Building blocks

Working Group on Institutions and Restorative Justice

The Working Group on Institutions seeks to establish links between practitioners, policy workers, academics/scholars and stakeholders who have an interest in exploring and implementing the principles and programmes of restorative justice and peacemaking in the field of institutional harm and abuse, organizational deviance and within institutions or organisations.

This Working Group works in partnership with other EFRJ Working Groups where there are overlapping interests and concerns.

The members initiating this Working Group in 2021 are:  Ivo Aertsen, Robert Mackay and Gema Varona.

More on institutions

The broad definition of institution comprises, but is not limited to, governmental and non-governmental organisations, including democratic assemblies and police and military bodies; charitable, religious and business organisations; sporting institutions and organisations; and, regulatory bodies, whether statutory or non-statutory.

The phenomenon of harm involving institutions has at least three facets:

  1. It raises questions of justice internally for victims and direct perpetrators in the institution.
  2. It raises the issue of institutional cultures and values that are deliberately or unconsciously abusive.
  3. It involves the nature of the conduct of institutions towards its external stakeholders and to the public at large.

It is acknowledged that the principles of restorative justice need to be articulated in such ways that they must meet the needs of victims and the public, taking into account of course also the rights and guarantees for the accused. 

Attention will be given to:

  • Different forms of harmful behaviours: abuse, violence, neglect or injustices;
  • In various types of institutional settings (including religious, work, sports, educational). This will allow for a comparative analysis and thus for a better understanding of the underlying, often not so visible, mechanisms within and around institutions;
  • Within patterns of authority relationships (resulting in abuse of power and injustices, at individual and structural level);
  • Paying attention to gender and age variables (and more in general, socio-demographic profiles of victims and other stakeholders), as well as intercultural issues.
  • Institutions considered as 
    • starting point and locus of problems (hence it is precisely because of the institutional structures and culture that the abuse can take place and persist),
    • locus of redress (resources specifically available due to the institutional context),
    • locus of transformation (in becoming a restorative organisation and a re-thinking of authority);
  • Exploring the potential and adaptability of restorative justice (values and practices) to cope with the problem.
Hand and lamp

Aims of the Working Group

The aims are to:

  1. bring together a group of restorative practitioners, policy workers and academics/scholars and other stakeholders who will explore issues associated with the application of restorative justice concepts and practices in institutional settings;
  2. direct these explorations towards developing understandings of institutional settings, the phenomena of harmful behaviour, and the methods of responding to abuse;
  3. inventorise the potential applications of restorative concepts and practices in particular settings.

In practice

During its first term of office (2021-2023), the Working Group focused its activities on deepening the complexities and implications of restorative justice in the case of institutional harm, abuse and deviance, and inventoried a wide range of cross-cutting themes and key general issues.

During the current term, the Working Group is addressing these themes and issues through research and study in order to provide both deeper analysis and some practical guidance.

The Working Group is therefore operating through Work Streams (i.e. sub-groups), to explore further in-depth the complexity of the matter and work on the outputs progressively identified:

- the Work Stream on Principles and Guidelines is working on a booklet/manual on principles and guidelines on RJ addressing institutional abuses;

- the Work Stream on a Book project is working on a publication on restorative justice and institutional abuse, with contributions from members of the WG as well as other researchers and practitioners experts on the matter, from across different fields of expertise and regions of the world. In April 2024 a writing retreat is organised in San Sebastian generously hosted by the Basque Institute of Criminology. 

The WG organises internal hearings with external professionals and people with direct experience of institutional abuse, who will help the WG members to gain insights and discuss relevant matters, feeding the work of the WG. These hearings are open only to WG members, with some exceptions for some hearings that may be open to representatives of other WGs and Committees, depending on the topics and on the availability of the speaker.

The WG organises workshops during the EFRJ international conferences and seminars:

- a dialogue session on ‘Exploring the heuristic potential of Restorative Justice with institutions/institutional abuse’ at the EFRJ international Conference in Sassari (June 2022);

- a panel on ‘Analysis of Response Mechanisms and their Restorative Character in Institutions’ at the EFRJ international seminar in Pamplona (June 2023);

- a panel on ‘Engaging institutions in restorative justice’ and a panel on ‘Restorative justice and sexual abuse in religious institutions’ at the EFRJ international Conference in Tallinn (May 2024).

The working methodology in the WG follows a mixed approach that combines theoretical analysis and empirical observation of practices, with the involvement of third parties and key stakeholders in the conversation (>hearings).

The kinds of institutions this WG could focus on are countless and the interests of the members diverse, so it was agreed to focus on cross-cutting dynamics that can potentially concern all kinds of institutional violence and restorative responses and select a series of fields, contexts and settings.

More questions?

Contact the EFRJ Secretariat: Laura Hein at 

Members (2021-2024)

Ivo Aertsen (Belgium), Emeritus professor, KU Leuven

Razwana Abdul Rahim Begum (Singapore), Head Public Safety and Security Programme and Military Studies Minor, Singapore University of Social Sciences

Francesca Bertelli (Italy), Research Fellow, University of Brescia

Tim Chapman (UK), Visiting Professor University of Strathclyde

Marie Keenan (Ireland), Associate Professor, University College Dublin

Claudia Mazzucato (Italy), Associate Professor of Criminal Law, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, chair of the WG 

Caroline Petruzzi McHale (France), Lawyer/Avocate (NY, Paris) & Founder, Studio Vivace

Silvia Randazzo (Belgium), Independent consultant on child justice and child protection, vice-chair of the WG

Anneke Van Hoek (the Netherlands), Manager and Cofounder, Restorative Justice Nederland

Gemma Varona (Spain), Senior Researcher and Professor, Basque Institute of Criminology at the University of the Basque Country

Representative of the Secretariat: Laura Hein (


Acknowledgment to former members

Robert Mackay (UK), Associate, Restorative Justice for All International Institute, initatior and chair of the WG 2021- 2023

Sophie Grimbert Tweed (France), Youth Labs Coordinator, French Ministry of Justice, regional hubs and French national education schools

Caroline Petrilla (US), Special projects, Youth Advocate Programs, Inc.


Photo credits:
Banner: "Building Blocks" by Melinda Seckington on
Other: "Idea!" by Cristian Carrara on