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Transforming Culture in Estonian Prisons and Secure Units

Belinda Hopkins, Transforming Conflict's Director, and Lisa Rowles from Khulisa, visited Estonia at the end of March 2016 at the invitation of the Estonian Ministry of Justice.

They worked with representatives from several Estonian prisons and secure training centres using materials from Transforming Conflict's accredited 5-module course. Over 3 days participants developed their understanding of restorative thinking and their ability to have restorative conversations to de-escalate potentially difficult situations. At the end of May Belinda is returning, this time with Mandy Thompson, to develop the participants' skills further, to enable them to facilitate face-to-face restorative meetings, and also work with the prison governors, so they understand their role in implementing this way of working across their establishments.

Mandy was previously a Deputy Head implementing a restorative approach in her school with the support of Transforming Conflict. Subsequently she joined the TC team as an associate trainer. However for the past 18 months she has been wrokimng for the Prison Fellowship, developing Restorative Approaches course materials and training volunteers to use the materials in prison settings with inmates. She will therefore be an ideal co-facilitator for the second stage of this pioneering work in Estonia.

Recent research suggests that using a restorative approach within the prison for disciplinary issues and conflicts is vital for inmates to feel safe, respected and fairly treated by staff. Failure to meet these needs increases the likelihood of resentment, tension, resistance - and ultimately potentially dangerous situations erupting.

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