International innovations in restorative justice in mental health – next steps for Australia
Author | Michael Power, Churchill Fellowship 2017
Restorative practice incorporates conversations, mediation and circles used within secure mental health units alongside multidisciplinary teams who work with victims and offer psychoeducation while communicating information on the offenders illness, treatment, risk management and relationship building, offering victims opportunity to move on. Despite this, the substantial view that mentally ill offenders have difficulty processing information and the presence of suspicious professionals can inhibit the implementation of restorative approaches in forensic mental health settings. Implementation of restorative approaches in forensic mental health settings has been monitored in Sussex, Kent, Broadmoor and South London to gain insight on the processes involved with patient to patient and patient to staff violence. More preparation was needed when violence was more significant, starting small to build momentum within conversations about the impact and assessments of patients capacity was needed alongside adapting the way restorative interventions were carried out with serious mental illness. In addition, contact between victims and mentally ill offenders has also been monitored in the Netherlands which demonstrated a need for social workers carry out restorative justice interventions and provide victims information on forensic mental health settings as treatment teams can often overlook the impact of violence due to their long term treatment roles. From this, it is evident there is a need to adapt restorative approaches to fit forensic patients and develop specific outcome measures for this. The need to include an external facilitator was consistently highlighted along with assessment of suitability, as some illnesses can complicate the process due to lack of empathy and regret, supported by the treatment team and emphasis of voluntarism for all parties. Benefits consistently demonstrated restorative approaches complement therapeutic values and link to service values in effectively responding to and reducing violence. Although, staff were not able to take on implementation themselves, suggesting restorative practice should be embedded in education and training days. Future directions should also include securing funding for collaborative development of a localized model and training, along with developing organisational policy which defines assessment suitability and eligibility criteria.