5 benefits of restorative practices for kids who have crossed the line

The phrase ‘criminal actions of a child’ isn’t an easy one to swallow. It sounds contradictory – incomprehensible, even.

Unfortunately, it’s something the justice system has to deal with all too regularly. More worryingly, research suggests that 72% of children released from custody go on to reoffend within twelve months.

Restorative practices could be the answer. They work on the basis that by putting a victim in direct contact with their offender, a meaningful communication can take place that will result in the situation either being resolved or significantly improved.

Applying this method to youth crime is challenging, but there are five clear benefits of restorative practices for young people that are too compelling to ignore:

1. Admission should follow

If admission hasn’t been forthcoming, by putting the offender in front of the person they’ve harmed, the stark realisation of what they’ve done can be enough to prompt honesty on their part.

The restorative process is a big deal, particularly for children and teenagers, and it sometimes only takes a scenario as unusual and intimate as this to encourage admission.

2. The impact of their actions will become clear

When sat in front of someone who has been directly affected by criminal actions on your behalf, the impact of what you’ve done becomes crystal clear.

The restorative process can cause additional stress to the victim, and when you add that mindset to the harm already caused, their demeanour will be a powerful affirmation of what the offender has done; they’re unlikely to forget such an encounter.

3. They can start making amends

Restorative processes are all about starting a journey that ends in either a fully resolved situation or one that is greatly improved.

If the young offender shows remorse, they’ll doubtless want to make amends, and there are few better ways to do so than while in direct contract with the victim.

4. Relationships can be repaired

If the situation features either members of the same family or two friends, restorative justice may be the catalyst required to repair the broken relationship.

Depending on the offence and the prior strength of the relationship, this process gives both the victim and the offender a priceless opportunity to make amends and avoid losing the special connection that once existed.

5. Future behaviour will be influenced

Perhaps most profoundly, the restorative process is a great way to positively influence future behaviour – particularly when the offender is still in the process of growing up and learning the way of the world.

As we’ve noted previously, this will be a big deal for both parties, and isn’t something either will forget. The mark left on the offender as part of restorative justice is likely to be indelible and should inspire them to avoid future criminal activity.

Final thought

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to restorative justice, and the above results may not present themselves in every case. But this method of repairing harm caused by the criminal actions of young people has shown significant promise in the UK and schools adopting restorative practices in Northamptonshire, and should be further explored by those looking for impactful solutions to time-honoured issues.