Marina Cantacuzino, Founder/ Director of The Forgiveness Project has published her report documenting her research trip to America and Canada as a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellow. The report, Transforming Lives through the power of personal narrative: Innovative Restorative Justice Programes in Custodial and Community Settings can be read here.
The aim of her Fellowship was to examine how non-profits and state government departments were using restorative justice for the rehabilitation of offenders both in custodial and community settings, and to examine what could be learnt to improve and develop The Forgiveness Project’s own award-winning restorative justice offender programme, RESTORE.
The concept and philosophy of restorative justice emerged during the 1970s and 1980s in the United States and Canada. Marina visited state departments where Restorative Justice had been built into legislation and some pioneering prison and community programmes. During the course of her travels, Marina encountered the stories of victims for whom restorative justice had been a catalyst for healing. Mary Johnson whose son was murdered in 1993 and who years later visited the killer, Oshea Isreal, in prison. Nowadays Mary and Oshea are neighbours, living side by side in a suburb of Minneapolis, and working together to promote restorative justice as an empowering process able to rehabilitate both victim and offender.
Most of the programmes that Marina witnessed during her Fellowship had produced evidence of success at reducing re-offending. They also all had one theme in common – that by involving victims in the rehabilitation of offenders, in programmes which focused on apology, gratitude, and accountability, they not only succeeded in turning around the lives of many offenders but also, in so doing, assisted in victims’ own recovery.
Winston Churchill famously stated that “The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country” and the legacy of restorative justice practice in many American States demonstrate the existence of a strong undercurrent of reform.