Embarking on a journey of professional development in the picturesque Italian Province of Varese, at the Villadosia Municipality of Casale Litta, we had the unique opportunity to delve into the world of “Restorative Justice for Restorative Communities” (RJRC). Facilitated by the coordinator, 4Exodus Cooperativa Sociale Onlus, this initiative brought together 10 participants from 5 organisations, all of which showcased different levels of experience in implementing restorative justice practices within community-rooted programmes.  

This trip was the fundamental mobility of the RJRC project, following a very successful preparatory visit in October 2023.  In the preparatory visit the consortium met for the first time to facilitate meaningful discussions around each organisation’s restorative practices and to lay down the foundations for the following 5-day Professional Development Activity (PDA). The preparatory visit set the scene for the PDA as a practice-oriented mobility, giving the partners the opportunity to hear about and experience the real implementation of restorative justice. Reflecting on the outcome, it is evident that the PDA was a success and provided invaluable learning experiences, further advancing our collective understanding of justice. 

The venue of both mobilities was the Cascina Castellazzo, a place which serves as a rehabilitation community. The facility accommodates up to 20 men who have grappled with substance abuse, providing them an alternative to traditional methods of incarceration. The programme equips these individuals with tools for personal growth, skills development, and community integration, emphasising autonomy, trust, and independence. 

Best Practices Sharing and Debriefing Sessions

One of the highlights of the experience was the collaborative environment that emerged during best practices sharing and debriefing sessions. RJ4All is an organisation which engages in extensive research around restorative justice, human rights, criminal, and youth justice. We operate a community centre based in South-East London where the theoretical model of restorative justice is put into practice and aspiring to be replicated in our Cyprus offices. The RJ4All Rotherhithe Community Centre provides a range of free community services, including a community gym, a library, digital workshops, a community fridge, gardening sessions and community consultation events. While we have experience and informed knowledge in using restorative justice in our local community, we found incredibly insightful to hear about the successful initiatives of other organisations across Europe and how the concept of restorative justice can be implemented in varying contexts.  

This visit proved to be particularly eye-opening when juxtaposed with the insufficient implementation of restorative justice in Cyprus. There is currently no legislation relating to the use of restorative mediation in legal proceedings, and the application of restorative justice is not effectively regulated.1 In comparison to other European Countries such as Italy and Belgium, where restorative justice has been introduced in the domestic law and is implemented throughout criminal justice proceedings for any level offence, Cyprus needs to step up the pace and get inspired. Thus, this visit put into context the extensive yet promising path ahead of Cyprus. 

The debriefing sessions showed ‘restorative justice’ as a holistic concept, able to adapt to different contexts and needs. It was a vivid example that restorative justice does not have to be an afterthought within the traditional judicial process but can have a meaningful place alongside the justice system, adapting its shape and form according to the type of offence, the ages of those involved and the needs of each party.   


The practices presented by 4Exodus were based around delivering community services implemented within their rehabilitation community to foster stronger community bonds and allow for their ‘guests’ to experience a smoother reintegration back into the community. These best practices included having the ‘guests’ assigned their own tasks and responsibilities. Some were responsible for taking care of the farm animals and woodworking, others were responsible for making pizzas to be sold to the wider community, embracing a real pizzeria business model. Many of the ‘guests’ within the community do not necessarily have criminal convictions which impacted one individual ‘victim’. Their previous struggles generally involved harm towards the wider community involving friends and family. Thus, a number of the practices implemented by 4exodus involve rectifying harm that may have been done to the community and strengthening community ties.  


GACEP presented insights from Belgium as a private agency working in the field of juvenile delinquency, focusing on victim-offender mediation for young people. The practice presented by Belgium focused on the restorative offers proposed by juvenile judges, such as Victim-Offender Mediation and Group Conferences. Both involve a voluntary communication process led by a neutral third party, intending to discuss the events and impacts of an offence.  The expectation is to foster healing, understanding and a solution between all parties involved in the harm caused. GACEP’s practices showed the importance of using the traditional criminal justice system alongside a restorative justice led approach to create an environment of accountability, expression, and a meaningful solution involving the insights of all affected parties.  


AFCR showcased restorative justice practices in Albania also including victim offender mediation for juveniles, family & group conferencing, and peer mediation in schools. AFCR professionals are trained in child-friendly justice, diversion & alternative measures, and restorative justice. A large part of the work done by AFCR involves raising awareness amongst young people about restorative dialogue and peaceful conflict resolution. This exposure to restorative justice at an early stage in life builds important skills around accountability and empathy. 


Rubikon, based in the Czech Republic, presented a two-pronged multifaceted approach focusing on promoting personal development alongside the successful reintegration of individuals into society. Rubikon specialises in facilitating restorative meetings between the harmed and harming parties with the aims of promoting accountability and strengthening each party’s relationship to their community.  Rubikon also holds community activities similar to our work at RJ4All, which includes gardening, workshops, and chess, to facilitate a better relationship between their ‘clients’ and society.  


IASIS, A Greek non-profit, expressed the intention to integrate restorative justice into their work which focuses on social inclusion, mental health, and education. This mobility gave them a deeper understanding of restorative justice principles, and hopefully will enable them to successfully implement it into their existing framework. 

University Training

Two pivotal training sessions, conducted in collaboration with the University of Insubria and delivered by Professor Giovanni Angelo Lodigiani, further enriched our understanding of restorative justice in Italy and the wider concept. Sessions covered monitoring and evaluation techniques, along with exploring innovation in restorative justice. This fostered reflections for the partners on aspects which we sometimes may overlook, or forget, such as the importance of silence during restorative justice interventions.  


Our exploration extended beyond theoretical discussions to practical insights gained through visits to Cesare Beccaria juvenile detention centre and Bollate detention centre. These visits provided a firsthand understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the realm of restorative justice. Both detention centres shared similar core values of restoration, personal development, trust, and collaboration. 

The Juvenile detention centre held young people from the ages of 14-25. Within the detention centre, each inmate’s time is dedicated to the cultivation of personal and emotional skills, providing them with the necessary tools for a successful reintegration into society and to reduce the likelihood of recidivism. Young people in the detention centre had the opportunity to continue with education in an educational setting characterised by small classroom sizes, fostering meaningful connections with classmates and educators.  Some of the more practical activities the young people would engage in included pastry making/baking and mechanical workshops giving the opportunity for further educational and career development once their sentence was completed. 

Bollate, the adult detention centre, had a similar mission of cultivating an environment conducive to promoting personal development and reintegration back into society upon completion of their sentence. Inmates experienced a relative degree of freedom of movement, with the ability to walk around the centre freely during the day. The centre not only provided opportunities for employment within the prison such as paid work in a call centre, but also allowed inmates depending on their sentence, to leave the centre to go to work. Bollate also features amenities like libraries and theatres which expose inmates to diverse experiences and provides avenues for acquiring new skills. This was a crucial aspect in our eyes, as restorative justice extends beyond addressing the immediate consequences of a crime. This also put emphasis on the restoration of both the offender and the broader community, aiming to provide individuals with experiences diverting them from crime. In many circumstances in Italy (and globally), inmates come from deprived socio-economic backgrounds regardless of whether they are Italian residents, migrants, or refugees. Individuals facing economic challenges often miss out on the full spectrum of life. While imprisonment generally being a dark period, this visit showed us that it can, in fact, serve as the beginning of a fruitful, transformative journey.  

Anna Fosse-Galtier, RJ4All centre manager expressed being truly inspired by the Bollate visit:  

Hearing the stories of 3 prisoners, who had experienced many other prisons in their lifetime, all explaining that Bollate had been the only time where they felt that there was another pathway for them away from criminality, truly comforted be in the beliefs that there is another way for prisons’ models of operations”.  

A moment that really stuck with us was the genuine trust between the prison officials and the inmates. They used the example of inmates complaining to prison officials about the CCTV cameras in their library. After much discussion and collaboration, the prison officials agreed to take them down. This level of mutual trust and respect between inmates and officials was striking and showed the value of creating a space where concerns can be expressed freely and listened to. 


To round off the mobility a report will be made describing the RJRC project and the ways restorative justice values have been applied in practice by each of the partners. The report will touch on mediation methods, community services and restorative justice advocacy. This hopefully will serve as an invaluable source, encapsulating the collective experience, insights and knowledge shared from our European partners. 

Our time in Milan as part of the RJRC professional development activity was truly transformative. From sharing best practices with organisations across Europe to witnessing the practical implementation of restorative justice in rehabilitation communities and detention centres, the experience broadened our perspective on the potential of restorative justice to create positive societal change.

Skip to content