Restorative school culture in Finland – Dr Maija Gellin

Finland / Youth justice / Schools

Dr Maija Gellin is the director of the programme for restorative approach in education and schools (VERSO-programme) in Finland. She has also worked as a mediation officer under the victim-offender mediation service. She is giving lectures on restorative approach at Univ Helsinki and Univ Lapland as well as in many institutions in Finland and other countries. She is a board member of Finnish Forum for Mediation and a member of Finnish women peace builder’s group and Nordic mediation researcher’s group.

Co-presenter, Lawyer Pia Slögs is the director of community mediation centre in Finland. She is a restorative trainer and mediator. She has completed her studies on restorative justice at Univ Hull, UK. She has worked earlier at victim-offender mediation services for 15 years. Pia is a co-trainer in VERSO-programme especially in Swedish spoken schools in Finland.

Topic: How to create a restorative school culture Restorative values such as respect, sense of community and participation as well as the rights of the child are more important than ever from the perspective of global health and well-being threats. Implementing the restorative approach in schools and day care is focusing not only giving restorative methods to school staff members but more to change the whole school culture to a restorative one. Based on 20 year experience in Finnish schools and the results of PhD research, this session is opening the key concepts of a restorative school community. Including restorative attitude, restorative participation and restorative mediation as basics for daily work in schools and kindergartens strengthens the positive identity of children as well as the wellbeing of whole school community and families. When the skill of restorative encounter is learned already in a school, this ability provides know-how throughout the life.

RJ model for family law pioneered in Mexico

This innovative model of restorative justice arises from the experience obtained from the family restoration processes carried out in the Justice Department in Mexico (Poder Judicial del Estado de México), which is a pioneer in restorative practices in judicial settings, achieving an integrated model from which aims to resolve the legal dispute, but goes further by addressing and attending the offenses and damages that arise in the family environment.

Architect of this initiative Professor Claudia Villavicencio will be speaking about this initiative at RJ World and joins us today.

RJ World: Thanks for being with us today Claudia! Could you give us a quick overview of this family initiative in your justice department.

Prof. Villavicencio: The Family Restorative Justice project seeks to deal with the damage in an integral way, that is, not only in form, but also in substance, reaching the damages, to look for alternatives that allow for their repair.

This involves the multidisciplinary intervention of a team made up of professionals from different social sciences, such as law, psychology, social work, etc., who together with the family facilitator, who directs the restoration process, accompany families on the road to dealing with offenses and repairing damages in the family relationship. Multidisciplinarity allows an integral mapping of the conflict from the experience of different professions, which allows identifying the damages and seeking effective alternatives that allow them to be repaired in an integral way.

Restorative justice, when applied to family law cases, allows addressing the entire spectrum of restorative practices from informal to formal practices, not only reactively, but also preventively, which allows families to strengthen healthy emotional and social ties.

The design of programs with a total, moderately or partially restorative approach, is also part of this integrative approach to heal the damage in family relationships, according to the needs of the participants.

Presentation summary: “The importance of the implementation of restorative justice in family conflicts, for the adequate and necessary care of the damage caused in said environment by the family conflict itself, in accordance with the philosophy, principles and methodologies of the practices restorative. The application of family restorative justice is necessary for those conflicts where the damage causes asymmetric conditions between people and this does not allow them to be addressed from a mediation approach, but under the accompaniment that is possible with family restorative justice with appropriate multidisciplinary intervention.”

RJ World: That’s a very comprehensive approach. How does this work in relation to courts and legal proceedings?

Prof. Villavicencio: In judicial settings where there is already a trial, formal restorative practices have been carried out in the Mexican Judiciary Power (Poder Judicial Mexiquense), such as “circles of restorative sentencing in family matter” (“círculos de sentencia restaurativos en materia familiar”) where with the collaborative approach and democratic restorative justice, judges, magistrates, lawyers, parents, children, community members, and the multidisciplinary team that facilitates and accompanies families, attend to damages, and seek to repair them, and with the agreements that emerged from the Restorative process and of the circle said, the corresponding sentence is issued in family matter, without a doubt having facilitated the first circle of this type, it  encourage my interest in strengthening and building a model.

RJ World: Thanks for speaking with us today Claudia. We’re looking forward to hearing all about it in August!

Prof. Villavicencio: Thank you.

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