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Transnational Collaboration and AI in RJ: Technology Facilitating Social Justice

Looking Internationally from 2023 at Potential Uses of Artificial Intelligence in Restorative Justice Processes

Rebecca Jaremko Bromwich and Theo Gavrielides

This week is Restorative Justice Week, across Canada and internationally. This year's Canadian national Restorative Justice Week commemoration will take place in Manitoba. In contemplation of Restorative Justice and the alternative possibilities it offers, this year, consider two things together: international collaboration and artificial intelligence. Shortly, the Restorative Justice for All International Institute at the University of East London will be celebrating its ten year anniversary this December at the UK Houses of Parliament. The Rj4All institute works locally in the UK as well as internationally with its mission being “to address power abuse, conflict and poverty through the use of restorative justice values and practices.”

Restorative Justice was previously defined by RJ4All Institute Director Theo Gavrielides as an ethos with practical goals, among which is to restore harm by including affected parties in a direct or indirect encounter and a process of understanding through voluntary and honest dialogue. Restorative justice adopts a fresh approach to conflicts and their control, retaining at the same time certain rehabilitative goals. While this particular RJ4all institute is a decade old, the concepts and ethos of Restorative Justice have existed in many forms in many places over the years, as discussed in Gavrielides, T. (2011). “Restorative Practices: From the Early Societies to the 1970s”. Internet Journal of Criminology ISSN 2045-6743

In Canada, where we are working towards Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples after the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, much can be gained from collaborating with organizations and entities from around the world that work towards developing processes and encounters that allow for positive change to unequal power differentials and social justice through encounters and community processes. International comparisons and collaborations can help us see past dominant settler paradigms in justice processes and imagine alternatives that are more inclusive of Indigenous traditions as well as Canadian settler diversity. Looking forward from 2023, it is useful to contemplate ways in which technology and specifically artificial intelligence can be used to support the development of restorative justice processes. RJ4All has been working with Canadian colleagues to develop an international case study for building the world’s first restorative justice postcode. For example, we have seen developments in Vancouver, BC where the Mayor came together with local restorative justice leader to create a restorative justice city. At the same, time RJ4All is doing this locally bringing into the project local stakeholders including government, ICT and AI experts, NGOs and residents.

In the international context, working across borders, as well as in Canada’s northern and other remote communities, technology can be better employed to develop ways to engage in restorative justice processes that allow for an encounter between a victim, offender, and community members, across physical distance. AI can be employed in various ways to enhance and support restorative justice processes. Restorative justice focuses on repairing harm and rebuilding relationships between offenders, victims, and the community. Here are some ways AI could potentially contribute to restorative justice:

Data Analysis and Prediction:

AI algorithms can analyze large datasets to identify patterns and trends related to crime and community dynamics. This information can help justice practitioners make informed decisions and predictions about potential conflicts or areas that may benefit from restorative justice interventions.

Case Management:

AI systems can assist in managing and tracking restorative justice cases. This includes organizing and storing information related to participants, agreements, and follow-up actions, streamlining the administrative aspects of the process.

Communication and Mediation:

AI-driven chatbots or virtual assistants can facilitate communication between stakeholders in the restorative justice process. They can provide information, answer questions, and guide participants through the various stages of the process.

Matching and Suggestion Algorithms:

AI can help match appropriate participants for restorative justice meetings based on factors such as the nature of the offense, the needs of the victim, and the willingness of the offender to take responsibility. Suggestion algorithms can propose suitable resolution strategies.

Natural Language Processing (NLP):

NLP technology can be employed to analyze written or spoken statements made by participants, helping to identify emotions, sentiments, and potential areas of agreement. This can be particularly useful in facilitating meaningful dialogue during restorative justice sessions.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Simulation:

VR technology can create simulated environments for restorative justice processes. This could allow participants to engage in mediated conversations in a virtual space, potentially making the process more accessible and comfortable for some individuals, as well as ensuring physical safety.

Risk Assessment:

AI can be used to assess the risk of reoffending or the likelihood of successful rehabilitation. This information can guide decisions about the level of support and supervision required for participants in the restorative justice process.

Feedback and Evaluation:

AI tools can collect and analyze feedback from participants about their experiences in the restorative justice process. This information can be used to continually improve and refine the effectiveness of restorative justice programs.

It's important to note that while AI can offer valuable support to Restorative Justice processes, it should be used ethically and in conjunction with human judgment. People will be a necessary part of any restorative justice process that involves AI; human-centered aspects of restorative justice, such as empathy, understanding, and communication, remain crucial for its success. Additionally, privacy and ethical considerations must be carefully addressed when implementing AI in sensitive justice contexts.

As a senior research fellow with the RJ4all Institute, I look forward to attending its anniversary celebration in London, and will report back by Blawg about what transpires.


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