As part of the UNODC’s Justice Education Dialogue series, E4J joined with the Maynooth University Department of Law to host a webinar for academics interested in learning more about restorative approaches to building trust and relationships in criminal justice classrooms. Jointly hosted by Dr. Wendy O’Brien (UNODC E4J) and Dr. Ian Marder (Maynooth University Department of Law) the webinar featured speakers from Austria, Canada, India, Nigeria, Spain, and USA, who addressed more than 90 participants on the importance of class climate in criminology and criminal justice teaching, and the role of restorative values and methods in helping academics to reflect on their practice, and build and maintain a positive learning environment.
The idea for the session emerged from a series of roundtables that Ian and Wendy organised in May, in which participants discussed the teaching of restorative justice in universities. One of these roundtables focused on the role of restorative principles and practices in higher education classrooms, and participants spoke of the need to bring these ideas to all those who teach in universities. This seemed to be particularly important in the context of COVID-19, given that many programmes will be delivered online into the fall semester, and potentially longer.
Criminologists may be familiar with restorative justice as a philosophy and process of responding to crime, but less aware of the broader concept of restorative practices, or the restorative principles that represent a framework for human interaction. This framework asks those in a position of authority to be proactive in building relationships and human connection. Using restorative principles and practices in our teaching – or ‘restorative pedagogy’ – is about recognising the central role of relationships and trust in building a sense of community and a class climate that is conducive to participatory learning and respectful and open dialogue. This is of particular value in criminology, as the current generation of students will play a crucial role in leading justice reform efforts, and as the study of criminology touches on a range of sensitive and emotive subjects, requiring students to feel comfortable before they participate.
The session began with Dr. Wendy O’Brien and Dr. Vibha Hetu (LNJN National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Sciences, India) talking about their experiences of teaching gender-based violence. They spoke about the importance of hearing student experiences and creating an atmosphere in which students feel comfortable speaking openly and listening respectfully. Next, Prof. Don John Omale (Federal University Wukari, Nigeria) spoke about his experience of teaching victimology in different countries, describing the different dynamics and types of conflict that emerge in higher education classrooms in different cultures.
Moving onto the theory and practice of building and maintaining trust and relationships, Vicenç Rul-Ilan (Restorative Practices Association of the Balearic Islands, Spain) spoke about relational pedagogy, and the need for teachers and trainers of all kinds to deliver their content in a manner that simultaneously builds a sense of community. While the task of content delivery, he argued, occupies much of our preparation and teaching time, it is equally necessary to build a level of group cohesion that, in turn, creates the right class climate for learning. Prof. Jennifer Llewellyn (Dalhousie University, Canada) built on this, introducing participants to relational theory as a different way of thinking about the delivery of human services, not least education and criminal justice. She described a range of local examples from Nova Scotia – including the Restorative Inquiry on the Home for Colored Children and the restorative process at her institution’s Faculty of Dentistry – to illustrate the importance of using restorative values as a lens through which to determine the most appropriate practices and responses to social challenges.
Finally, the group heard from Dr. Lindsey Pointer (Boise State University and Longmont Community Justice Partnership, USA). Drawing on her recent book, Lindsey tied the session together by providing examples of games and activities that can be done in criminology classrooms to help build relationships and support active participation in learning. These games can be found here.
Academics with an interest in Restorative Justice might like to access Module 8: Restorative Justice of the E4J University Module Series on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.
Lindsey Pointer is a restorative practices educator, researcher, and practitioner. She has a PhD in Restorative Justice from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and is a former Fulbright Fellow and Rotary Global Grant recipient. She is co-author of The Little Book of Restorative Teaching Tools: Games, Activities, and Simulations for Understanding Restorative Justice Practices and has worked internationally with communities in a range of contexts to support the implementation of restorative practices in an engaging and relational way. Lindsey currently works as an Adjunct Professor at Boise State University and offers training, consulting, and facilitation services to schools, workplaces, and other organizations interested in implementing restorative practices. She also teaches an online course on implementing restorative practices in university residence halls.
Vibha Hetu has been associated with Criminology and Victimology for the past twelve years. She is currently working as Consultant at L.N.J.N. National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science (NICFS), Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Delhi. She is also a Course Coordinator for Post Graduate Diploma Course in Victimology and Victim Assistance. She has served as Assistant Professor for seven years at Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) and Assistant Director for the Centre for Victimology and Psychological Studies (CVPS) at O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana. Her first book titled “Victims of Rape: Rights, Expectations and Restoration” is published by Thomson Reuters in 2017. She has a special focus in the areas pertaining to victims such as the study of the precursors, vulnerabilities, events, impacts, recoveries, and responses by people, organizations and cultures related to victimization.
Vicenç Rul-Ilan is a school psychologist and mediator. He has worked as a psychologist and as a teacher at all educational levels, from kindergarten to vocational college. He has also worked as a well-being and coexistence advisor at the Ministry of Education of the Balearic Islands, where he advised on improving the coexistence plans of schools, prevention and management of bullying, peer mediation, and restorative practices. He is a member of the Association of Justice and Restorative Practice of the Balearic Islands and the research group "Restorative Practices" of the IRIE of the University of the Balearic Islands.
Jennifer Llewellyn is the Donald R. Sobey Foundation Chair in Restorative Justice and the Yogis and Keddy Chair in Human Rights Law at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Her teaching and research are focused in the areas of relational theory, restorative justice, truth commissions, peacebuilding, international and domestic human rights law, public law and Canadian constitutional law. She has written and published extensively on the theory and practice of a restorative approach. She is currently Director of the new Restorative Research, Innovation and Education Lab at Dalhousie and of the International Learning Community on a Restorative Approach an international collaboration of researchers, policy markers and practitioners supporting jurisdictions committed to being restorative communities.
Don John O. Omale PhD is a British Chevening Scholar of Criminology; and Professor of Criminology at the Federal University Wukari Taraba State, Nigeria. He is internationally published, and has presented academic papers in Restorative Justice, Counter Violent Extremism and Victimology at international conferences in the UK, USA, Canada, The Hague; Bangkok, Valletta-Malta, South Africa, Mozambique, Addis Ababa, Morocco, Cairo, Egypt and Dakar, Senegal. He is an International Advisory Board member to the Restorative Justice Initiative Midland, UK, the Community of Restorative Researchers, UK and Restorative Justice International, USA respectively. He is the author of a bestseller book titled ‘Restorative Justice and Victimology: Euro-Africa Perspectives’ published in The Hague, Netherlands by Wolf Legal Publishers.
Wendy O’Brien is Legal Officer on Violence against Children at UNODC. Wendy also works with the UNODC Education for Justice initiative and leads on the development of educational curricula to enhance tertiary teaching on crime prevention and criminal justice. In addition, Wendy is adjunct Associate Professor with Deakin University (Australia). In this capacity she publishes on topics of children’s rights, criminal sentencing practice, and human rights led law reform. Wendy’s co-edited book, Violence Against Children in the Criminal Justice System, was published by Routledge in 2020.
Ian D. Marder is Lecturer in Criminology at Maynooth University Department of Law. His Ph.D., from the University of Leeds, explored the implementation of restorative justice by the police. In 2017/18, he worked for the Council of Europe as a Scientific Expert to draft Recommendation CM/Rec(2018)8 concerning restorative justice in criminal matters. He now works with governments and criminal justice agencies around the world to implement restorative justice and restorative practices. He also teaches restorative justice in his undergraduate modules on criminal justice, policing, victimology, and delivers a specialized master’s module in restorative justice.