Meet our Restorative Justice Co-ordinator
We spoke to our Restorative Justice Co-ordinator, Sacha Johnson, to find out what it’s like to help customers to resolve their conflicts.
Hi Sacha, can you explain your role?
My role works on Midland Heart anti-social behaviour cases, and helping to resolve them via Restorative Justice. This involves conferencing with the two parties in a face to face conversation.
So what is Restorative Justice?
Restorative Justice (RJ) is bringing those harmed by a crime or conflict into communication and enabling those involved to come to a resolution. By discussing the harm and impact, all parties are given a platform to work towards a positive way forward and to repair the harm caused.
Agreements are reached between all parties and all parties sign to these agreements, this means that they are more likely to keep to them, as they have not been imposed on them.
So what happens in your average day?
I usually have preparation meetings with customers, where we make an initial appointment and talk to them about their issues and about RJ. We use this to get a feel for the impact, what has the biggest or hardest impact on them, and what they want from it. We suggest it might be a good way for them, as it is empowering them to help resolve the issue.
We do conferences, which is the actual meeting of the two sides, and we are there to guide them through the process. The rest is calling to follow up as to whether the agreement has been stuck to, arranging appointments etc. I also book venues, as we like to use a neutral setting as we find it makes it easier when people are out of their own environment.
What is it like in a conference?
Initially it can be quite icy and tense. Eventually they get rid of the tension and begin to talk, from being cold at the start, by the end, I have seen two people hugging. When there is a good result, you see people relax with each other. You can see the transformation, even when people think this process is never going to work. Conferencing can be really powerful.
How do you help in these conferences?
We help by reminding them how the situation could be. We get them to agree to be civil and let them know the major issues, to make sure they speak about it. People have to talk about the important things in order for it to help. We look at body language and try to cut out any unhelpful comments, which can be detrimental.
It is about respectfully offloading their issues and agreeing what they can do going forward. They need to know what they are coming into it for.
How did you get involved with the role?
I did a degree in Criminal Justice and Psychology, and I had done work in prisons, housing association support work and resettlement. When I saw the role, I thought it would tie everything together. I feel like I am making a difference to people which is what I love about my role. I always like to know that my role makes someone’s life that little bit better.
I thought the role would be really powerful, and it has lived up to that. I have done conferences with five sets of neighbours, with around 25 people around the table, and we had an amazing result! I have many varied cases and to help is very rewarding.
What are the challenges in the role?
It can be challenging to get some people to see the real benefits that RJ could have on their situation. You can see how much RJ can help but people don’t often want to sit across from someone they have a problem with. I have developed ways of putting that across to them, to show that they can help to resolve their own issues. Often once they do take part in RJ they find that their situation improved and they are thankful that they engaged with the service.
If you know of any cases of ASB where you think Restorative Justice could help contact us.