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Martin Wright

Martin WrightMartin Wright was an early advocate for restorative justice in the UK and Europe, and continues to provide leadership there and abroad.  He has written three books, the most recent of which is Restoring Respect for Justice: A Symposium (Waterside Press, Winchester UK, 1999).  He also co-edited an anthology on restorative justice, and has written a number of articles and papers on various aspects of restorative justice.

Martin's work is not confined to writing.  He has been Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Policy Officer of Victim Support, and Librarian of the Cambridge Institute of Criminology.  He was a founding member of Mediation UK, and more recently of the European Forum on Mediation and Restorative Justice.  He acts as a voluntary mediator in the Lambeth mediation Service, London.  He is currently Visiting Research Fellow at the School of Legal Studies, University of Sussex.

Book Review: Just emotions: rituals of restorative justice.
by Martin Wright It is well established that restorative justice 'works', whether by that you mean that re-offending rates are reduced, or that a high proportion of victims and offenders feel that it was a suitable way to handle their case, or that it transformed their relationship and understanding of each other. What we haven't had is much explanation of why it works, apart from general references to empathy, and that is what Meredith Rossner sets out to provide. She begins with some case histories, and mentions that for example eye contact can be 'probably a much more profound apology than anything they could have said' (p. 4). But an unsuccessful conference can be a 'waste of time' (p. 6). An 'emotional' conference is seen as a good one, and she identifies reasons for satisfaction and the reverse, suggesting that 'examining the dynamics of conferences in depth is more productive than more generalized comparisons with courts' (p. 20). Two common criteria for 'success', satisfaction and re-offending, depend on the quality of the conference more than simply on whether the case went to RJ or to a court.
Martin Wright reviews Forging Justice: A Restorative Justice Mystery
from the article by Martin Wright: Police detective Claire Cassidy was disillusioned after twelve years pursuing young people – often the same ones repeatedly – in the decaying steel town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Book Review: Reconstructing restorative justice philosophy
by Martin Wright: A symposium on a Greek island, under Chatham House rules, is a promising setting for a collection of articles, and the fifteen participants to this one have tackled a challenging subject. Part I, 'Reconsidering restorative justice', begins by setting the scene and defining some terms (though not 'justice' or 'punishment'). Taking Aristotle as a starting point, Vasso Artinopolou and Theo Gavrielides see the need for justice and lawfulness, but also fairness and equality, which implies reducing social inequality. Later writers emphasise the need to restore relationships: participating justice includes the process as well as the outcome. There is more to restorative justice (RJ) than conferencing, Gerry Johnstone says. It is concerned with the victim and the harm suffered, not merely the wrongdoing; it does not merely punish but 'recovers' the offender; and it does not aim to be dispassionate but allows emotions to be expressed. This leads on to a broader concept of living restoratively, which basically means considerately: work on relationships, involve those affected by a decision in a dialogue, and take responsibility for your actions.
Faith groups and restorative justice
from the article by Martin Wright on the Restorative Works Learning Network: A government minister, Jeremy Wright, recently raised hopes of a new approach to criminal justice for England and Wales based on restorative justice. Disappointingly, it is being introduced half-heartedly. The Opposition is attacking it for the wrong reasons; the voluntary sector seems to have no clear strategy for making it happen, and it could fall into the lap of profit-oriented companies. But faith-based groups could fill the gap and help to transform the system. Restorative justice is based not on ‘returning evil for evil’ but on healing the harm, and where possible enabling the victim to tell the offender the effects of the crime on him or her, and to ask questions. This can be an eye-opener to the offender. Unlike the adversarial criminal trial, the process encourages empathy on both sides, although of course it doesn’t guarantee it.
Review: Regulating restorative justice: A comparative study of legislative provision in European countries
Reviewed by Martin Wright Many European countries have taken at least some steps towards incorporating restorative justice in their system, and this book assess how far some of them have gone in formalizing their progress in legislation. The countries represented are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and two neighbours, Israel and Turkey. Each chapter, after two introductory ones, follows a template giving a legal description and evaluation of restorative processes, and the political and legal understanding of victim-offender mediation and restorative justice. The list of nearly 40 subdivisions, combined with the analysis in the concluding chapter, are in themselves a useful outline of factors that need to be considered by anyone planning to introduce restorative justice or indeed to improve on measures already introduced. There is something to learn from most countries about how to introduce RJ, or in some cases how not to.
Review: A community-based approach to the reduction of sexual re-offending: circles of support and accountability
by Martin Wright Often sex offenders are isolated people who have difficulty making relationships, and when they come out of prison the double stigma of prison and the nature of their offence isolates them still more – an extra hardship for them, and an increased risk that they will revert to their previous behaviour. So the idea of forming a circle of support for them is both humane and a safeguard. It does not fall under the usual definition of restorative justice, because it does not include dialogue with the victim, which would in many cases be unwanted and/or inappropriate. It does however restore or even improve the situation of the offender, and it involves members of the community.
The curious Mr Howard: Legendary prison reformer
reviewed by Martin Wright Many adjectives could be applied to John Howard: methodical, persistent, even obsessive. 'Curious' in the title of this new biography is apt, meaning both 'unusual' and 'wanting to find out'. Tessa West has made full use of published and archival sources, some of them not available to previous biographers, to present an insightful and readable account of 'the Philanthropist', as he was known.
Mediation in penal case reconciliation
reviewed by Martin Wright The idea of retribution for wrongdoing is deeply ingrained, and its extreme form is the blood feud or revenge killing. Professor Elezi describes the long struggle to eliminate it in one country. A Western reader, on learning that there are still blood feuds in parts of Albania, may dismiss them as a relic from more primitive times; but perhaps it is worth reflecting that the principle is still at work among gangs in our big cities and, some would say, in civil wars and international conflicts. So it is interesting to see how it has been tackled in Albania.
Restorative justice realities: research in a European context
reviewed by Martin Wright: Nine countries, nine ways of doing restorative justice, and several approaches to researching it. In order to describe the research, the authors also provide useful summaries of how restorative justice has been put into practice in Belgium, Norway, Austria, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and England and Wales. Mostly these countries use victim-offender mediation, in some cases with a high proportion of indirect (shuttle) mediations; a few, including the Netherlands and Norway, have begun to experiment with conferencing. Perhaps the best way to indicate the book’s scope is to give examples of the information it contains, rather than attempt a summary.
The promise of restorative justice: New approaches for criminal justice and beyond
reviewed by Martin Wright It is becoming increasingly clear that the principles of restorative justice can be used, as the editors say, outside the formal criminal justice system, and this book bears witness to that. Half is about criminal justice, and half about other applications in schools and elsewhere. The contributors reflect the book’s origins among a group at Fresno Pacific University in California, but other chapters come from Bulgaria, Canada, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.
Debating restorative justice
Chris Cunneen and Carolyn Hoyle. Debating restorative justice. Oxford and Portland, OR: Hart Publishing. 2010. 195 pp. £15.00 (ISBN 13: 9781849460224) reviewed by Martin Wright This is the first of a new series of law books, each containing two essays of about 30,000 words on different sides of a current debate. Carolyn Hoyle suggests that there is more talk than action, and some of the action called restorative is actually punitive, such as the community service performed in conspicuous clothes. In her discussion of communitarianism she regards community participation as the presence of supporters and others at a restorative conference, but does not refer to the involvement of independent voluntary-sector mediation services (and admittedly they are thin on the ground). She considers that communitarians go too far in rejecting the state. In her view restorative justice and criminal justice are complementary: courts are necessary if the accused doesn’t admit involvement. This is true; Hoyle does not exclude the use of prison for retribution, but surely in a fully restorative system the courts would impose reparative, not punitive, sanctions. She does not explore whether these should try to be proportionate to the offender’s culpability or the harm suffered by the victim.
Response by Dr Martin Wright to European Commission consultation document: Taking action on rights, support and protection of victims of crime and violence
From the response by Dr. Martin Wright: The key to this reply is in the last answer: that in principle restorative justice practices should be available to all victims, subject only to the safeguards mentioned in the reply to Question 17. Restorative processes are in the interests not only of victims, but also of offenders and the community. Victim-offender dialogue is valuable as an end in itself as well as a means to an end. For many victims, action to make the offender less likely to re-offend is at least as high on their list of priorities as monetary compensation or reparation through work. When the victim and offender agree on one of these methods of reparation, it is incumbent on the community to provide the resources to enable offenders to carry them out.
Restorative justice is not just saying 'Sorry'
Martin Wright's letter to the editor that didn't get published: Mark Johnson’s critique gives a chance to correct some common misconceptions about restorative justice (‘Apologising to victims will not reduce reoffending rates’, SocietyGuardian, 18 August). It is not about dragging offenders to see their victims, telling them to say “sorry”, nor making them do menial tasks wearing conspicuous clothing. It does not humiliate offenders (provided it is done properly, of course); they are enabled to show that they can do something useful and be valued for it. It lets victims explain, and offenders understand, the damaging effects of their actions (and in some cases, such as fights, both have been at fault in some ways). Both are asked questions like ‘What happened?’ ‘Who was affected?’ ‘What do you think and feel about it?’ and ‘What needs to be done to make things better?’ Victims often ask for an apology and/or reparation, but what most of them want is answers to questions and action to make a repeat less likely. This could mean that the offender makes reparation by co-operating with whatever support he or she needs, programmes such as anger management, drug treatment or vocational skills.
Just care: Restorative justice approaches to working with children in public care.
by Martin Wright Just care: Restorative justice approaches to working with children in public care. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2009. 224pp. ISBN 978 1 84310 981 5 More and more schools are turning to restorative methods,` often helped by Belinda Hopkins’s previous book Just schools. Now she has applied the same principles to meeting the needs of the troubled and troublesome children who are looked after in state institutions. The ethos is similar, and the approach is spelt out clearly for those who do not have previous knowledge of it, with numerous diagrams and a good index. The examples are chosen to reflect the needs of the staff in children’s homes; others such as youth workers and foster parents could also find this book helpful.
Book Review: The penal crisis and the Clapham Omnibus: Questions and answers in restorative justice.
There has always been a temptation to regard restorative justice as an accessory to the conventional process, in which less serious cases may be diverted out of the system, but for more serious ones a restorative process is only available as an addition to punishment. After two books explaining the theoretical and political case for restorative justice (Cornwell 2006, 2007), the author has drawn up a proposal for basing the whole system on restorative principles. His book is structured in three sections of five chapters, each addressing one of the questions which the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ (the lawyer’s stereotype of the ordinary person) would want answered.
A comment on Do Better Do Less: The report of the Commission on English Prisons Today
The Commission on English Prisons Today is an independent commission set up in 2007 by the Howard League for Penal Reform. Its 77-page report details the growth in prison population in the UK, accompanied by a rise in the reconviction rate, and aggravated by 49 ‘law-and-order’ laws between 1980 and 2009. By contrast England in 1908-39, and Finland in 1960-2000, have shown that imprisonment can be deliberately reduced with no effect on the crime rate. Scotland is planning to do likewise.
Book Review: Restorative justice: From theory to practice, Holly Ventura Miller, ed.
"Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance" is an annual series published by Emerald Group Pub, Ltd. of scholarly work in criminology and criminal justice studies, sociology of law, and the sociology of deviance. This volume, edited by Holly Ventura Miller, is dedicated to restorative justice.
Martin Wright: We need restorative justice
While these figures do not directly relate to restorative justice, in my opinion they demonstrate the need for it.
Martin Wright: Victims' needs and rights
An ICM survey of 1,085 victims of non-violent crime in the UK, for the Ministry of Justice in England, found that 81% would prefer an offender to receive an effective sentence rather than a harsh one, and nearly two thirds (63%) disagreed that prison is always the best way to punish someone. An overwhelming majority of respondents (94%) said the most important thing to them was that the offender did not do it again. This figure is higher than the last survey in 2006 (91%).
Martin Wright: Review of Peacemaking Circles & Urban Youth: Bringing Justice Home
In 1988 a young woman named Molly Baldwin started working with young people in deprived suburbs of Boston, MA, including many immigrants from the world’s trouble spots. Her programme, Roca (Spanish for ‘Rock’), developed into a place where young people could relate to adults, who support them and help to meet their needs. Seven years ago, Roca adopted the Indigenous practice of holding Circles, in which each person only speaks, in turn, when holding the ‘talking piece’.

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