In today’s blog, we interview James Willott, Manager of our Bristol Reparation Service, about his role. We discuss the importance of restorative justice with young offenders and how reparation positively impacted one young offender’s life.
Can you tell us about a bit about yourself and the Bristol Reparation Service?
Hi, my name is James and I’m the manager for the Bristol Reparation Team. When I’m not working I am running around with my two children or still trying to play football!
The Bristol Reparation Service is commissioned by the Bristol Youth Offending Team (YOT) to work with young people, aged 10-18, who have been involved in criminal activity. We work alongside the young person to improve and maintain public areas, including conservation work to benefit the local community. This is an opportunity for the young person to give something positive back to the community, learn some practical work skills, and give them a space to reflect on what happened.
Our aims for the service are for the young people to take ownership of their actions and have the confidence to make positive changes and steer away from offending behaviour.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
The focus of my role is to deliver high-quality reparation sessions to the young people we work with.
To do this, I manage the team’s caseload and ensure we respond quickly to referrals from the Youth Offending Team. When a referral comes in, I carry out an initial assessment and then book in the sessions for the young person, either with myself or with my colleague Ben. We also have a sessional worker, Amelia, who works with us one day a week.
My other responsibilities are to keep in regular contact with the YOT about the court orders and produce monthly, quarterly and annual reports on the service. I also have to ensure we have suitable partners, so that we can deliver reparation, and carry out all the health and safety that is needed for the service.
What aspects of your role do you enjoy the most?
The most enjoyable part of the role is working with the young people: giving them the space to reflect so that they can have a clear idea of how to move forward positively.
Why is restorative justice important with young offenders?
Community sentencing is becoming more and more necessary in the current youth justice environment.
We strongly advocate the use of Restorative Justice and its benefits as part of the rehabilitative process. Through Restorative Justice, the young person will have the opportunity to repair the harm caused by their offence either directly to the victim (direct reparation) or indirectly to the community (community reparation). This encourages young offenders to take responsibility for what they have done, make amends and to try not to commit further offences.
Can you tell us about a young person who was supported by the Bristol Reparation service?
John was referred to Catch22 with 25 hours of Indirect Reparation to complete, for the offence of possession with intent to supply. Indirect Reparation is activity or work carried out for the benefit of the community.
When I first met John, he was polite and open about the fact he wasn’t keen on reparation. We completed the Initial Assessment and chatted about different options of what we could do. John wanted to be in a quiet location and said he would give the first session a go.
John was on time for the first session and worked hard. He was really friendly from the outset, and we chatted about all sorts of things. We were based at Filwood Community Centre and were tasked with planting some fruit trees. He said that he was proud of himself, and that the reparation was ‘calm’. I took this as a positive.
Each week, John worked hard on the variety of tasks set. These included gardening, digging, planting trees, painting a beehive and more. As the weeks went on, he really started to open up and share different memories and events from his life. He reflected lots on his criminal behaviour and there was a real sadness in his voice. He shared that he would like to talk to his younger self and help him make different decisions.
I don’t want to be in this life. I want to be calm and focus on my music and move forward.
This led to us talking about mentoring and John suggested that in the future he would like to be a positive role model to young Black males. It was a real privilege to work with John: I learnt things from him as he shared what it was like to be a young Black male. He talked about stereotypes and the difficulty he had from breaking away from people’s expectations of him.
John completed his hours and reflected that he had enjoyed the sessions and was pleased he had completed something. He hoped to continue writing music and pursing his dream of being in the music industry.