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Article

Restorative justice practice in forensic mental health settings: bridging the gap

Journal The International Journal of Restorative Justice, Issue Online First 2021
Keywords restorative justice in mental health, evidence-based practice, institutional settings, victims, ethics
Authors Gerard Drennan and Fin Swanepoel
AbstractAuthor's information

    The ‘clinic’ has developed sophisticated systems for responding to the challenge of serious mental health conditions. Mental health services combine hierarchical decision-making processes, with clear medical authority, with interventions that are required to be evidence-based to the highest standard. This is a system in which ethical, defensible practice is imperative to protect the public and to protect practitioners from legal liability in the event of adverse outcomes. Restorative justice interventions are powerful ‘medicine’. At their best, they change lives. However, the evidence base for formal restorative justice interventions when ‘administered’ to people with severe mental health difficulties is almost non-existent. It is into this relative vacuum of empirical support that initial steps are being taken to formalise access to restorative justice for mental health populations. This article will consider the challenges for applications of restorative justice in mental health settings and how the gap between the principle of equality of access and actual practice could be conceptualised and bridged. Recommendations include a rigorous commitment to meeting the needs of victims; a focus on the mental health patient’s capacity to consent rather than the capacity to benefit; practice-based evidence development and the inclusion of restorative justice awareness in all mental health practitioner training.


Gerard Drennan
Gerard Drennan is Head of Psychology & Psychotherapy at South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, United Kingdom.

Fin Swanepoel
Fin Swanepoel is a Restorative Justice Practitioner at South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, United Kingdom. Corresponding author: Gerard Drennan at Gerard.Drennan@slam.nhs.uk. Acknowledgements: We wish to thank the reviewers of the first submission of this article for their helpful comments and suggestions as the article was significantly improved by their guidance. We also wish to thank our colleagues in forensic mental health services who are also working to introduce restorative justice practices in their settings. We have learnt so much from their vision and commitment. We have been sustained in our journey because we journey with them.
Article

Performing restorative justice: facilitator experience of delivery of the Sycamore Tree Programme in a forensic mental health unit

Journal The International Journal of Restorative Justice, Issue 3 2021
Keywords restorative justice, sycamore tree programme, ethnography, forensic mental health, self-presentation
Authors Joel Harvey and Gerard Drennan
AbstractAuthor's information

    Restorative justice has increasingly been used across the criminal justice system. However, there is limited evidence of its use with service users within forensic mental health settings. This study conducted a focused ethnography in a medium secure unit in the UK to explore the implementation of the Sycamore Tree Programme, a specific restorative justice programme that the Prison Fellowship (PF) facilitates in prisons. This article examines the experience of PF volunteers and National Health Service (NHS) staff who came together to run the programme with the first cohort of eight service users (‘learners’). Focus groups were carried out before and after training with eight facilitators, and six interviews with facilitators were completed after the programme ended. Furthermore, detailed observations were carried over the six-week programme. It was found that the encounter was highly experiential for staff and that the group process generated significant emotion for both the learners and facilitators. A pre-requisite for containing the group’s and the facilitators’ emotions was staff taking a relational and collaborative approach to their work. The findings of this study are discussed within the theoretical framework of ‘the presentation of self in everyday life’ (Goffman, 1959), looking through the lens of the performative self in social relations.


Joel Harvey
Joel Harvey is Lecturer in Forensic Psychology at the Department of Law and Criminology, Royal Holloway University of London, UK and Registered Clinical and Forensic Psychologist.

Gerard Drennan
Gerard Drennan is Lead Psychologist – Forensic and Offender Health Pathway, South London, UK and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Contact author: joel.harvey@rhul.ac.uk
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