic prison setting would:
present prisoners with a series of duties, challenges and learning opportunities. It would invest
trust in the prisoners’ capacity to take responsibility for performing tasks, for meeting
challenges and for using learning opportunities. The task for prison staff at every level and in all
departments would be to work with prisoners to identify the skills, guidance and support they
need to restore their lives, equipping themselves for renewed citizenship and a life away from
A key factor in a restorative and therapeutic prison is an environment of safety for both
prisoners and prison staff. This stands in marked contrast to the violent and brutalising
nature of our current prisons (Foucault 1977:266; Aungles 1994:185). As Newell (2001:3)
argues, ‘unless prisoners can avoid experiences of being victimised in prison they are
unlikely to be able to focus their attention upon those they have damaged by their offending
behaviour. Thus the need to create and sustain safe healthy prisons is vital for restorative
justice to flourish’.
The Implementation of a Restorative and Therapeutic Prison
The Belgian experience began ‘with the cultivation of a prison culture which allows and
stimulates restoration processes between victims and offenders’ (Newell 2001:3). In order to
implement restorative practices and establish the underpinning philosophy, all prison staff in
the initially selected Belgian prisons had to undergo extensive training and education in the
principles and practice of restorative justice. Many obstacles had to be overcome, not the
least of which was the attempt to combine restorative practices with traditional prison modes
of administration. Newell (2001b:4) suggests that the tension between the two is still
apparent. He maintains that:
Restorative justice requires respect, the assuming of responsibility and the freedom to solve
problems by those involved in the conflict. These attitudes are opposed to the deprivation of
freedom and limited personal responsibility that form the basis of current prison practice.
In the Belgian reforms prison officers have been required to develop generic therapeutic
skills to facilitate restorative and therapeutic processes in diverse situations. The restorative
and therapeutic procedures require a fundamental lack of prejudice on the part of members
of staff who have to deal with offenders and their support networks (and victims and their
support networks) regardless of the criminal act which led to the prisoner’s incarceration.
These skills are also displayed in the restorative management of situations of conflict
between prisoners and between prisoners and prison staff. In order to better accommodate
the transition from retributive to restorative systems, consultants are employed in each
prison to raise awareness of restorative processes and to establish meaningful dialogue
between prisons and community.
In their turn, prisoners have to learn to accept responsibility for the harm their criminal
activities have caused to individual victims, family and neighbourhood. This largely
transformative component is implemented at the beginning of any given prison sentence and
is maintained throughout the term of custody. Newell outlines the process thus:
Staff organized support to help them (prisoners) take up responsibility for the crime and the
consequences for the victims … Prisoners are given awareness training so they are conscious of
the psychological and emotional consequences for the victims. This program is called ‘Victim in
Focus’ and is a confronting approach aimed at changing attitudes (2001a:3).
Prisoners are also made responsible for any financial compensation owed to victims. To this
end, a restoration fund has been established and prisoners are now able to earn money in
order to pay victim compensation. This has the effect of instilling some degree of
responsibility in prisoners whilst providing reparation for victims.
In the early stages, both victims and community were given preparation for the radical
change towards a restorative criminal justice system. This was initially through provision of
information about restorative justice practices and ‘the situation of imprisoned offenders and
what is likely at the end of their sentences’ (Newell 2001a:3). Victim aid groups were also
consulted throughout the introduction of restorative practices, which came into play from
initial arrest of offenders, through the investigation process, the court process to
incarceration in restorative prisons. In Belgium then, ‘at all stages of the process victim
orientation and the possibilities for mediation, reparation, community service or other
alternative ways to react to lawbreaking are becoming the norm’ (Newell 2001a:3).
Restorative and Therapeutic Prisons: An Australian Context
For principles of restorative and therapeutic justice to work in Australian prison systems
there would need to be profound cultural change across all jurisdictions. This would need to
be initiated amongst the prisoners, prison staff and community members. Rather than
attempt to achieve this across the board – an unlikely proposition as it would arguably meet
with strong resistance and do little to initiate real cultural and philosophical change – the
suggestion here is that an action research project involving the development of one wholly
restorative and therapeutic prison be considered. Because our experience and knowledge
base is largely within the Western Australian system, our selected example is unashamedly
parochial. The recently commissioned and privately run Acacia Prison has stood alone in
resisting (to date) the entrenched culture of the Western Australian state run prison system.
For this and various other practical and logistic reasons, Acacia prison arguably presents as
the most appropriate starting point for the introduction of such radical reform.
Acacia is a 780 bed, relatively new prison largely staffed by personnel with little or no
experience in the state prison system and, consequently, the prison is not yet steeped in the
punitive and divisive cultural practices which have haunted West Australian state run
prisons. Further, because it is a privately run prison, Acacia is somewhat distanced from its
state counterparts. Also, Acacia prison’s simpler organisational structure with its parent
company, Serco, appears to allow senior management more discretion in the day to day
running of the prison. As a result of this, prison management and staff may be more
prepared to adopt restorative and therapeutic practices than those entrenched in the
traditional state system. In addition to these factors Prison Fellowship (Australia) has
already introduced their faith based restorative ‘Sycamore Tree’ program within Acacia
prison where surrogate victims meet with prisoners, explain restorative justice philosophy
and engage in symbolic actions of responsibility taking, apology and reparation
( Although we view the
‘Sycamore Tree’ program as a welcome move in a positive direction, we also contend that a
more inclusive restorative approach which is secular rather than simply Christian based and
faith focused is merited.
At the time of writing, Prison Fellowship (Australia) has completed several ‘Sycamore
Tree’ programs at Acacia Prison. Conversely, senior management at several state run
prisons have been reluctant to introduce the restorative program, offering little or no support
to the concept. However, in opposition to the majority of state run prisons, senior
management at Karnet Prison Farm have recently permitted the first ‘Sycamore Tree’
program to be run at the minimum security facility. Certainly, for those implementing
restorative programs in custodial settings, it is important to acknowledge that prisons
prioritise security concerns and run to rigid schedules which, if interrupted, can cause
logistic problems for staff. Prison Fellowship also applied to run a restorative justice
program in a state run facility; Bandyup Women’s Prison (Personal Conversation with
Patrick Chong, Prison Fellowship Australia, May 2006). However, permission was denied.
Interestingly, in most countries where restorative programs are implemented in prisons,
there are far fewer opportunities available for women prisoners to participate (Liebmann &
Braithwaite 1999). Going against this trend, however, in 2003 HMP Cornton Vale, the only
women’s prison in Scotland, introduced several restorative justice programs. Liebmann
(2007:251) notes that, subsequent to the establishment of a more restorative culture within
Cornton Vale, there were ‘reduced levels of self-harm, bullying and assaults/fights; and
prisoners reported that they felt safer’.
Within a West Australian context, the already established restorative justice program in
Acacia Prison addresses only one of the four main elements required in a restorative and
transformative prison environment; that of establishing an awareness of the impact of crime
on victims through direct mediation between victims and offenders. The remaining three
elements are considered to be:
The implementation of meaningful workplace activities for prisoners so that a
proportion of their time is spent working for the benefit of others within a spirit of
Incorporating restorative justice principles into dispute, grievance and disciplinary
Initiating positive relationships with local communities in order to illustrate the need for
prisoners to be ‘reconciled with the wider society and received back into it’ (Francis
There is no set formula or plan for the establishment of a restorative and therapeutic
prison. Such prisons are few and far between. Even so, valuable lessons can be learned from
the Belgian experience and from the current research being conducted by the International
Centre for Prison Studies in Britain. What is clear from the outset is the need for intensive
training and education of prison staff at all levels in the theories, practice and generic
applications of restorative and therapeutic justice. This would require, as in the Belgian
system, the employment of restorative and therapeutic justice consultants (reporting directly
to the prison superintendent at each prison) to initiate, maintain and oversee ongoing
development and implementation of positive practices. Running parallel with prison staff
education and training, there would need to be an intensive program of community
information similar to that carried out by the Belgian authorities. This would require the
close involvement of victims of crime, victim aid groups, church and community
organisations and the general public.
It is acknowledged that the concept of a restorative and therapeutic prison in Australia
would involve sweeping change from within the various state run criminal justice systems.
The introduction of such radical transformation would require clear vision and political
fortitude from relevant state government ministers. However, the prison system we have
does not serve either victims or the community effectively. It is economically unaffordable,
reproduces criminality and comes with a tremendous social cost. The restorative and
therapeutic model has provided the Belgian community with a more effective and pro-social
system, which satisfies most community concerns with regard to the workings of the
complete criminal justice system. As Newell (2001b:1) points out:
Whilst we continue to regard restorative justice and prisons as opposite points of the spectrum
the public will not recognize its validity as a realistic approach to resolving the conflicts
involved in the decisions central to criminal justice. The debate about prisons must become
more central in seeking to establish restorative justice as more than an interesting alternative for
the less serious offenders and offences. The victims of serious crimes are being let down by the
current exclusion of prisons as places of restoration for offenders, victims and their
In conclusion, all of us who constitute ‘community’ – including victims of crime and
offenders, as well as ordinary community members – are being let down by retributive
prison and criminal justice systems which do little to heal the effects of crime and nothing to
create safer communities. The concept of a restorative and therapeutic prison systems
Australia wide may seem a remote possibility at present. But it must be acknowledged that
the vast majority of our prisoners have come from local communities and, in time, all but a
handful will return to these communities; most of these men and women will have been
harmed and made worse by their experience of imprisonment. The contention here is that
prisoners who have served their time within restorative and therapeutic custodial settings
would be returned to the wider community with a vastly better chance of successful
reintegration as law abiding, valued citizens.
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Oxford University Press Oxford
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Model of Restorative and Transformative Justice for Adult Offenders in Magistrates’
Courts’ in King M & Auty K (eds) The Therapeutic Role of Magistrates’ Courts Murdoch
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Meta-Analysis Ottawa Department of Justice Canada
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Valley Partnership UK
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Restorative Justice Working Group in Northern Ireland
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Consortium Conference London
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Restorative Prison Project 2000-2004 International Centre for Prison Studies London
... Las críticas hacia la prisión no sólo provienen de abolicionistas radicales sino que incluso los propios autores y autoras que defienden la utilización de la Justicia Restaurativa en prisión son conscientes de los muchos perjuicios que el encarcelamiento produce. Goulding et al. (2008) los resumen citando numerosos trabajos que documentan la inoperancia de la prisión, su incapacidad para reducir el crimen y los efectos "contraproductivos, dañinos y embrutecedores del encierro". Afirman que "Las prisiones, por su propia naturaleza, su organización jerárquica y su arquitectura, constituyen la personificación del secretismo, la invisibilidad, el aislamiento y la falta de responsabilidad (accountability)." ...
... Otros trabajos destacables son el de Dhami et al. (2009), que realiza una clasificación parecida a la de Van Ness; el de Goulding et al. (2008), que se centra en el "Restorative Prison Project" y el caso belga; el informe final del proyecto MEREPS (Barabás et al., 2012) que narra las experiencias de Hungría, Alemania, Inglaterra y Bélgica; y, finalmente, el estudio de Guardiola Lago (2012), el más completo sobre la materia en castellano. ...
... 1. La Justicia Restaurativa puede transformar positivamente las prisiones. Según Goulding et al.(2008) "es posible adaptar con éxito los principios de la Justicia Restaurativa para su uso dentro de prisión". Dicha confianza en la capacidad reformista de la Justicia Restaurativa es compartida por los autores que abogan por el uso de la Justicia Restaurativa en prisión, como no podía ser de otro modo. ...
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This is a first draft of my work "Pragmatic abolitionism..." in Spanish.
... These cultures differ between jurisdictions, institutions and occupations, and are characterised by more or less formality and discretion, by a stronger or weaker emphasis on welfare, punitiveness and managerialism, and by a greater or lesser reticence to embrace things like transparency, research and change, among other key features (Hamilton, 2019;Nelken, 2010). Activists have long targeted these national, institutional and occupational criminal justice cultures as sites of potential 'change', albeit usually finding that existing goals, rationales and routines are rather well embedded and difficult to shift (Chan, 1997;Goulding, Hall & Steels, 2008). ...
... Academics increasingly seek to articulate what a restorative institutional culture might look like (see e.g. Burford, Braithwaite & Braithwaite, 2019;Goulding et al., 2008;Hopkins, 2015;Marder, 2020a), while some policymakers have considered (often, post-retirement) the potential for a restorative prison, police force or probation service. Seldom, however, do even the most progressive institutional restorative justice policies and strategies explicitly target this kind of fundamental shift. ...
... This view is shared by many authors (Guardiola Lago, 2012;Dhami et al., 2009;Goulding et al. 2008;Coyle, 2001;Edgar & Newell, 2006), who argue that RJ has proven to be very useful for offenders and victims of serious, violent crimes and it would thus be unfair and unfunctional to deprive these victims and offenders of the opportunity to participate in restorative processes. Indeed, in my opinion, this viewpoint is dominant in the RJ literature. ...
... Indeed, it is widely acknowledged that prison sentences are being used to punish more offences than ever, and that most inmates are petty offenders (Wacquant, 2009;Sánchez, 2009;Aebi & Delgrande, 2014). Goulding et al. (2008) and Coyle (2001) recognise the reality of widespread, unnecessary imprisonment, but nevertheless suggest that RJ should be implemented in correctional facilities to help victims of serious crime. An empirically consistent policy needs to address the fact that an important percentage of incarcerated persons would be best attended to through a restorative, diversionary alternative. ...
This article explores the diverging positions regarding the relationship between restorative justice (RJ) and prisons through a review of the theoretical literature and a comprehensive presentation of practical experiences. Additionally, a twofold characterisation of the RJ movement is provided and a specific proposal for criminal policy is suggested. In the first part, the views of those who hold that RJ and prison are incompatible are discussed and their reasons are presented. In the second part, the views of those who think that RJ can be used to improve prisons are explored and some of the projects that are using RJ in prisons around the world are examined. Finally, it is argued that RJ is both a moderately abolitionist and pragmatic movement and needs to establish priorities for action. It is concluded that the use of RJ in prison must be preceded by a significant reduction in the current incarcerated population.
... They can offer not only a way to rehabilitate individuals (and thus help perform a central function of prisons), but also present a way in which the culture of prisons can potentially shift, even as the structure of correctional institutions remains the same (Wood, 2015). Further, building on Goulding et al. (2008) argument that such a cultural shift has significant implications for the reintegration of prisoners into their communities upon release, we suggest that there is potential for even broader change -change in communities outside prisons -that can result from implementation of restorative approaches. ...
Research on restorative justice in prison settings has focused largely on the relationship between restorative and criminal justice, or on the potential of such programs to reduce recidivism rates among participants. Little research focuses on possible other transformations that restorative justice can engender among incarcerated individuals. We address this gap by describing the outcomes of an evaluation of Mending Bridges, a restorative justice program implemented at three men’s correctional institutions in New England. Our research points to the transformative potential of this program, not only among individuals but also in changing behaviors and relationships that have an impact on the prison community as a whole.
... The notion of a restorative prison as a whole entity as opposed to ad hoc restorative programmes being administered within it, is gaining popularity (Edgar & Newell, 2006;Goulding, Hall, & Steels, 2008;Bazemore, Zaslaw, & Riester, 2005). This concept suggests a prison wide approach to restorative justice to which all staff, inmates and outside agencies must adhere. ...
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In recent years there has been increasing interest in the use of restorative justice, including its use within the prison environment. This literature review first considers some of the theory and practice of restorative approaches in general terms before turning to consider their application in the Bahamian and wider Caribbean setting, particularly Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The literature review was undertaken collaboratively with the College of The Bahamas faculty involved in a profiling study of the inmates held at Her Majesty’s Prison Fox Hill, Nassau. The findings of that study relating to restorative justice are referred to in the review of sources.
The main objective of this study is to examine interest in the implementation of five restorative justice programs as reported by 225 employes of the Prison Service of the Czech Republic and to identify the factors that underpin such interest. The results show that perceived usefulness and familiarity with the program are crucial factors that influence the respondent's interest in program implementation. Additionally, awareness of the concept of restorative justice and agreement with its principles are likely to have an indirect effect, mediated through perceived usefulness.
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Restorative justice is not the only paradigm in Islamic penal justice. It is just one model. The second is retributive system. Yet by looking at the philosophy of penalty as detailed by Islamic jurisprudence, plus carefully revising alternatives to original punishments proposed by scholarship, it can be safely concluded that restorative justice does exist. And it exists as the general rule. Retributive justice is the exception. The key point of these mechanisms is that penalty in Islam is not an end per se. If offenders could be rehabilitated by other measures rather that penalties, the goal would be achieved and punishment should be evaded. Yet victims should always have the possibility to restore their rights. It is found out that Islamic law embraced almost all forms of restorative mechanisms known today. Scholars knew the practices of compensation, conciliation, pardon, apology, community service, warning, fining, probation, and reintegration. They added unique mechanisms that can be regarded as restorative means, such as repentance, benefiting from the advantage of doubt, preserving offenders' privacy, intercession, surety, and expiation. This paper explores the extent to which certain theories in Islamic jurisprudence relating to criminal law are similar to contemporary restorative justice practices.
The purpose of this case study was to explore the opportunities and barriers for Innovation Engineering (IE) practices within the State of Maine’s only men’s reentry center. The center trains its residents in restorative justice (RJ) processes as part of its evidence based practices (EBP) curriculum. The uncommon use of RJ in reentry offers the rationale for considering the center as innovative or “meaningfully unique” within community corrections. Reasoning followed that an innovative program might be open to directly engaging its most successful residents in inclusive idea creation and implementation for the benefit of the center. Innovation theorists hold that the most successful innovations come from including all levels of stakeholders in developing and solving problems, rather than implementing top-down solutions. The study sought to understand the influence of inclusive restorative practices as they affected residents’ optimism for collaborating. When viewing Innovation Engineering as a vehicle for social innovation, the basic restorative value of empathy crosses over into the interaction. Initially, the case study requested voluntary resident participation in an IE Create Session. The session might determine if there was resident interest and motivation to engage in innovation, given the opportunity. Perhaps people who have used creative skills for antisocial purposes might also be willing and capable in using the same creativity for prosocial innovations. Opportunities included interest by residents in using problem solving skills for prosocial ends, staff willingness to engage in some exploration of resident ideas and their invitation to the researcher to try process coaching with residents. IE exercises were implemented when possible. Barriers included the bureaucracy and hierarchy of corrections and the reentry center’s relative position within the Maine Department of Corrections. Policies and procedures discouraged innovation; and efforts required extreme flexibility and creative interpretation of IE practices, to accommodate the center’s constraints of time and availability of staff. Another hurdle was the center’s need for restraint in making hurried decisions that may affect community relations. Barriers involving residents included difficulty in contacting them from the outside, their scheduled classes and work release, and Maine’s three week scheduling approval process for residents who need or desire non-mandatory interactions with community. This study finds that inclusive innovation within restorative reentry environments may be possible with agreement on investing in equal participation from every level of stakeholders and overcoming hierarchical constraints.
We are reminded that the word crisis means opportunity, a crucial or decisive moment, a turning point, a time of difficulty or distress, an emergency -and inevitably from its Greek origins -a time to decide. How we respond to emergencies reflects the environment in which we find ourselves, the values that prevail in that setting and the courage of leadership to seize the moment. The response of the Belgian people and their government to the crisis of the Dutroux affair can be seen in marked contrast to our response to the murder of Jamie Bulger. The British reaction to the dreadful abduction and murder of a child was to establish greater control in relation to misbehaviour, to be more severe in a punitive way on wrong-doers and particularly on the young as we demonised the 'other ' within our community. After the murder and the subsequent press coverage of the trial there was a dramatic rise in the prison population. When Belgium experienced the horrors of the Dutroux affair of child abuse and child murder in the summer of 1996 their concerns turned towards the institutions of the police and the judiciary and the malfunctioning of the criminal justice system. The decision was made to involve victims within the criminal justice system using the principles of restorative justice -seeking to repair the harm done to victims and communities through the offender's behaviour so that people can be involved in the process of justice and take responsibility for the outcomes. The decision to introduce restorative justice ideas into prisons was part of this move and has had consequences for all prison systems to consider. This focus was partly in response to the repeatedly formulated requirements of an active self-help group of parents of murdered children and several groups of battered women and because there were trends within criminology that gave some direction towards the possibility of reform. It also reflects the personal courage of politicians to give a lead about what is right rather than follow public opinion.
This article provides an empirical synthesis of the existing literature on the effectiveness of restorative justice practices using meta-analytic techniques. The data were aggregated from studies that compared restorative justice programs to traditional nonrestorative approaches to criminal behavior. Victim and offender satisfaction, restitution compliance, and recidivism were selected as appropriate outcomes to adequately measure effectiveness. Although restorative programs were found to be significantly more effective, these positive findings are tempered by an important self-selection bias inherent in restorative justice research. A possible method of addressing this problem, as well as directions for future research, are provided.
Critics of restorative justice claim that its popularity is based on 'humanistic sentiment' and suggest that the process is incapable of achieving its aim of restoring victims and offenders. The current study sought to establish if restorative justice is capable of restoring victims and offenders in a meaningful manner, or if the process simply results in a superficial renovation of the impact of crime. Seventy-two victims and offenders participated in a community group conference model of restorative justice and were compared on outcome variables with a control group of victims and offenders who underwent a conventional court process. Results demonstrate that the process is capable of impacting upon variables associated with the criminal act. Furthermore, it is argued that a reduction in offending behaviour and victimisation impact are realistic outcomes of the restorative justice processes. Finally, regression analysis indicated that victims were satisfied with the restorative justice process as a result of their greater participation rather than their satisfaction with reparation or restitution.
The thesis investigates a specific example of the interdependence between the domestic and the public spheres of social life. Through an examination of the social construction of 'the home' and 'the prison', the thesis examines the argument, from the feminist challenge to the social sciences, that it is the marginaUsation of the domestic and the arbitrary privileging of the public, that maintains the false assumption of the self sustaining nature of public life. The central theme of the thesis is that the contradictory intersection of 'the home' and 'the prison' is a particularly significant example of the tension between interdependence and incompatibility, that characterises the nature of the relationship between domestic and non domestic spheres in other areas of social life. The corollary of this argument is that it is the people in the population 'families of prisoners' who bear the greatest burdens of this contradiction. Moreover, one especially important aspect of the work of 'caring' for prisoners is the invisibility of the range of forms of exploitation and of the personal, social and economic costs that is involved in that work.The thesis examines the specific ways in which the population 'families of prisoners' has been variously constituted in the several legal, economic and scientific rationalities that construct penal life. Four major models of interdependence between 'the prison and 'the home' are identified in the analysis of these discourses: the 'family in the prison', the home clearly segregated from the prison, the boundaries between 'prison' and 'home' becoming more permeable when the home is constituted as the site of 'resource and resolve' and most recently, 'the home' as the site of imprisonment and control. It is in the work of the social scientific constructions of 'families of prisoners' that these last two models have been most closely defined. By drawing on the work of three approaches to social analysis, the feminist materialist critique of social policy, the radical critique of penality and the feminist analysis of criminology, the thesis develops nine major propositions about the impact of these variously constructed intersections of 'the home' and 'the prison' on the actual day to day lives of the people in the population 'families of prisoners'. It is especially in the contradictions between these various intersections that the work of caring has to be carried out. It is this contradictory nature of the work of caring for imprisoned men that is associated with the condensed nature of the inequality that is experienced by the people in the population 'families of prisoners'.Through an examination of the penal poUcies and practices operating in N.S.W. in the 1980s and fi-om interviews with thirty eight people who have family obligations to imprisoned men in N.S.W., the thesis demonstrates firstly, that that obligation leads to an extensive but hidden provision of unpaid labour. Secondly, that obligation to care also commits the carers to major economic and physical costs. Thirdly, the commitment to care then implicates the carers in the network of punishment and control that operates both within the prisons and in various forms of community control in N.S.W.
In this path-breaking book, David Garland argues that punishment is a complex social institution that affects both social relations and cultural meanings. Drawing on theorists from Durkheim to Foucault, he insightfully critiques the entire spectrum of social thought concerning punishment, and reworks it into a new interpretive synthesis. "Punishment and Modern Society is an outstanding delineation of the sociology of punishment. At last the process that is surely the heart and soul of criminology, and perhaps of sociology as well—punishment—has been rescued from the fringes of these 'disciplines'. . . . This book is a first-class piece of scholarship."—Graeme Newman, Contemporary Sociology "Garland's treatment of the theorists he draws upon is erudite, faithful and constructive. . . . Punishment and Modern Society is a magnificent example of working social theory."—John R. Sutton, American Journal of Sociology "Punishment and Modern Society lifts contemporary penal issues from the mundane and narrow contours within which they are so often discussed and relocates them at the forefront of public policy. . . . This book will become a landmark study."—Andrew Rutherford, Legal Studies "This is a superbly intelligent study. Its comprehensive coverage makes it a genuine review of the field. Its scholarship and incisiveness of judgment will make it a constant reference work for the initiated, and its concluding theoretical synthesis will make it a challenge and inspiration for those undertaking research and writing on the subject. As a state-of-the-art account it is unlikely to be bettered for many a year."—Rod Morgan, British Journal of Criminology Winner of both the Outstanding Scholarship Award of the Crime and Delinquency Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems and the Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Sociological Association's Crime, Law, and Deviance Section
The past 30 years have seen vast changes in our attitudes toward crime. More and more of us live in gated communities; prison populations have skyrocketed; and issues such as racial profiling, community policing, and "zero-tolerance" policies dominate the headlines. How is it that our response to crime and our sense of criminal justice has come to be so dramatically reconfigured? David Garland charts the changes in crime and criminal justice in America and Britain over the past twenty-five years, showing how they have been shaped by two underlying social forces: the distinctive social organization of late modernity and the neoconservative politics that came to dominate the United States and the United Kingdom in the 1980s. Garland explains how the new policies of crime and punishment, welfare and security—and the changing class, race, and gender relations that underpin them—are linked to the fundamental problems of governing contemporary societies, as states, corporations, and private citizens grapple with a volatile economy and a culture that combines expanded personal freedom with relaxed social controls. It is the risky, unfixed character of modern life that underlies our accelerating concern with control and crime control in particular. It is not just crime that has changed; society has changed as well, and this transformation has reshaped criminological thought, public policy, and the cultural meaning of crime and criminals. David Garland's The Culture of Control offers a brilliant guide to this process and its still-reverberating consequences.