Christine Hunter’s Story
Christine Hunter travelled to North America in 2014 to research Restorative Practice with adult offenders in a Probation setting.
The USA is one of a number of countries that has been testing the use of Restorative Practice with adults in order to increase the effectiveness of justice for communities, including those who directly or indirectly suffer or cause harm. At the time of Christine’s Fellowship in 2014, Restorative Practice with adult offenders was a more recent development in Northern Ireland and in her organisation, The Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI).
During her Fellowship, Christine met and visited over 20 Restorative Practice Practitioners working in courts, probation, statutory and non-government organisations. A highlight of the trip was spending time in Vermont, where restorative principles underpin the criminal justice system by statute. Volunteers were involved in agreeing a range of supportive restorative community sanctions as alternatives to prison, which has resulted in more effective sentences.
Christine also spent time with the Mennonite Restorative Practice Coordinator in Pennsylvania, a post originally held by Howard Zehr, often regarded as the grandfather of Restorative Practice in USA.
Upon her return to Northern Ireland, Christine presented the findings from her Fellowship to over 130 people, including at a seminar for Department of Justice staff. She also had an article regarding her Fellowship published in The Irish Probation Journal (p.229).
Christine has provided training to approximately 100 PBNI staff in order that they can adopt a more restorative approach in their work. PBNI have already implemented nine of the 19 recommendations from Christine’s Fellowship report, including introducing a restorative component to Enhanced Combination Orders, establishing the Reset Mentoring Programme for released prisoners and introducing a Victims Apology Letter Bank.
Christine continues to be a passionate advocate for Restorative Practice. She feels that the opportunity she was afforded by her Fellowship to travel, observe and increase her knowledge and skills in Restorative Practice has been of great benefit to herself, to PBNI and to victims, offenders and communities in Northern Ireland.
Read Christine's report here