The Forgiveness Project has been running a prison programme in England and Wales since 2007. This work has been consolidated into RESTORE, our pioneering and award-winning, five-day course that comes under the Restorative Justice/Victim Awareness umbrella.

RESTORE’s broadest aim is to reduce the number of victims of crime through the rehabilitation of offenders. Aimed at adults and young people over 15 years of age, it is an intensive, group based intervention that encourages prisoners to explore concepts of forgiveness and reparation in a framework that fosters greater accountability and responsibility. The course is also appropriate for young people and adults on non-custodial sentences.

Our focus is on both victims and offenders taking responsibility for their own lives and on working out in the group what this signifies for each person. This is done in the context of story. Every course is co-facilitated by at least one ex-offender and a victim/survivor of serious crime. This ex-offender will normally have taken part in the workshop in prison prior to release. The use of victims’ stories provides the opportunity for prisoners to address the harm they have caused as well as exploring the relationship between themselves as victims and the victims of their crimes. The use of victims is key to establishing empathy and understanding in the group.

While a Restorative Justice face-to-face meeting may be the most effective way to help a victim receive answers and an apology, it isn’t always possible. RESTORE allows victims to receive related benefits by meeting and working alongside offenders, and helps prisoners address the harm they have caused as well as exploring the relationship between themselves as victims and the victims of their crimes.

Evaluations of RESTORE

Dr Anni Raw, a researcher and evaluator, gathered together all the evidence for RESTORE that was in existence to refine the articulation of the model. This work was supported by pro bono consultancy from CLINKS and New Philanthropy Capital. The result was our Theory of Change.

The narrative can be seen here and the chart showing the various elements is here.

We’ve carried out extensive work at Ashfield Young Offenders Institute in Bristol where, with funding from the Home Office’s Communities Against Gangs, Guns and Knives Fund, we were able to embed the work into the fabric of the prison. In a report of this work programme by cultural scientist Christina Straub, a member of the prison staff described RESTORE as “very powerful” because it “delivered a strong message gently”.

Click here to read the full report.

Our work has consistently demonstrated a shift in offenders’ motivation to change. To back this up we commissioned an independent evaluation of RESTORE from the Forensic Psychological Services at Middlesex University. The evaluation (published in 2012) concludes that the intervention has an impact on recidivism and that those who completed our programme had improved general attitudes to offending, were less likely to anticipate re-offending, and less likely to evaluate crime as worthwhile.

You can read the summary of the evaluation here and the full report here.

In 2009, Lois Edmund, Ph.D., C.Psych., Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution Studies The University of Winnipeg conducted a qualitative assessment based on the first 18 months of The Forgiveness Project’s operations in prison. The report concluded that RESTORE ‘results in dramatic insight for many participants’, but ‘further work is needed to evaluate the long-term learnings of the participants’.

You can read the activity report here.