The French Institute for Restorative Justice (IFJR) aims at helping practitioners, teachers, and researchers, whether or not they are directly conducting restorative justice initiatives, this for the benefit of victims, offenders, their loved ones, and all the people who are affected by the direct consequences of the conflict arising from offences and their repercussions. With this in mind, the IFJR’s missions are part of an overall goal of professionalization and optimisation of processes and practices in order to fully adapt to offenders and other court attendants’ needs and expectations with the criminal justice system. It also focuses on informal justice processes. All our actions are guided by core principles such as respecting human beings, being person-centred and gender equal, secularity and the restoration of social harmony.
The Institute aims at facilitating the integration of restorative justice measures within the general criminal justice system and at supporting the development of all types of conflict resolution treatment methods. In order to make this possible it relies on and supports the strong cooperation of a network comprising the criminal justice system and welfare agencies. Over the last thirty years, its programmes in favour of people involved in criminal justice procedures have been piloted by devoted and skilled practitioners operating in the fields of victims’ support, socio-judicial intervention and out of court treatment of offences in the community. Because of their own missions, court practitioners (mostly judges, prosecutors, attorneys, police officers and gendarmes) also share the desire to provide a humane, holistic and integrated response to crime, which does meet people’s needs. We are convinced that restorative justice will contribute to their actions having successful outcomes.
The current criminal justice crisis (: victims’ instrumentalisation, increased punitive sanctions to offenders, a one size fits all prison response to offences, a lack of funding to implement public services missions, whether they are taken over by public services themselves or are delegated to other agencies) has had the sad result that people in contact with it have been unsatisfied. It has also at times led to practitioners’ dissatisfaction, as their own actions and missions have been consistently criticised, whereas their point of view has rarely been taken into consideration. Moreover, the strenuousness of their job seems to be exacerbated by the target focused criminal justice policies which have been put in place over the past few years.
Restorative justice offers a response to these expectations. The evaluations that were conducted abroad (on nearly each continent) confirm the first pilot results and experiences that have so far been run in France. Restorative justice can meet the needs of anybody who is in contact with the criminal justice system in a very ‘hands on’ and fair manner. It allows justice practitioners to focus on their main missions and to implement them within a more humane, peaceful and truly collaborative and enlightened environment.
Our main goals
The French Institute for Restorative Justice endeavours first and foremost to share evidence- based knowledge. Over the last forty years, restorative justice has grown in depth, in evaluated experimentations, and innovative programmes. Our goal is to share with practitioners all the knowledge that has accumulated over the years throughout our own research and with the support of all our partners around the world.
However, all this knowledge needs to be adapted to the French criminal justice system and this can only be done with practitioners’ involvement. Everything we do is done within a context of in depth collaboration between researchers and practitioners. It is characterised by a constant dialogue flow between the field and research. This greatly facilitates our programmes’ sustainability and evaluation.
Against the backdrop of foreign experiments and experiences adapted to the French context, the Institute proposes a range of restorative justice training programmes. Our sessions aim at supporting practitioners’ professionalization with the ultimate goal of enabling them to be more efficient with victims and offenders, more holistic, ethical and to tailor their actions to their clients’ specific needs. We provide strong knowledge transfer (tools and practices; theoretical and scientific).
In order to achieve the aforementioned goals we have assigned four missions to our Institute. To support with these endeavours, our website offers a communication platform for debates, discussions, dissemination, and publication of restorative ethics and practices.
Affirming restorative justice’s grounding principles is our first mission. We are of the opinion that defining and disseminating how it should be implemented, with which types of evidence- based protocols, what types of measures and decisions should be made along these lines, is essential in order to see restorative justice go to scale in France.
‘Consultation conferencing’ is a national consultation programme focusing on a given recently mediatised restorative justice subject, or which raises important practical issues. It endeavours to open a consultation forum, which can be accessible to anyone. We want to facilitate open dialogue where diverse, and even opposite, opinions are heard, respected and lead to a common understanding – which does not mean uniform consensus.
A ‘practices observatory’ shall complement our consultation conferencing, whereby we endeavour to advertise and disseminate innovative restorative justice practices. Evaluating practices has become a sine qua non prerequisite to programmes’ support by policy-makers. We want to make such evaluation of restorative practices available to the agencies which are elaborating these programmes, by way of ‘research-action’ schemes.
We also support restorative justice programmes and this is a particularly important mission to us. In this context, the Institute acts as a partner and supports programme-makers. It aims at linking other agencies, finding other forms of support and disseminating knowledge.