First, such a system would reserve incarceration for those offenders who pose a threat to the community. However, where incarceration is used, restorative values can influence the environment in a way that promotes healing and rehabilitation (see this programme from Brazil). Such an approach would include fostering pro-social relationships both with community and family members. This would mean:
- Prisoners are placed in institutions close to their families to ease and possibly encourage visitation.
- Visitation policies – while maintaining security – consider the needs for dignity of both the prisoners and visitors as well as creating a safe, comfortable environment for communication an exchange. This might mean more access to contact visits and child friendly spaces.
- Programming – both in prison and transitioning to the community – helps prisoners and their families learn communication and conflict resolution skills. At the same time, participation in restorative process could help them understand the crime, how it has affected all the family members, and the various issues that need to be addressed for the prisoner to return to the family.
Secondly, work with offenders who are not incarcerated would also consider the impact of sanctions or obligations on the offender’s family. This might mean:
- Scheduling restorative processes at times other than the general office hours so as not to disrupt and negatively impact the offender’s (or victim’s for that matter) work relationships.
- Considering family obligations – such as financial responsibilities related to caring for children – when discussing restitution payments or other forms of compensation so as not to create a burden that is detrimental to the family.
- When appropriate, including children and other family members in the restorative encounter with victims not only as support for the offender but as persons who have been affected and have concerns for the future.
These are just some thoughts off the top of my head and I’m sure there is much more that could be added. I do want to note that these considerations do not trump the needs of victims or the role or rights in a restorative system. However, I do think that a restorative system would incorporate these broader concerns into responses so as not to create more harm.