Toward a relational and restorative community to prevent crime and to promote well-being: building an Italian restorative city in Tempio Pausania (Sardinia)



(dalla Newsletter dell'European Forum for Restorative Justice, Volume 17, numero 1, marzo 2016, pp. 4-8)

The project of Tempio Pausania “Study and analysis of the restorative practices for the creation of a model of restorative city” born within a regional project  “Information System and Governance of intervention policies and contrast of crime” (R.L. 07/2007). It is an action research project to test whether and how restorative practices are able to involve the whole community: school, family, police, courts, municipalities, associations to solve conflict in peaceful and relational way (on the model of the UK Restorative Cities program).

The project of Tempio Pausania evoke that the task of modern institutions is to reorganize and regenerate well-being and hope through the reconstruction of the relational bonds of citizens in the community where they live. The activities are based on an interest that the group directed by Professor Patrizi has cultivated over the last 20 years in the field of crime prevention, evaluation of effectiveness of the standards of justice, restorative justice and promotion of community well-being. The project conducted in Tempio Pausania has the aim to build a community based on social inclusion and social cohesion, as recommended by Europe 2020. The idea of the project is raised on the social conflict that in 2013 came from the opening of the new Penitentiary of Tempio Pausania-Nuchis. The jail was supposed to “host” prisoners of mafia related crimes coming from outside the region of Sardinia.

Thus, the project has been shared with the Penitentiary of Tempio Pausania-Nuchis and the town hall allowed us to start a process of restorative conferences, focus groups, specialized seminars conducted in a framework of community approach. 

All actions took place during the project had the main objective to raise awareness and engagement towards restorative practices. Restorative conferences build the opportunity to connect the word inside to the world outside. It was the opportunity to share strong emotions, don’t think anymore about the prison as an isolated island but about the relationship between prisoners, operators, free citizens, external professionals. This is the basic step for us to build a community based on restorative practices.

Theoretical Framework

The project operates according to the UN Economic and Social Council (N. 2000/14 of 27/06/ 2000) where restorative justice is defined as "any process in which the victim and the offender and, where appropriate, any other individuals or community members affected by a crime, participate actively together in the resolution of matters arising from the crime, generally with the help of a facilitator." In this way, we used an approach that considers the offense mainly in terms of damage to people and the "fractures" of relationships that occur within a community. Our model focuses on not the penalty and the offender, but on ways to heal the harm (Zehr, 1990) beyond mere financial compensation to the victim. In our framework, we prefer an orientation to the generation/regeneration of social harmony between social partners through a search for consensus, sharing and social peace (Patrizi & Lepri, 2011).

Since restorative justice has the immediate potential to combine the needs of rehabilitation and social security through community involvement and conflict management, we try to build in Tempio Pausania an occasion to favourite a cultural change: trying to involve all communities to bring a sense of “Restorative Cities” (such as Hull and Leeds in England); involving the schools to adopt a model of restorative justice; trying to organize all the services and commercial stores to promote a peaceful management view of the everyday life to give back to the community the ability to manage and resolve conflicts (Wright, 2002; 2010). Restorative justice also relates to a complex international debate about (Miers, Aertsen, 2012) implementing measures and operational protocols in the judicial system, with the purpose of promoting individual and collective welfare, combatting relapse and spreading societal security. These indicate the need to revise penal systems in the light of scientific evidence and operational considerations. Recently Italy has introduced new laws that lead in this direction (including Law No. 67 of 28/04/14 and Directive 2012/29 / EU of 25/10/12). The model of conflict management at the community level allows the development of early years education, supporting the use of restorative approaches as educational tools for reciprocity and responsibility in relationships with others. 

Our project, founded on several studies have shown that community-based programs are more effective in significantly reducing re-offending and societal conflicts, encourage responsibility and participation by supporting people to manage conflicts and problems (Cellini, 2009; Petersilia, Turner, 1993; McIvor, 1991; Aos, Miller, Drake, 2004). In recent decades the contribution of positive psychology to this has been acknowledged, redirecting research attention to the growth and development of persons in their environment, aiming to promote skills and attitudes that match the complex reality in which they live (Catalano, Berglund, Ryan, Lonczak, & Hawkin, 2004; Nota, Ginevra, & Santilli, in press). Central constructs in this perspective are: Hope (the ability to set goals and identify the strategies needed to pursue them, Snyder, 2000); Optimism (the propensity to learn the lessons of experience, Seligman, 2005); Resilience (the ability to engage and persist in the face of failures and negative events, Masten & Powell, 2003); and Courage (continuing to face challenges for equity and social well-being, Snyder, Lopez, & Pedrotti, 2011), including challenging current norms and barriers in pursuit of the greater well-being of the community (Sonenshein and Spreitzer, 2003). We adopt a positive view of persons and context because we think that restorative practices are the best way to activate positive resources in the people and in their environment (family, friends, work, school, services, community, etc.).

A sense of community is another important part of restorative practices. It refers to "the perception of similarity with others, a recognized interdependence, a willingness to keep this interdependence by offering or doing for others what you expect from them, the feeling of belonging to a structure fully stable and reliable" (Sarason, 1974). We try to develop this sense of community involves: becoming aware of the boundaries that define who is (and is not) part of a community; a sense of emotional connection and security through having significant ties with the people and with a place; personal investment in the community through contributions both tangible and intangible; the quality of the relationship and the sharing of a common history; and having a voice in decision-making that increases the sense of influence over how the community is shaped and developed (McMillan and Chavis, 1986). 


The specific aims of the project are:

• to build a restorative community model applicable to shared Sardinian context with social and institutional actors involved according to the indicators that evaluate their feasibility and effectiveness;

• detection, disclosure, promotion of good practice at local, national and european level in relation to restorative justice programs and mediation;

• analysis of the state regarding the restorative practices initiated in the reference contexts and their feasibility in view of governance;

• exploration of the strengths and critical elements in the implementation of a restorative model community highlighted the involved key informants;

• networking of the various agencies involved in order to share experiences and practices aimed at the implementation of the model.

Intervention tools: Restorative Conference

The main instrument to build a sense of community in Tempio Pausania are the restorative conferences: a series of meetings in which the different parts of the system come together to identify resources and channels for building peaceful manner of problems and conflict resolution. The aim is to encourage all people present, in different roles and memberships, to reflect on the meaning and potential of a relational key set community.

Restorative Conferences gives, to the prisoners and to all the community, the opportunity to think about the links between territory and imprisonment. The meeting between those living in prison as a prisoner and the operators, institutions, citizens is one of the main steps to building a community based on restorative practices. The aim is to encourage all people present, in different roles and memberships, a reflection on the meaning and potential of a relational key set community.

During the conference, open to the whole community, we have a various kind of partecipant (judges, volunteers, educators, third sector, the PA administrators, law enforcement, etc.) and we actually have registered about 350 people at 7 restorative conferences. Finally, during the restorative justice week, they have another opportunity to strengthen the social ties with the restorative lunch (2014) and the restorative “aperitivo” (2015, link video: We highlight that 19 November 2014, on the occasion of the International Week of Restorative Justice, a lunch at the “proloco”, which was attended by a delegation of prisoners was organized (which for the first time in many years, had the opportunity to sit at a table outside the penitentiary with people who were not in prison mates), local authorities, magistrates, lawyers, mayor of Tempio Pausania and Mayor of Sassari along with various councilors etc. Each table was marked with the words (the values of the conference) that emerged from the first reparative conference (among others: responsibility, respect, trust, reciprocity). 

Research instrument: Focus group and questionnaires

To evaluate the results and changes in our community we are using a mixed methodology with qualitative and quantitative instruments.

We used the “focus group” (specific for different areas of community governance: Justice, Health, Safety, Education and Politics) which aim to explore social representation on concepts like justice and conflict resolution and to evaluate its changes after the conclusion of the project. The focus groups have been used also to build in future (until the 31 December 2016) the technical permanent citizens board 

During the first meeting they will be given of the self-assessment tools to the different participants (eg. Perceived support, resilience, hope) to evaluate the possible effect of partecipation to the project. 

The instrument were: "Social Support Perceived" (Zimet et al., 1988); "Life Orientation Test” (Scheier et al, 1994) which evaluate the propension to the optimism; "Hope Scale” (Snyder et al, 1991); “Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale” (Connor, Davidson 2003); “Social Self-Efficacy Scale” (Caprara 2001).


The deep mean of the whole project that we have started to carry out in Tempio-Pausania since more than two years ago, is to build and to do things together within the community. Building together a sense of conflict's peaceful management, a sense of providing answers to damages, that can be caused by a crime or by another type of damage, in order to respect the rights of all involved parts.

The main result is demonstrated by the recent city council in prison strongly desired by the mayor and the municipal administration. Is a first stones placed by the “formal community” in prison that highlight that where first was division, now we can build a sense of sharing, overcoming stereotypical visions of buildings and persons (especially for the prison and prisoners) and facing the previous integration problem with a new point of view.

To achieve this aim we highlight the importance of listening to all sides to reconstruct the social structures that can be threatened, the damaged by actions that constituted a problem, building together a restorative community. A "restorative community" is a community trust-based, established on relationships and on mutual respect: a society definitely based on wellbeing of all its parties. A restorative community in Tempio Pausania tries to solve problems cohesively, it doesn't designate others to manage its own problems, but it bears the responsibility to manage these problems in a more peaceful and positive way for everyone.

Finally, the project of Tempio Pausania leads us to work on the start up of the restorative and listening service “Riparascoltando” which clearly evoke the Directive 2012/29 / EU of 25 October 2012, establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime and that makes explicit reference to the methods of implementation of the "restorative justice" services as a tool, not only to faster resolution of the conflict and to reduce secondary victimization, but also to crime prevention, security development and promotion of well-being for all parties involved.


Patrizia Patrizi

Professor of Psychology and Law and Restorative

Justice at the University of Sassari

Head of the research unit

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Gian Luigi Lepri

Research fellow, University of Sassari,

facilitator of the Restorative Conference

Coordinator of the research unit

Ernesto Lodi PhD

Research fellow, University of Sassari

Senior Researcher


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