Hidden hurts, healing from within : restorative justice for victims and convicted offenders in Bermuda

Aidoo, Davina (2016) Hidden hurts, healing from within : restorative justice for victims and convicted offenders in Bermuda. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis sought to explore how restorative justice (RJ) could be implemented into the Bermuda Department of Corrections using action research. The aim was to explore how RJ can work for victims and incarcerated offenders in Bermuda in regards to the potential for reduction of harm, increasing empathy and as an addition to the existing CJS. Training was provided and partnerships established with the Bermuda Police Service and Prison Fellowship Bermuda for the specific purpose of the initiative. Phase-one involved the introduction of two prerequisite programmes (Victim Empathy and the Sycamore Tree) that offenders were invited to voluntarily participate in. Respectively, one programme delivered by Corrections staff and consisting of only prisoners and the other delivered by Prison Fellowship facilitators and involving 16 surrogate victim-participants.

A mixed-method approach was used to examine impact and process. These included questionnaires pre and post the phase-one programmes and the CRIME-PICS II psychometric to assess attitudinal change, participatory and non-participatory observations and a focus group. Both programmes increased the offenders’ empathy while the Sycamore Tree programme involving participants from the community, helped create further positive attitudinal change on the main scales measured by the CRIME-PICS II. 93% of the Sycamore Tree victim-participants were ‘very satisfied’ overall and ‘would definitely’ recommend the programme to others. Qualitative findings indicated victim healing, with some referring to a sense of closure and forgiveness for themselves and the offender.

The second-phase introduced RJ conferencing, two conferences were held and the experience of participants was again very positive. The offenders considered trained conference facilitators from the Police and Corrections as being impartial. Overall benefits for both parties (offenders and victims) indicated a promising start to the initiative.

A number of previous findings from empirical research were found in the current study. Victims valued having a voice and rehabilitation; and offenders valued the ‘victim’s forgiveness and reintegration’. The social interconnectedness of Bermuda creates a need for RJ as the stigmatization of criminality often extends beyond the offender to include their family. The pilot indicated the need in some cases for reparatory preparation work with offenders and their families before the offender feels comfortable, or able to call upon family members as conference supporters. Further the importance of community lay in the fact that the likelihood of victims coming into contact with the person who offended against them, once released is virtually inevitable.

The success of the action research pilot led to the Department of Corrections adopting the initiative and continuing with it and produced nine trained facilitators. The content of the Sycamore Tree Project was superior as a phase-one prerequisite programme to RJ conferencing; however, an adaption to the programme would be needed to reduce the strong religious content. Victims and offenders benefitted from the initiative.

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