• Increase Text
  • High Contrast Mode

OPEN LETTER FROM A COMMUNITY CONSULTATION HELD AT THE RESTORATIVE JUSTICE FOR ALL COMMUNITY CENTRE

This letter aims to honour RJ4All's commitment to those who gave evidence and use their community services to voice their concerns and ask for your attention and action as a key stakeholder with either a moral or legal duty to respond.

An open letter from Restorative Justice for All

Subject: Addressing Power Abuse and Building Community Trust

I am writing on behalf of the Southwark-based charitable institute, Restorative Justice for All (RJ4All) to share with you some current and urgent concerns that were raised by local residents of SE16 London relating to safety and power abuse. These concerns were collected as part of our scientific programme of building the world’s first restorative justice postcode (ANNEX I).

This letter aims to honour my commitment to those who gave evidence and use our community services to voice their concerns and ask for your attention and action as a key stakeholder with either a moral or legal duty to respond. The comprehensive findings of the Speak Up! Community Forum held on October 17th, 2023, have been shared with all event attendees. It is our unwavering commitment to maintain transparent communication and keep them informed about any new updates and developments stemming from this crucial initiative.

The background

In particular, the evidence was collected through a follow up Community Forum that held on October 17th, 20231. The community consultation forms part of our quarterly Speak Up! Restorative Justice Community Forums . These are the vehicles we use to measure the impact of our ambition to restore community tension in SE16 London. On 17th of October, through two focus groups, we explored the core issues of trust deficits within the community concerning public authorities, uncovering the root causes of harm, crime, and injustices (ANNEX II).

Current and urgent concerns

Our community members voiced their concerns about transparent governance, declining community engagement, disempowerment, barriers to engaging with authorities, information inaccessibility, safety issues, criminality, and discrimination against marginalized groups. The recurring theme was the disempowerment experienced by our community, resulting from power being concentrated in the hands of public authorities, causing fear, untrustworthiness, and disconnection.
To address these challenges, the community expressed a need for transparent local authorities, improved education and sports, heightened community collaboration, positive engagement, and recognition of contributions. The desire for community empowerment, involvement, collaboration, and the redistribution of power equally emerged as shared goals.
The findings echo those from our first Speak Up event in March 2023, emphasising the persistent issues of:
1. community disconnection, alienation, and the need for power redistribution. A climate of fear, untrustworthiness and disconnection is cultivated, resulting in the community missing its goal.
2. crime, inequalities, unsafety, and disparities
3. need for long-term investment in community efforts, sustainable solutions, and sufficient funding to address community needs.

Our reflections and request

At RJ4All, we aim to recognise, empower, and integrate local perspectives into decision-making processes impacting the community. Held at RJ4All’s SE16 Community Centre, the Forums provide a platform for residents, councillors, and stakeholders to voice their opinions and aspirations for our community. Emphasising community engagement and individual empowerment, the Speak Up event captures, monitors, and reports on the community’s concerns, needs, and visions, reflecting our core principle of inclusive community discourse and solutions. RJ4All has made it its priority to implement these events on a regular basis. The series of our Speak Up! Forums support and showcase the important mission RJ4All has embarked on to “Build the world’s first Restorative Justice Postcode”.
The outcomes of all the focus groups since the project’s inception validate the significance of our initiatives, showcasing the positive impact on community members’ everyday lives. The RJ4All Community Centre has become a haven for those seeking to regain their community sense, work on their well-being, and address issues such as poverty and powerlessness. Our comprehensive range of free services, including Youth Clubs, Well-being circles, a community fridge and pantry, accessible sports at RJ4All gym, Warm Hub services, digital inclusion sessions, and Community Consultation Forums, addresses the identified issues and remain a proactive mechanism to support the community. However, ongoing funding is crucial for the long-term functionality of these services, which is an ongoing battle.

In the light of the discussion around these alarming harms and urgent needs in the community, the following recommendations for the RJ4All team, the steering group, and external stakeholder have been drawn.
1. Strengthen Community Engagement and Inclusivity
2. Empower Youth and Address Socioeconomic Inequalities
3. Bridging Trust Gaps
4. Improve Communication and Access to Information
5. Equitable Access to Restorative Services
6. Long-term investment

As representatives with the power to effect change, we urgently call on you to heed the community’s voice. The recommendations drawn from our Speak Up Events, should pull us all together to seek potential ways and multiple angles to shape our way forward. Thanks to the SE16 Restorative Justice Postcode Programme and its several services validated by the community, RJ4All offers a tangible path towards rebuilding trust, combating inequalities, and fostering reconciliation.

We invite you to engage in a constructive dialogue with us and the SE16 community that will contribute to the collective well-being of our community and make our voice to be heard beyond the barriers of misinformation, miscommunication, trust-gaps and political imposition.
The positive affirmations above reinforce our belief that RJ4All’s project is not merely a set of services but a catalyst for positive change. We implore you to consider our findings seriously, recognising the urgency of addressing power abuse and working towards a harmonious community.

We would value a meeting with you to discuss these matters further and find a potential way to collaborate and make ourselves jointly involved in our community advancement, echoing the community members’ needs. We look forward to hearing from you and witnessing your enthusiasm for our community and our efforts to bring up the much-needed change.

Sincerely,
Dr. Theo Gavrielides
RJ4All Founder & Director

Open Letter