August 17, 2021

The Story of Restorative Justice in Probation

Clifford A Grimason
Restorative Practice Lead

Clifford A Grimason is a the HMPPS Restorative Practice Lead and manager of re:hub - the restorative practice hub for HMPPS. This article written especially for Probation Day relates the story of Restorative Justice and how it came to have a place in modern probation practice.

Restorative justice is a process whereby parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future.

As we look back over a hundred years of probation, it’s perhaps surprising to realise that restorative work has been an intrinsic part of the Service for the last four decades. The use of family group conferencing by social workers supporting families in the 1970s helped inspire social work trained probation officers in Canada and Britain to take a similar approach in the criminal arena.

In the mid-1980s the Home Office sponsored four ‘reparation scheme’ pilots to explore how victim needs might be better met. These restorative pilots helped grow understanding about victims’ need for information and in turn led to the Victim Contact Scheme and the victim liaison work now well established in probation today. Under the Victims’ Code, victims now have a number of rights to be kept informed, including about RJ process, and access to MOJ-funded RJ services where appropriate.

Through Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, RJ was delivered as an intervention by Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and probation staff in some CRCs such as London and Wales took the opportunity to develop probation RJ work further. Now probation staff involved with RJ, whether recently working in CRC or National Probation Service, are together again in the unified Probation Service.

Two probation staff in particular have lived this unfolding story - Barbara Tudor and Liz Dixon.

Barbara Tudor

Barbara was involved with the initial ‘Marshall’ pilots in the West Midlands in 1986 and continues to be a manager in the Victim Liaison Unit there. Already a winner of the Longford Prize in 2003 for her work on RJ, Barbara’s contribution has been repeatedly recognised in the last few years. She won a Butler Trust Award in 2018/19 and was then presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Probation Awards. This was followed in 2020 by receiving an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Liz Dixon

Liz Dixon was also recognised in the 2020 Birthday Honours with an MBE. Then the Restorative Practice Manager for London CRC, this was the culmination of long career in probation, innovating and latterly developing RJ programmes. Liz manages the restorative unit for London.

Liz and Barbara are both part of the unified Probation Service and their combined contribution to restorative work is both impressive and fascinating. HMPPS staff will get a chance to hear directly from Barbara and Liz at a Restorative Justice staff event at 12.30pm today - please see the intranet for details.

Of course there are many other officers up and down the country in probation who are long-term restorative practitioners and who have been trained in RJ and use a restorative approach in service. RJ requires a lot of the skills we see generally in probation staff and beyond applying it in mediation or ‘conferencing’, much routine probation work can be informed by a restorative approach.

The strong evidence base we have for RJ is based around acquisitive and violent crime. With all offender management now within one united Probation Service, there is an exciting opportunity for probation to lead in helping make RJ available to those we are confident it will benefit and deliver the outcomes we expect to see.

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