Blog: Restorative Justice – Giving Victims of Crime a Voice

In this blog, Keeva Baxter and Sula Blankenberg from Why me? outline the importance of restorative justice and how Why me?, with funding from The Bell Foundation, is working to widen access to restorative justice for speakers of ESL.

Key sections in this article:

Being a victim of crime can be a life-changing experience. Many people affected are left with endless questions; “Why me?”, “Why did they do it?”, “Are they going to do it again?”.

People affected by crime, particularly those who speak English as a second or additional language (ESL), are often silenced in the criminal justice system, where the focus is on punishment, rather than the needs of the people who were harmed. Without a chance to have their say, many feel retraumatised by the justice process.

Why me? knows that restorative justice can help empower victims of crime by giving them the voice they are otherwise denied. It is an opportunity to explain the impact that the crime had directly to the person that harmed them.

“I wanted him to be accountable to me – not to a judge, not to the police, not to prison officers but to me. I felt my voice wasn’t being heard.”

For the person who committed the crime, restorative justice allows them to see the impact of their actions and make amends for the harm they caused.

“How are you supposed to live with yourself, if you can’t let those people live with themselves, because they’ll carry it around for the rest of their lives.”

What is restorative justice?

Restorative justice allows people who have been harmed by crime, and the people who caused the harm, to talk about what happened in a face-to-face meeting, via video, or through letters.

The process only goes ahead if all parties consent and they can stop at any time. It is a safe and controlled process that involves lots of preparation. It is flexible around the needs of the people involved, making it a unique and powerful intervention.

Using restorative justice for people who speak ESL

At the heart of the restorative process is dialogue, but communicating distressing feelings can be difficult. Listening to someone who you have harmed talk about the impact of your actions can also be very demanding. These things can be very hard even for people whose first language is English. When it comes to those who speak ESL, they often face more barriers to accessing, participating, and taking ownership of the restorative process.

It is for this reason that Why me? created Project Articulate, with funding from The Bell Foundation’s Criminal Justice Programme, to ensure that language and culture are not barriers to accessing support for minoritised communities in the UK.

In the first year of the project, we partnered with Bedfordshire Victim Care and PBIC, a migrant community organisation who provide advice in service users’ native language, English classes, social events and volunteering opportunities for European migrants. Why me? ran facilitation training for both organisations so they could see the power of restorative justice and how it could support migrant groups.

“Restorative justice is a great opportunity for us to provide an improved level of service to our clients at PBIC. With the support and training from Project Articulate we now feel equipped to make this work happen.”

PBIC, Project Articulate partner.

As part of Project Articulate, Why me? continues to speak to people who use ESL to get their thoughts on the restorative justice process. One person argued that it "would have a huge impact” adding that “it really helps people move on and develop." Another highlighted that “the language barrier can play a huge role because so many things can be lost in translation. That’s why it’s so very important that the interpreters are with them."

Restorative justice is a tool that can transform the lives of people affected by crime, and language shouldn’t be a barrier to accessing it. Why me? are working hard to widen access to restorative justice, ensuring that people who speak ESL are supported through the process and get the healing they need to move on.

Find out more

If you have been affected by crime or conflict, find out more about how restorative justice can help you.

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