RJ week 2023 item 1: Visit to Athens

By Jonathan Steijger & Walther Roza, Members Child Advisory Board i-RESTORE

This past week we were given the opportunity by RJN and Halt to come to Athens. Monday evening we arrived at the hotel after a long day of traveling. From the hotel terrace we had a perfect view of the famous Acropolis. 

On day 1 we woke up early for a meeting with the Children's Ombudsman. She showed a lot of expertise and dedication for her work and it was great to see a government person be able to point out the serious flaws instead of sugarcoating everything. Only 35 children in Greece are incarcerated, in comparison to the Netherlands were more then 1000 youngsters are sentenced to youth prisons each year. 

After that we had flashback of high school because we had a mediation meeting in a classroom with a small desk mounted to the table. We learned about mediation and the impact it can have on people’s lives. In this meeting we also have gotten examples how effectively peer mediation in schools can be. 

After that we visited the Home organisation and gathered on the roof in the sun with a lovely view of Athens. We learned about the work of 9 lawyers who each represent their own refugee house and who put efforts in making the life of young immigrants better. They also help unaccompanied children who experience issues with the justice system. The stories of these children are often very tough.  

We finished the day off with some delicious Greek food and drinks. 

In the morning of Day 2 we climbed the hill to see the beautiful acropolis from close. 
Then, we went to the Supreme Court of Athens. We met judges and probation officers who told us about the juvenile court system in Greece. We gave a speech about our own experiences with the justice system and with the youth panel of Halt and i-RESTORE and listened to the touching stories of two Greek youngsters who had gone through the Greek system.
We also went to an organisation that helps adolescents beat their drug addiction. We got to listen to two dads and their commitment was great to see. It shows the importance of feeling heard and loved. 

We ended with a nice diner organised by our Greek colleagues.

On our last day we met with Mrs. Graviil from Prisons of Peace. She explained how correctional officers and prisoners are educated on peer mediation and how this has reduced the amount of violence in Greek prisons. We think we can learn a lot with how we could use this in the Dutch prisons as well. Not only the prisoners can benefit from this but our society as a whole with incarceration dropping a lot after implementation of these practices. 

After this presentation we debriefed with the Greek colleagues about the whole trip and afterwards we could walk around and buy some souvenirs. 

Overall, we learned a lot about Restorative Justice and the potential it has. The experience as a whole was super educative and we wouldn't have missed it for the world!

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