The Psychology of Restorative Practice in Forensic Mental Health Recovery

Author | Gavrielides, T. (2016), In The Psychology of Restorative Justice (pp. 127-142). Routledge


There is extensive restorative justice investment within prison contexts but forensic mental health services and restorative justice interventions are kept at arm’s length. Where restorative practice has been implemented in forensic mental health settings there is caution as they address shame and guilt inducing situations where unexpected vulnerability can emerge when concealed emotions are unfolded. Forensic mental health settings face substantial challenges with restorative practice these include the view that the mentally ill do not have the mental capacity for moral responsibility. Researchers have critiqued the place of restorative practice in offender rehabilitation stating restorative practice does not constitute a model of human behaviour. However, restorative interventions inducing guilt are an emotional mechanism by which empath and forgiveness develop in the transformative experience which promotes growth and development, inking restorative practice with mental health recovery. Despite this, there is still no empirical evidence that there are no reasons of why restorative justice approaches are not suitable for mental health contexts. In response, a project was initiated to introduce restorative justice practice in forensic mental health services, interviews were conducted with victims, staff, offenders and facilitators. Findings show the process of considering, preparation and decision making became part of the offenders rehabilitative activity across a wide range of diagnostic categories and a learning process for the organisation with immediacy in response. Staff were needed to inform decisions, dispel fears and recognize when restorative approaches were helpful for the organizational culture which was otherwise seen as potentially destabilizing. Facilitators ability to maintain safety was needed, often challenging as many cases fell into the complex and sensitive category. Staff felt acknowledged and less vulnerable with restorative justice interventions providing a safe structure to meaningfully encounter which positively affected motivation and reduced repeated harmful behaviour. Although, success depends on supporting patients through small step wise movements which have not yet been developed, this may also be challenging in mental health contexts whereby index offences are not the primary defining characteristic, resulting in a hierarchical order of which offences can receive limited resources. It is important that restorative practice is not seen in isolation but as complementary for the overall recovery and rehabilitation process as they contribute to the development of emotional understanding and repair relationships. Restorative justice practices also make contribution to the overall therapeutic goals of the service, helping to address offence paralleling behaviour as manifested during institutional care.




Resource themes: 
Mental health
Resource categories: 
Health, Research