Language competence and restorative justice conference processes

Hennessey Hayes

School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University,

Restorative justice (RJ) processes require young offenders to effectively engage in a conversation about their wrongdoing and ways of repairing harms they have caused.  As such, the RJ process draws heavily on the oral language abilities (everyday talking and listening skills) of the young offender, who needs to listen to complex and emotionally charged accounts of the victim’s perspective on the offence, and formulate their own experiences and perspectives into a coherent narrative that is judged as adequate and authentic by the parties affected by the wrong-doing.  Prior research on the language skills of young people in the youth justice system shows that approximately 50% of young offenders have a clinically significant language deficit.  This paper draws on observational and interview data from a number of young offenders who attended a restorative justice conference to explore the extent to which languages deficits may prevail among young offenders in restorative justice processes.


Dr Hennessey Hayes has been researching and writing in the areas of restorative justice, youthful offending and recidivism for more than a decade. His current work includes a major qualitative study of young offenders in youth justice conferences with a focus on what young people understand about restorative justice processes and how such knowledge relates to future behaviour.  Other work includes assessing the ways that language skills of young offenders in restorative justice conferences relates to conference outcomes.


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