A RJ Brunch took place today 18 November at KU Leuven with about 40 students from the course “Restorative Justice” thaught by Prof. Ivo Aertsen. The initiative has been organized by two researchers at the Leuven Institute of Criminology (Monique Anderson and Emanuela Biffi) in collaboration with the EFRJ staff and some volunteer students who actively contributed in the realization of this project.
The lecture was entitled “Building social support for and promoting accessibility of restorative justice” and it referred to two EU funded projects coordinated by the EFRJ during the past years, “Building Social Support for Restorative Justice” and “Accessibility and Initiation of Restorative Justice”. After a short presentation on the EFRJ aims and activities, including the annual international RJ Week campaigns, the lecture focused on practical ideas for raising awareness and increasing accessibility of RJ.
Students have been introduced to a possible scenario: “Imagine… In a parallel universe, there is a city that is exactly the same as Leuven except that nobody has ever heard of RJ. It is your job to design a programme to introduce RJ as a way to respond to crimes in the population.” Then, they have been divided in six groups and assigned different tasks. Some had to think about raising public awareness about RJ, others had to consider how to train and increase cooperation among RJ practitioners and criminal justice authorities, others had to reflect about possible ways to contact victims and offenders and offer them the possibility to take part in a RJ process.
Once the students concluded their group tasks, the RJ Brunch took place. Lots of students brought food to share with their colleagues during the class.
During this second part of the class, students had also the opportunity to present their findings to the other groups. Students interacted well and gave some interesting, thoughtful and relevant responses. Among other ideas, students believed in the importance of introducing RJ in school settings, they thought about using print or Internet-based media depending on the age of the campaign’s audience, they stated that judicial trainings should be regularly provided because “judges and prosecutors are perceived to be more authoritative than other bodies” when offering RJ, they believed that standardised letters can be sent to both victims and offenders, they insisted on properly prepare the individual parties before offering the possibility of RJ.
Finally, students have been introduced to some of the findings of the two EFRJ projects: sometimes their ideas were matching the findings of the projects, other times new or opposite ideas were presented to them.
Students seemed to have enjoyed this interactive class; one of them wrote immediately after the class to the organizers: “I want to thank you for today’s lesson; it was really engaging and challenging. Personally speaking, you have opened new perspectives for me on restorative justice and I am really happy about this. […] My thesis will focus on restorative justice: it was thanks to Professor Aertsen’s course that I decided to write about this. […] Also hearing about your experiences has been really helpful. I wish I had the opportunity to ask you some more questions […] Thanks again for today’s lesson. Greetings.”
Many thanks to all students who attended and actively participated in today’s RJ class. In particular, many thanks to the students who volunteered to be the “group leaders” during the breakout sessions (Bianca, Daria, Ginevra, Lin, Marta) and those ones who brought food to share with others (e,g,, Charlotte, Valentina, Donatella, the Armenian student and others whose name was too difficult to remember!). Many thanks also to the EFRJ staff, in particular Mirko Miceli, Edit Torsz, and Kris Vanspauwen.