The Estonian Experience
Restorative Solutions recently had the exciting opportunity of introducing restorative approaches to the police force of Estonia, where Gary Stephenson successfully overcame a few cultural differences and recounts the rewarding experience below.
‘When our director of service delivery Tony Walker suggested a trip Estonia to conduct some workshops into the successful implementation of RJ in the UK; I had a sneaking suspicion it was to assuage his guilt for the trip he had taken to the Caribbean last year.'
'With some jovial trepidation and plenty of optimism, I booked the trip and successfully landed in the capital city of Tallinn; where upon arrival, I slowly made my way to the very beautiful Old Town.'
'I decided that the best place to start would be with some preliminary research, so, while holding a strong cup of coffee, I observed the way the Police interacted with the locals and tourists and quickly realised that the next couple of days were going to be very interesting, and they were…'
'To provide a brief background, Estonia claimed independence in 1991, from the previous Soviet Occupation. As the iron curtain fell across Europe, Estonia was one the Baltic states that collapsed. The country is now an EU nation and a member of NATO; incidentally, during my visit NATO (including British troops) were conducting exercises across the Russian border.'
'The ‘Restorative Justice is a Journey not a destination.” workshop I delivered saw attendance from a range of officials; from the MoJ, Internal Affairs (Home Office), Prison officials to academics from the local University, along with police officers from all areas and disciplines. After conducting a positioning exercise with the attendees, it is fair to say that Estonia is at the beginning of a very long journey.'
'This experience uncovered the commonality between the UK and Estonia. We both face many similar challenges and while I openly informed those attending that our capability and practice still had a long way to go; our past experiences and current successes places us in an excellent position to demonstrate just how effective the restorative approaches are and provide expert guidance on the best way to implement them.'
'Although it was understood that there could be some cultural difficulties around how it would be implemented; the National Police Service and Prison system provided a very strong base to ensure that new policy would be rolled out on a national level. With the National Police force currently at the early stages of introducing community policing, there is a real understanding of the value of this area of policing and how well it could linked in with Restorative Justice/Approaches (RJ/A).'
'Some very thought provoking questions arose, particularly around the implementation methods and changing cultures with RJ/A. Despite a warning from my interpreter, suggesting that the audience may be sceptical I found that most in attendance were engaged and enthusiastic, with passionate speeches from one or two of the delegates around why RJ/A is right for Estonia.'
'Estonia is at the very beginning of its journey with RJ/A. I left with them with a strong outline of how to manage the change in their country and I anticipate Restorative Solutions will assist them in their endeavours over the next coming months and years.'
'Though this may not have been an opportunity to top up my tan and the flight home was delayed due to snow, I can say I was very pleased and enthused by what we achieved with Estonia and very much look forward to what this excellent opportunity will bring. Thanks Tony.'
Restorative Solutions are very pleased to have opened this door to a fellow European country on how RJ/A can benefit them and are hopeful that this may even bring forth the potential to work with other nations. We are very much looking forward to the work we will be doing with the police force of Estonia; and while providing training to them, we may even have a few things to learn ourselves.