Victim Liaison Conference

Victim Liaison Conference
Mediation Support -Restorative Technology Ltd presentation followed this one on 15th July 2011

Two Restorative Practitioners discussing Restorative Technology

This is an April 2011 discussion between Paul & Saar about the role of technology in restorative justice work:

S: Technology is just a medium to do stuff. I don't see how principally, there can be any objection to restorative work done by technology; it all depends on how things are done and the specific technology used - as long as it is safe and confidential and all the other restorative principles of practice. 

P: I'm guessing that the number 1 concern is around safety.
S: My attention goes to how it is practiced, not what it is practised through. To an extent, a letter is technology too.

P: If I ask What does appropriate technology for restorative justice look like in this day and age?

S: Again, anything that adheres to restorative principles in terms of impartiality, care-taking of the participants and endeavour to meet their needs arising from the offence would be appropriate.

P: The ideas around SafeSpace, anyone could have come up with. Put some geeks in a room and tell them about Restorative Justice and they might well say we need an app that does this. So why hasn't the restorative world already come up with something like this? Is it that the restorative practitioners are not the technological types?

S: How I'd put it is: Because Restorative Practitioners favour face to face they wouldn't like to use anything else that might replace it. 

P: If a policy maker says to me \Even if victims & offenders want a form of restorative justice that doesn't involve meeting, we as advocates of restorative justice have a responsibility to encourage them into face to face meetings\ Respond.

S: It's hard for me to respond without my thinking -coercion.

P: Well, coercion in everyone's best interests, isn't it?

S: It's the Israeli who should say that, not the Brit. Who determines the best interests of those involved?

P: Well, do you believe in having professional standards in our field? 

S: Yes

P: Who determines the professional standards?

S: The professional body or authority & I can choose whether I want to be part of that profession or not. But if I'm involved in crime (victim or offender) I can't choose. Being s professional adhering to professional standards is very different, rather than being a service user.

P: We're just trying to establish whether a professional association has legitimacy in trying to promote face-to-face meetings built on its experience.?

S: It has legitimacy promoting it as a general idea; it doesn't have a legitimacy to use ALL forms of encouragement. It depends what kind of encouragement. For me the idea is to support people to clarify for themselves what are their needs arising from an offence and then explore all possibilities to meet those needs. Part of that, when it's possible, would be to suggest a face-to-face meeting and to be clear about its advantages and its pitfalls, to offer reassurance in terms of the facilitation of it and then let them decide whether they want to be there or not.

P: And if at the same time you offer a form of time-delayed video conferencing i.e. leaving video messages that the other can respond to?

S: It's as legitimate as anything else.

P: Don't you expect a number of people to choose that option?

S: I expect that some would.

P: Your estimate at quantifying who would choose what.

S: I've not offered it to enough people to even start a guess. Come to me after I've offered it to 500 people and I'll give you a very cautious non-commiting estimate. 

P: Lower the figure from 500 please.

S: Even 50.

P: You'd need to speak to about 50 people before you'd have a feel for whether people prefer face-to-face to video messaging?

S: I think there will be difference in terms of ages, and parts of the population. I think the facebook generation would be much more prone to say yes.

P: And would they be losing something that you really value if they did say yes to video-conferencing?

S: Not necessarily. I think those who would be up for face-to-face would still have face-to-face regardless to the existence of the technology.

P: Do you think that most video-messaging will lead to face-to-face?

S: I'm not saying most, but I'm saying they might. But also even before that, in terms of going through the options, I don't believe what is often the common notion that because there is facebook that young people don't appreciate face-to-face contact any more, not only in restorative work, but in general.

P: OK, so give me the evidence that young people like face-to-face rather than just facebooking?

S: I often see it on my children, who will spend a lot of time on face-to-face; whenever they get an opportunity they'll see a lot of their friends, they'll spend a night at their friends. Facebook does not replace face-to-face; it's an add-on; it's a more.

P: I've got a book called \find your power\ which asks 3 awareness questions fairly early on in it: \What am I doing now? Why am I doing it? And where is it leading?
Sometimes when I'm watching a TV programme I'll remember those questions and think \No, this isn't the best use of my time; I could be engaged with other people in a more meaningful activity than just sitting here watching TV\

S: Sometimes I watch TV and I think \I need that rest\.

P: OK, however, do you think that people sometimes get sucked into a particular technology and forget the options.

S: For sure, but people get sucked into books, they get sucked into everything. I don't see the technology being superior or different in that.

P: Well books is a technology in its own right, and some would say that the best days for humanity were days well before there were books when all learning was passed by word-of-mouth.

S: OK. Good for them.

P: You don't see anything in that?

S: I can see the romantic vision of it, but if it was enough to meet our needs then we would still be there, wouldn't we?

P: I think that shows a naive view of history; that every move in history is always a clear, conscious choice for the better.
S: I'm not suggesting that it is. It's not necessarily a clear, conscious choice or the best way to meet one's needs, but it is essentially what people are trying to do.

P: It may be what people are trying to do and yet we know that it has put the climate of the planet on a disaster course. I'm going wide-ranging here, Saar.

S: Which is fine; I'm happy to have that conversation.
P: Electronic wires now enable people to speak to each other. Telephones are used by all restorative practitioners I know. Given that we can transmit words by wire for a century, my hypothesis is that if we make opportunities to make the words transmitted by wire to include words that address issues around crimes, and if we carry on with a principle of free, informed choice, rather than limiting peoples choices, my guess is that a higher percentage of [clients of] restorative practitioners will choose just text-based or video-based messaging online. I think that the percentage initially choosing that will increase as a result of Restorative Technology and my guess is that a lot of those initial conversations will lead to face to face.

S: I'll agree with that.

P: My second hypothesis is that the pot of people who are aware of restorative justice 

S: -will grow

P: Will grow, and therefore the ultimate number of people with a face-to-face experience will increase through those two routes.

S: Yes. But also there's an issue here in terms of theories of engagement. [There's two things here:]
There's what is the familiar technology to people at the time; that's one thing. As a restorative practitioner I'm less concerned with that than however it looks like, the medium people choose to use to interact with others,[my concern is] that people will have the opportunity to, and hopefully choose to, do it restoratively. 

P: Can you just unpack \restorative\ briefly?

S: Through openness, focus on needs, reparation of harm, acknowledgment of harm.

P: So that whatever medium people use, you hope that they'll use it restoratively. And your job is to encourage that.

S: Part of it. My job as a practitioner is for that.

P: Because I've got one of those sort of minds, an equation pops into my mind which is I=PxAxT.
The Impact (I) on the world's sustainability system is equal to the population (P) multiplied by the affluence (A) multiplied by the type of technology (T) that the population is using. 

S: Who came up with that?

P: It's from a book from the late 80s called The Population Explosion
by Paul R. Ehrlich 

S: And his wife. I know of it.

P: So it just pops into mind because we're talking about what kind of technology people are familiar with and at the other end of the equation is the impact on the world.
You can have values, you can have technology, but you need something in the middle signifying the quality of choice.

S: You could call it the Restorative Mindfulness

P: If I have the mindfulness to successfully link the technology and the values together I'll have an impact on the safety of society which is my goal is a restorative practitioner. So the equation now runs as follows: The Impact of Restorative Work = The value base of individuals, interacting with Restorative Mindfulness, interacting with the technology chosen by each to enable the communication.

...There are a number of biases in restorative practice.

S: The classic [social work] bias is to see the offender as the eternal victim of society. Other biases workers have are religious based, ethnic based; †here are all sorts of biases. Addressing these is the role of supervision and reflection.

P: Let's turn to people's biases around technology.
How do you evaluate if a technology is a good-enough opportunity or not?

S: I'll look at it, play around with it; try it out.
P: If you're hearing from staff that new technology is not time-efficient, I'd like you to have a way of judging whether that is due to the software or the staff skills.
I suggest having a staff member facilitating a session with the technology, creating access for a role-playing victim and offender to communicate through the technology and see how they use the tools available.

[Discussion of all S's roles] 
P: Personally I see a role for Restorative Technology in all those roles:

S: You can think of Skype, you can think of SafeSpace for sure. But the way the set-up is for me and the timescales and the current state of play within my agencies, there's a level of development that doesn't happen.

P: I need to delve and identify the pressures of being a middle manager at this time.

S: Knowing whether you've got a job or not, the tasks need to be done with less work-force, budgets being non-existent for anything that is not statutory, people's moods because of all of the above, service users moods because of all of the above.

P: So not what you would call the ideal conditions for developing innovation.

S: Well maybe you can argue that this is the most appropriate time for that. But in terms of resources it is very thin. And the personal elements are for me are that on top of all of that I'm doing a university course and I've got two teenagers.

P: Can you tell me the story of how you got initially involved in SafeSpace?

S: You alerted me to it, and as I trust your judgment we met. And I thought it was good, with the potential to do all those things.
I'm not yet aware of the technical and circumstantial elements of it not being used more than it is.
[S asked for recording to be turned off so gap in recording]
There have been a number of factors which are not related to the technology or the idea that has influenced the execution of the pilot. At the moment the pilot has not been exhaustive enough for me to give you any conclusions. The fact is that I stand by the first impression that it has the potential to be a very very useful tool that would expand restorative practice and would include more people within it that would have refused. I'm sure that it could be phrased better.

P: Whilst the tape recorder was off what I heard is that these aren't just circumstances to do with financially stretched times.

S: No, it's also the individuals that are in place and structural things. For example the senior role that I'm holding within the YOT which includes  practice supervision has been reduced from a full-time post to a part-time post; so that's like 50% off to carry out the same tasks, so development is kind of being pushed down in the list of priorities.

P: OK, but where in the chain of command does the role of innovation lie?

S: There isn't such; it is hoped that everybody would engage with that. In my youth offending team there isn't an innovation officer role, but innovation is welcome, which is why the pilot is welcomed, but this was before everything else was changing quite colossally.

P: So, I really need to pick apart that beautifully glib phrase that innovation is welcome. Not every YOT would probably say that. Why was this innovation welcomed; a) by you & then b) by others when you were recommending it...Give me other examples outside of SafeSpace?

S: Just the taking on of restorative work when it started was quite robust and fundamental here is one example.

P: I'm trying to find a larger seedbed than Devon has been able to provide.

(New side of tape recording ; summary from Paul): This is around robust commitment to restorative justice and capacity of the staff.

S: Capacity of resources and also of ability - practice; restoratively and technologically.
P: So I need to have a way of assessing people's ability technologically, their restorative practice.

S: The resource availability -time
Ethical considerations in relation to the mandate to checking restorative commitment.
A face to face conversation is probably a good way 

P: Why not through the technology itself, because that might establish commitment to it.
We have a website existing called, which is similar to one we provide for youth offending teams. Through that I'm keen to start video and text-based conversations with people about how we might use this technology in victim-offender circumstances with all the moderating then done by Youth Offending Team officers; who wants to join me in brief on-line video and text messaging to find out more about how it works and whether we've got the basis of a partnership between your YOT and Restorative Technology Ltd.

S: It would need to grab me

[Discussion of pressure on time compared to last year]
There are many pressures on my time; and it's not only me it's everybody....