I was at the European Forum on RJ conference in Leiden when the referendum result came out (I had already voted by post!), and everyone I spoke to was shocked. Now that I’m back, it is deeply saddening to read about xenophobic incidents in the wake of the vote.
First thoughts go to prevention, but it’s difficult; all I can think of is that the footballing world has had some success in making racism and homophobia unacceptable, and maybe that could point the way? Some perpetrators are probably young enough to be still at school, which is another place where we could make contact.
As regards the reaction after it has happened, I am a bit worried about talk of ‘fighting’ it, ‘stamping it out’, and so on – even ‘zero tolerance’, because most people seem to link that with getting ‘tough’. This is a clear opportunity for RJ – but as always with careful preparation of both parties, to make sure that it only goes ahead if there is the smallest possible prospect of an encounter that makes things worse in any way. Can we think of how the RJ movement could respond, perhaps by persuading magistrates to use sentences that enable a restorative process to take place? What advice should be given to police? And what can be done in areas where RJ is not available? Where there is a mediation service, should facilitators get some special training?
Could anything be worse than sending the offenders to prison, so that they can blame the **** foreigners for landing them inside, and mix with a lot of like-minded people (young men, probably), with little to do all day except reinforce each other’s prejudices? (The same applies to alleged ‘radicalised’ ‘terrorists’, of course.) If for any reason prison (or youth custody) is considered unavoidable, it is vital that every minute is filled with some form of what the prison department calls ‘purposeful activity.’
Could this be raised in Parliament (if it isn’t too preoccupied with its internal affairs!)? How else can RJ be mobilised?