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Positive Psychology & Positive Criminology in the context of restorative justice

This multi-year, ground breaking project was initiated by RJ4All in partnership with Buckinghamshire New University in January 2013 under the leadership of Professor Theo Gavrielides, PhD.
After the successful publication of several papers, RJ4All continued the project combining theoretical analysis, original fieldwork and social policy development at national and international levels. 
The project aims to scientifically investigate and pilot interventions that use the tools of positive psychology and positive criminology through restorative justice. Pilots have included cases such as violence against the person, theft, riots and hate crimes.
An ongoing project under this programme is Gavrielides’ forthcoming book Addressing Violent Radicalisation and Extremism: A Restorative Justice & Psychosocial Approach

Current gaps & Innovation

Traditionally, criminologists have used psychology to understand and reduce violence by focusing on the negative traits that lead people to crime.

This approach is encapsulated in the Risk Need Responsivity (RNR) model of rehabilitation. This approach is failing at practical, policy, political and financial levels internationally (Gavrielides, 2015). Following the abolishment of the death penalty in most democracies, imprisonment is considered the toughest tool of the RNR model. Putting the various theories and claims aside regarding incapacitation, we only need to look at recidivism to assess whether the RNR tool has been achieving its objectives including rehabilitation, crime control and deterrence.
At the time of writing (February 2024), the United States (US) ranks top in the world chart with more than 2 million prisoners nationwide (World Prison Brief, 2024). This equals to roughly 25% of the world’s total prison population.

Our programme aims to build an evidence based for an innovative and complementary approach to crime prevention and control. 

The programme uses the tools of positive psychology and positive criminology to provide a fresh critical analysis of restorative practices, which have recently received much attention by policy makers and politicians. Questions that we are looking at:

  • What can restorative justice learn from positive psychology and positive criminology? 
  • Is there anything to be gained from this relationship for rehabilitation theories and Criminal justice practice? 
  • How can the victim and the community be brought into the rehabilitation debate?
  • How can the interaction between restorative justice, positive criminology and positive psychology result in a better and more effective crime control and prevention?

Our hypothesis is that by bringing positive psychology/ positive criminology into the restorative justice debate, we may be able to generate a much needed normative and practical direction for crime control and prevention.

We also hypothesise that this interaction can help improve the implementation of restorative justice practices including minimizing the risks associated with their delivery as well as increasing the positive effects that we now know they can have on victims, offenders and the community.

This is a long-term programme reflecting one of expertises at RJ4All. The programme has resulted in several scientific publications and real-life pilots.

Furthermore, it is expected that the following outputs will be achieved:

  • new funded pilots and projects testing the hypothesis with different types of crimes
  • several publications,
  • awareness raising events and educational material.

Ultimately, the project aims to bridge a gap in scientific knowledge while impacting on the ground by informing policy and practice.

Programme phases & progress


The first phase was funded by Buckinghamshire New University It was based on a literature view and aimed to develop a theoretical framework for the application of positive psychology in the context of restorative justice. 
This resulted in Gavrielides, T. and Worth, P. (2013). “Another push for restorative justice: Positive psychology & offender rehabilitation” in Crime: International Perspectives, Socioeconomic Factors and Psychological Implications”, USA: Nova Science Publishers.


The second phase built on the secondary research of Phase 1, and was funded by Buckinghamshire New University. This phase included fieldwork and pilots of real restorative justice encounters combining positive psychology/ positive criminology. The pilots were delivered with the following partners:

  • Khulisa (UK)
  • the Centro de Mediación y Arbitraje (Central University of Chile)
  • the Forgiveness Project (UK).
This project phase resulted in another peer reviewed publication Worth, P., Gavrielides, T., Smith, M., Ntziadima, A., Gouseti, I. (2015), “The Psychology of Restorative Justice: Creating the inner and outer space for change: An observation of Restorative Justice meetings” in Gavrielides, T. (Eds). The Psychology of Restorative Justice: Managing the Power Within. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4724-5530-7. The evidence from this project has also been used to create a proposal that is now funded by the EU and is titled the Youth Empowerment and Innovation Project (YEIP).


We are now in the third phase of the programme seeking for new partners and horizons. 

As part of this programme, Gavrielides’ is publishing his new monograph
Addressing Violent Radicalisation and Extremism: A Restorative Justice & Psychosocial Approach

This phase of the programme also sees the development of our RJiNEAR resilience model, and the delivery of several pilots through our Youth Clubs+
To support RJ4All’s initiative within this programme, either as an intern, funder, associate or partner, please visit this page.

Related Publications:

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