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INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS – VOL 167 NO 46 3-5 News 3 ‘Making Amends’: the Prison Reform
Trust report on restorative youth justice in Northern Ireland 4 First Interfaith Week begins 5 Many Heavens, One Earth: faith
commitments for a living planet 6 Criminal justice
Alan Russell 7 Comment
Michael Wright and John Cooper 8-9 Letters 10-11 Innovations at the Friend
Jez Smith and Judy Kirby 12-13 Arts 12 Child of Light
Peter and Anne Ullathorne 13 Of truth, teacups and wineglasses
Eleanor Nesbitt 14-15 Where are we? a personal comment
David Jeffrey 16 q-eye: Eyewitness 17 Friends & Meetings
‘Three things strike me as I look around
this room. The first is the scale of your
reach as stakeholders in the climate challenge. Together, the major faith groups
have established, run, or contribute to over half of all schools worldwide. You are the third largest category of investors
in the world. You produce more weekly magazines and newspapers than all the secular press in the European Union. Your potential impact is enormous… You can set
an example for the lifestyles of billions of people. Your actions can encourage political
leaders to act more boldly in protecting
people and the planet.’ Ban Ki-Moon, UN secretary-general, in his address to the Windsor gathering,
see page 5
Cover image: Anusha Subramanyam, artistic director of ‘Beeja’, a dance company based in London, performing The Dance of Creation at Friends House during the Many Heavens, One Earth event. The Dance of Creation is the oldest poem in the world still in use today. It is found in The Vedas from which Hindu philosophy and life flow. This hymn from the Rig Veda asks the core questions of where does everything come from and why? Just as we think we are being given the answer – that it comes from ‘The One who sees from heaven above, He only knows’ – the poem strips away that certainty with the engimatic line ‘Or perhaps he does not know…’ Photo: Trish Carn.
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the Friend, 13 November 2009 News
‘Making Amends’: the Prison Reform Trust report on restorative
justice in Northern Ireland
Restorative Justice (RJ) has worked with young offenders in Northern Ireland and the Prison Reform Trust has statistics to prove it. Its report Making Amends: Restorative Youth Justice in Northern Ireland, launched last week, showed that only forty per cent of young offenders between the ages of ten and seventeen on RJ programmes committed further crimes within a year compared to seventy-one per cent of those sent to prison.
Kimmett Edgar, a Friend and the research manager at the PRT, told the Friend: ‘of course we need to be a bit cautious of headline figures – this was a self-selecting programme so it’s quite likely the ones who partook in the programme were less likely to reoffend. But that’s not to downplay what an immediate effect the programme has had both on victims and the community as a whole, all of which is shown in the reported satisfaction levels of everyone involved.’
Friends have long had a strong interest in restorative justice (RJ), and this report has been a boost for many of those involved. Friend Marian Liebmann is a consultant and trainer in RJ, detailed many pioneering Quaker projects to the Friend, including Nick McGeorge’s work with communities and antisocial behaviour in Southampton, community mediation and prison projects in Bristol, at least four peace education projects in schools across the country and one of Sheffield’s longest-standing RJ mediators.
‘This report is helpful,’ says Kimmett, ‘as this is an important
time to be supporting RJ with the upcoming election meaning all the parties are keen to emphasise crime, punishment and justice. The sad thing is that they each try to be “tougher” than the others by promising to send most offenders to prison for the longest time.’ Both Kimmett and Marian say that the biggest problem facing proponents of RJ is right-wing newspapers driving the political agenda. ‘Politicians have a perception that the public think they’re soft’, says Marian, ‘when in fact this may just be an illusion created by newspaper headlines. But because of this, having come to power saying “we’ll do what works”, the politicians then do nothing of the sort.’
‘We’ve had to deal with things like the Press Association announcement on the successes in Northern Ireland’, says Kimmett, ‘which said: “Forcing Young Offenders To Apologise”, when of course there’s no compulsion in RJ and it can only work if it is voluntary on the part of both parties. Likewise the papers characterise it as “say sorry and you get off ”, which trivialises it and ignores weeks of preparation, what the offender agrees to and the follow-through that ensures making amends.’
The arguments for RJ include not just its effectiveness but its relative cheapness. ‘The current government plans for prison expansion are costed at two billion pounds,’ says Kimmett, ‘not including the £40,000 a year per prisoner to keep them there, so it’s amazing they can’t find money
for alternatives.’ Marian points to programmes like Liverpool’s Community Justice and the Restorative Justice Consortium, which struggle to keep public funding, and Mediation UK, which ‘has been allowed to die quietly’. ‘The problem is they don’t find money for co-ordination across the country’, she says, ‘even though it’s much more efficient to do that than funding a few small projects.’
Despite the success of the RJ work in Northern Ireland, there is no sign that any of the major parties are keen to expand RJ significantly in the rest of the UK. Kimmett says: ‘for Friends who have a hope for a more harmonious community, the most important thing to do now is to inform themselves about what RJ actually is, and to counter the false and harmful image of it that is currently propagated’. Visit tinyurl.com/amends-pdf to download the full report.
Quaker Congo Partnership Friends in the UK have just heard from Bridget Butt that the fighting in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo has spread to South Kivu around Abeka and there is a massive movement of people fleeing, including many members of the Friends Church. We ask all Friends to hold our Congolese friends in their prayers and we will continue to try and keep in touch with our partnership Friends.
From Margaret Gregory, a member of the QCP
the Friend, 13 November 2009