Mediation and restorative justice in prison settings

The Project

This European project, carried out by an international Consortium led by the Hungarian organisation Foresee Research Group , focuses on the role of mediation and RJ practices not in the pre sentence phase, but rather in prison settings, reaching out for victims of serious crimes and inmates condemned for aforementioned crimes.

In the last two decades the importance of RJ became widely recognized in the European jurisdictions and numerous projects have been implemented to investigate the impact of RJ practices on victims, offenders and communities. However, most of the European projects on RJ practices are applied at the pre-sentence phase, as a diversionary method in case of less serious crimes although several researches showed, that the positive effects of RJ can be the most visible in cases of more serious crimes.

The project involves researchers, practitioners, criminal justice professionals and policy makers from the countries involved, enabling them to participate in an interdisciplinary, intersectoral and international collaborative process. The project combines theoretical (desk research) and action research (conducting and evaluating a pilot project as ‘action research’, including training seminars) elements, together with fieldwork (interview-based survey).

The main object of the project, as stated above is to explore the opportunities for implementing mediation and RJ practices into the prison settings. Further aim is to test if such practices can help supporting victims of crime, raising responsibility-taking in offenders, supporting the prison staff and inmates in peacefully resolving their internal conflicts and reintegrating offenders into society after release. Piloting RJ in the correctional settings also allows to test the potential of RJ in the most serious crimes that usually have a significant impact on both victims and offenders.

Approach and methodology
The research approach of the project is based on triangulation, namely by the combination of interview-based surveys, focus groups meetings and action research. Through this approach, the findings will yield information about both the theoretical and practical aspects of the subject, and it can result in designing and realising an innovative good practice. Through the triangulation of methods, advantages of all three methods can be combined in order to better understand the underlying process behind RJ in the correctional settings.
Methods to be used:

– in-depth interview and focus group meetings with staff of prisons, juveniles and adult offenders, victims, criminal justice practitioners, policy makers and other stakeholders about their attitudes towards RJ (interviews conducted with victims depend on whether the researchers will manage to have legal access to victims’ data).
– action research, including
– awareness raising for correctional staff
– advanced RJ training about the use of RJ techniques in prisons for  practitioners and mediators
– organising and evaluating pilot RJ meetings to resolve disputes between staff members, inmates, victims and community representatives.

The partners
The MEREPS Consortium includes 7 organisations from 4 European countries. The following introductions will supply you with basic information about the partners involved, their activities and representatives in the project.
Foresee Research Group (promoter) – is an interdisciplinary think tank of young social scientists. Its research and project activities focus on promoting the principles and practices of alternative dispute resolution and helping the integration of marginalized groups in the society.
Representative in the project: Dr. Borbala Fellegi, MA, MPhil, PhD  – Foresee Research Group, Executive director
Innokut Researching Ltd. – strives to promote balanced yet efficient cooperation and symbiotic operation between various role-players of today’s society and economy.
The Innokut Nonprofit Ltd. Hungary is supporting Foresee Research Group in the financial administration of the project.
Representative in the project: Zoltán Mersits
The National Institute Of Criminology (Hungary) – as Central Europe’s major criminological research institute, aims to conduct research on crime, to improve the theory and practice of criminology, police science and criminal law, to contribute to the utilisation of the research results, and to train the junior prosecutors.
The Hungarian National Institute of Criminology, as the professional leader of the project, is responsible for carrying out a quantitative and qualitative empirical research concerning the attitudes of inmates and prison staff towards restorative justice.
Representatives in the project: Dr. Andrea Tünde Barabás, PhD – National Institute of Criminology, Head of Department and Dr. Szandra Windt – researcher, National Institute of Criminology

Independent Academic Research Studies (UK) – a youth-led social policy think-tank that empowers young people to have a voice and influence policy and practice that affects them. Through volunteering, youth-led work, training, skills-development programmes and research, young people at IARS aim to improve practices that affect them and as role models participate in society and support their peers and youth-led organisations and groups in creating a tolerant and equal society where young people are respected and valued.
IARS (UK) carries out a UK based research project on the post-sentence use of RJ with young offenders. IARS will carry out interviews with policy makers, correctional staff, and young people to identify emerging themes and examples of best practice. IARS is organising and hosting the study tour and first expert meeting in London in November 2009.
Representatives in the project: Dr. Theo Gavrielides, LLM, PhD – IARS, chief executive and Lewis Parle – research officer, IARS, UK
University Of Applied Sciences In Public Administration In Bremen (Germany) – is a university specialised in law and security courses and research. The university hosts the Institute of Police and Security Research (IPOS), which is engaged in a variety of research projects dealing with restorative justice, prevention, and other related topics.

Victim Offender Mediation Service Bremen (Germany) – is an NGO that offers a variety of services in the field of restorative justice. Among those are several mediation offices in urban trouble hotspots throughout the city of Bremen, a European funded project dealing with stalking and domestic violence and most recently the European funded MEREPS project.
The German partners, the HfoeV University and the Victim-Offender Mediation Service in Bremen will carry out and evaluate victim-offender mediations in prison settings as well as will deliver an attitudinal research about the judiciary’s view towards RJ.
Representative in the project: Prof. Dr. jur. habil-, Dipl. soc. Arthur Hartmann – Hochschule for Oeffentliche Verwaltung Bremen, professor


European Forum For Restorative Justice – helps establishing and developing victim-offender mediation and other RJ practices throughout Europe by stimulating open dialogue between RJ practitioners, policy makers, researchers and legal practitioners.
The European Forum for RJ is the key actor in disseminating information and best practices about RJ amongst the European countries and in incorporating the European dimension into the delivery of the project.
Representative in the project: Karolien Mariën, Executive Officer
Flyer of the project is available here.

The final publication of the project can be downloaded from here.
For more information on this project visit the project’s site or contact Borbala Fellegi.

With financial support of the Criminal Justice Programme
European Commission – Directorate-General Justice, Freedom and Security