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The acronym MEREPS stands for „Mediation and Restorative Justice in Prison Settings”.
This European project, carried out by an international Consortium led by the Hungarian organization Foresee Research Group, focuses on the role of mediation and restorative justice (RJ) practices not in the pre sentence phase, but rather in prison settings, reaching out for victims of serious crimes and imnates 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 altough 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 rasing for correctional staff
- advanced RJ training about the use of RJ techniques in prisons for practitioners and mediators
- organising and evaluating pilor RJ meetings to resolve disputes between staff members, inmates, victims and community representatives.
This project provides a good opportunity for the more experienced countries to evaluate their practices and identify the directions for future developments, while it can help Hungary in starting up a methodologically high quality pilot project and help the future (legal and institutional) implementation of RJ in the prison settings with evidence-based recommendations.
Furthermore, the project will achieve synergy from the cumulative evaluation of separate national approaches. Importantly, it recognises that not only ‘Eastern’ European countries can learn from ‘Western’ countries, but mutual learning processes and exchange of best practices can help both regions to further develop their RJ policies.
Main project activities 2009-2012
Study tour to UK to visit RJ projects in Prison Settings
Research in Hungary, Germany and in the UK
Hungary, Germany, UK
International Seminar hosted by the European Forum
Pilot project to test RJ in prison settings
Hungary and Germany
Expert Group Meeting
Final Project Conference
MEREPS Website (national reports, research findings)