Jason's story

Restorative justice can have a number of positive outcomes for both victims and offenders, which are rarely to do with financial compensation. In this case, one burglar’s offer to pay back his victims provided a symbolic gesture to back up his promises to change.

Arrested in February 2012, Jason Reed was sentenced to five years in prison after admitting to more than 50 unsolved burglaries. During the process of clearing up his offences Jason expressed his wish to start afresh and make amends, so he was referred to Nick Hughes, the Bristol police officer who deals with post-conviction restorative justice. 

Jason says: "I wanted to do something that was not imposed on me by the courts. I wanted to 'man up' and face my demons. As well as working towards not returning to prison, I wanted to properly reflect on the reason that I am here.

"I knew hearing from my victims would be a powerful experience."

"My personal resolve was not enough to prevent me from returning to prison last time. I knew I needed to fully engage my emotions by meeting my victims and I knew that hearing directly from them would be a powerful experience."

Nick completed a full assessment to ensure the case was suitable for a restorative approach. He explains: "Jason had taken responsibility for a number of crimes and it was clear that he was keen to try and turn his life around. I made all the usual checks, then contacted victims from the first batch of crimes to offer them the chance to meet with him.

"The victims of three of the crimes agreed. Over the course of a fortnight, Jason took part in three separate restorative justice conferences with the five victims. The three men and two women had all been affected in different ways and had different motivations for wanting to take part. One found that the conference stirred up more emotions than she expected. During the three conferences there were tears, anger, apologies, acceptance, and a little forgiveness.

"The consistent theme across all three was a desire from the victims for Jason to accept the help and support available to him and turn his life around so that he wouldn't create any new victims after his release."

Nick continues: "The feedback from the victims was universally positive, with all stating that they felt safer afterwards and felt less bitterness towards Jason. They scored their overall experience as nine out of 10."

"I wanted to see if I could help my victims."

For Jason the experience was draining but valuable, with him scoring the process 10 out of 10. Jason says: "After the meetings I really wanted to see if I could help my victims in any way. I came up with the idea of offering to repay them the money they lost because of me. I talked to Nick about it and he got in touch with the victims to see if that was OK."

Taking up the story, Nick says: "All the victims agreed to Jason making financial amends and appreciated the symbolic nature of the gesture as well as the monetary aspect."

For Jason, it was an important step in continuing to make amends for the harm he had caused. Amounts of £50, £200 and £250 were agreed respectively with the victims of the three burglaries, and in February 2013 Jason paid a first instalment of £50 to each of the three. 

Nick explains: "This was partly from what Jason had set aside from the money sent to him in prison from family and friends, and partly from his savings from his prison job as a painter. This is a sought-after job and shows the level of trust that he has gained in prison.

"Jason has nearly saved up enough to pay the next instalment and is committed to repaying the full £500 agreed."

"Restorative justice is something I needed to do."

Commenting on his experience of restorative justice Jason concludes: "This was real – not just theory, like on a course. For these people, I was the big bogeyman. Because I have a conscience, the meetings were hard. Restorative justice is powerful stuff and it was something I needed to do. And I'm glad I did."

At the time of writing, Jason had 10 months left to serve in prison. He will serve the remainder of his sentence under licence conditions in the community, providing he abides by the conditions set. The long-term success of restorative justice, and other interventions, in reducing or eliminating future offending by Jason has yet to be seen. But the effect of restorative justice is clear.

 

The Restorative Justice Council would like to thank Jason for sharing his story with us.

© Restorative Justice Council 2015 – do not reproduce without permission.

For interview requests please contact Safi Schlicht: safi@restorativejustice.org.uk

Resource themes: 
Criminal justice, Offenders
Resource categories: 
Case studies