Make Amends is Shekinah’s restorative justice service. Commissioned by The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, Make Amends is an accredited service provider (RSQM) and accredited training provider (TPQM) that delivers communication between those affected by crime and those people responsible across Devon and Cornwall.

What is restorative justice?

Restorative justice (RJ) is a safe and voluntary process which brings those who have been affected by crime into communication with those responsible to help everyone move forward from what has happened. Restorative justice focuses on the needs of both the victim and the offender, allowing both to explore what has happened, the impact that the incident has had on them and what everyone needs to move forward.

Restorative justice gives victims of crime a voice in the process. This is achieved by giving people affected by crime the opportunity to communicate the impact that the crime or incident has had on them, their family and the community directly with the person responsible. Restorative justice also offers victims of crime the opportunity to have their questions answered. Meeting or communicating with an offender or person who has caused harm might feel like a huge step for those affected, but it can help victims to cope and recover from crime. Government research shows that 85% of victims who take part in RJ found the experience useful and were satisfied with the outcome.

Restorative justice also holds offenders to account for what they have done and ensures they take responsibility for their actions. The experience can be incredibly challenging but powerful for those responsible for causing harm as they hear about the impact that their actions have had on others. This helps them in their journey towards rehabilitation and can reduce their chances of reoffending. Government research shows that RJ can reduce reoffending by 14 – 21%. 

Who is it for?

Restorative justice is always voluntary for both victims and offenders and can be requested by either the person who has been harmed, or the person responsible. In both cases the other person will be asked if they wish to take part in RJ. For restorative justice to go ahead both victims and offenders must want to take part and neither party should feel pressurised in any way. The power of RJ comes from the voluntary nature of the process.

Restorative justice can be used for all types of crime or incident, from those which have had less impact on the people involved, to more serious or complex cases.

How does it work?

The first step is for people who are considering restorative justice to meet with a trained restorative practitioner from Make Amends who will tell them more about taking part. During the initial meeting there is an opportunity to talk about what each person needs to move forward from what has happened and to discuss if restorative justice is appropriate. These initial meetings aim to provide people with more information about the process and how they can take part so they can consider if it is right for them. There is no obligation for either person to take part and the voluntary nature of the process is explained fully.

If either the person affected or the person responsible would like to take part in a restorative process, our RJ practitioners will then make arrangements to communicate with the other person to see if they wish to take part in RJ as well. If they agree our practitioners will then start to progress towards bringing both people into communication. Either the person affected by crime or the person responsible can change their mind at any point and they do not need to explain their reasons. If both people do decide to participate in a restorative meeting this will be done at a time which is right for them both. There are no time limits to arranging a restorative meeting and the preparation meetings ensure that everyone involved is prepared and ready to take part. If a restorative meeting is arranged it will take place in a safe, controlled, comfortable and impartial environment. Restorative justice never goes ahead if it is not safe to do so.   

What are the benefits?

Research shows that four out of five victims who have engaged with restorative justice found that it significantly helped them to move on and would recommend it to others. At the beginning they were probably anxious about what it would involve, but because RJ is always ‘victim led’, those affected by crime are always in control of what happens next and to what extent they participate. People who have been affected by crime often say that they felt empowered by the process and really appreciated the opportunity to have their say and to ask questions.

From an offender’s perspective, those who cause harm benefit from a restorative intervention as they do not always have the opportunity to understand how their actions have affected others through the court process. Understanding the impact their behaviour has caused can help the offender turn their life around and prevent them from offending again. In addition, those people who have caused harm may also wish to make amends for what they have done by helping the people they have affected to recover too.

Everyone benefits from restorative justice in different ways because the process aims to support both victim and offender needs.