Statement to the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice – 27th Session, May 2018

The Friends World Committee for Consultation (Quakers) support the expanded use of restorative methods within criminal justice systems. We applaud the work of the expert group and welcome their report.

Whereas traditional criminal justice responds by punishing offences against the law, restorative justice seeks ways to repair the harm caused. Criminal behaviour almost always comprises rule-breaking and harm, so it is right that society’s response meets both.

Restorative justice brings together, directly or indirectly, people who have been harmed with those who have caused the harm in a meeting organised and led by trained facilitators.

Evidence of the cost-effectiveness of restorative justice continues to grow. Equally important, expertise grows in applying restorative methods to increasingly diverse and challenging aspects of criminal justice, including violence; cases involving large numbers of victims and offenders; historic or institutionalised abuse and violations of human rights; as well as the use of restorative justice approaches in conflict-affected and transitional settings.

The Secretary-General reminded us that law works best by compliance not coercion. The Sustainable Development Goals reveal the value of processes that promote inclusion. Restorative justice enables criminal justice to earn the commitment and trust of the people most directly affected by crime, as it respects their insights into how best to remedy the damage caused by crime.

We understand the concern that restorative justice could impose additional duties, requiring added resources. However, we believe it is established that restorative methods have powerful preventative effects, such that investment in restorative methods at an early stage prevents the high costs of criminal justice sanctions. It provides victims with ways they can put the effects of the crime behind them. Restorative justice can lead offenders to better understand the impact of their actions, encourage them to take responsibility for the effects on victims, and thus save countless potential victims from further harm.

Far from being an added duty, restorative methods can enhance the efficiency of traditional criminal justice and make it more accountable. For example, in prisons, restorative justice applied to conflicts among prisoners can prevent the escalation of disputes into violence, thus reducing the risks to staff and the costs of managing the aftermath of violent incidents. These benefits were recognised in the Nelson Mandela Rules, Rule 38(1) which advocates greater use of conflict resolution and mediation in prison.

Restorative justice is an inclusive response, which gives voice to the concerns of victims, people who have offended, and the wider community. It is adaptable and varied – every culture has within it wisdom about how to remedy harms that fits with restorative approaches. We commend the expert group report and support the draft resolution submitted to this Session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.