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Evaluating Restorative Programmes: Reports from Two Countries.
With the growing use of restorative processes, issues of effectiveness and best practices are being debated. Research and evaluation are keys to understanding these issues. At the same time, evaluation brings up questions of appropriate performance measures and goals for restorative justice programmes. Three recent studies, one from the United Kingdom and two from New Zealand, address these issues.
Diverting Young Adults from Prison in NSW
The New South Wales (NSW) Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research recently released an evaluation report of a pilot community conferencing programme targeting young adults. The programme seeks to divert persons between the ages of 18 and 24 from prison to community conferences. The report discusses results from a survey of conference participants as well as interviews and focus group meetings with key stakeholders in Liverpool and Tweed Heads – the two local courts participating in the pilot programme.
Restorative Justice and Reconviction
The Ministry of Justice (formerly the Home Office) in London released the last in a series of reports on the effectiveness of restorative justice. This report discusses the reconviction rates and cost effectiveness of three restorative justice schemes funded under the Home Office Crime Reduction Programme from mid-2001 through 2004.
Restorative Justice and Reconviction
The Ministry of Justice (formerly the Home Office) in London released the last in a series of reports on the effectiveness of restorative justice. This report discusses the reconviction rates and cost effectiveness of three restorative justice schemes funded under the Home Office Crime Reduction Programme from mid-2001 through 2004.
Woods, Daniel J.. Unpacking the impact of Restorative Justice in the RISE experiments: Facilitators, offenders, and conference non-delivery.
Restorative Justice (RJ) programs are often evaluated in terms of their outcomes, with little attention to the process. Typically we analyze average effects across individuals who experience RJ differently. The present dissertation unpacks these different effects in three separate inquiries utilizing data from the Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (RISE) conducted in Canberra, Australia from 1995 - 2000. First, we descriptively assess the extent RJ conference facilitators engender perceptions of procedural justice and legitimacy in offenders. We examine the number of conferences delivered (experience), sequential conferences (practice-makes-perfect) and the timing between conferences (skill maintenance). Certain conference facilitators are better than others from the outset. We recommend the identification of RJ facilitators who are good at promoting perceptions of procedural justice and legitimacy. Second, we utilize trajectory analysis and find the impact of RJ varies by offending group, with negative effects observed for Aboriginal offenders. Finally, utilizing multinomial logistic regression, we examine the characteristics associated with non-delivery of RJ. Randomized controlled trials, such as RISE, rely on treatment integrity to best assess the impact of the assigned treatment. From a policy standpoint, the most efficient use of resources would rely on successful conference delivery. We find that the time between random assignment and the first conference attempt is significantly related to successful delivery. This dissertation takes important steps in understanding the importance of unpacking the impact of RJ and helps inform who should conduct RJ conferences, what groups of individuals to include in future studies, and what impacts non-delivery of RJ conferences. (author's abstract)
Sivasubramaniam, Diane . Trust and power-distance: cross-cultural issues in juvenile justice conferencing.
Conferencing is a Restorative Justice practice operating in juvenile justice systems in Australia. Some conferences are convened by police, despite research demonstrating that ethnic minority youth often view police as biased or untrustworthy. Justice research in evaluative legal procedures indicates that perceived third party bias and outcomes delivered by a third party affect fairness judgments. Many disputants regard conferences as more fair than court. However, psychological mechanisms underlying fairness judgments in conferences, where offenders participate in outcome decisions, have not been directly investigated. This research program examined the effects of outcome and perceived convenor bias on procedural and distributive justice ratings in conferencing. Past research indicates that people high and low on Hofstede´s power-distance dimension differ in their emphases on outcome and third party bias when forming fairness judgments. This thesis investigated whether power-distance moderated the interactive effect of trust and outcome on fairness judgments in conferences. Study 1 established power-distance variation in a university sample, and similarity with a community sample on perceived police bias. Study 2 confirmed that high power-distance people who consider police biased against them may nonetheless choose to participate in police-convened conferences. Studies 3 and 4 extended previous research examining interactive effects of trust and outcome on justice judgments in evaluative procedures, investigating whether power-distance moderated this effect. No significant effects of power-distance and trust emerged, but the findings demonstrated the importance of outcome fairness (correspondence between outcomes and beliefs) in determining procedural justice. Studies 5, 6 and 7 extended this investigation to conferencing procedures. Studies 6 and 7 employed a computer-simulation, allowing participants to interact with a conference transcript and select outcomes, thereby investigating the effects of trust and power-distance on outcome choice, as well as the effects of trust, power-distance, and outcome on justice evaluations. Studies 5 and 6 were unsuccessful in manipulating bias by varying convenor identity (police versus civilian). Study 7 successfully manipulated bias according to convenor behaviour and revealed that third party bias in conferencing affected outcome choices but not fairness judgments. Results are discussed in terms of implications for culturally-relevant police practices, procedural justice theory and conferencing policy. (author's abstract)
Review: Restorative justice in practice: Evaluating what works for victims and offenders.
by Eric Assur Three British criminology researchers and educators, affiliated with the University of Sheffield, have offered a very rich book on the use of victim-offender mediation programs (what they call schemes) in adult criminal justice venues in England. Most early Restorative Justice (RJ) writing has focused on juvenile justice programs, generally with a concentration on diversionary approaches for first time offenders. The Shapland, Robinson and Sorsby book looks exclusively and intensely at three ‘schemes’ and several hundred ‘cases’ involving adults. The criminal justice programs they studied were funded by the British Ministry of Justice – Home Office between 2001 and 2008. They worked with adults at arrest, while going through the courts and even with some while imprisoned. In a nutshell, this is a thought provoking book that has few significant weak points. This is not a primer on Restorative Justice. It assumes that readers are at least moderately informed about RJ. It belongs in the hands of North American justice administrators. While not designed as a textbook (no end of chapter discussion questions), it concludes with end notes and references that make it a useful reference for anyone seeking to look further into transformative justice and RJ, especially as found in the United Kingdom and Australia.
. Agreements in restorative justice conferences: Exploring the implications of agreements for post-conference offending behaviour.
Agreements are key outcomes in restorative justice conferences. However, there is debate over the effectiveness of such agreements to reduce post-conference offending. Research suggests that many young offenders are satisfied with their agreements and perceive them as fair. We know less about the linkages between young offenders’ experiences with agreements and post-conference offending. Drawing on observation and interview data from 32 young offenders who attended conferences, we found that nearly all young people felt their agreements were satisfactory and fair. However, most offenders felt that the agreement phase of the conferencing process did not have an impact on their post-conference offending behaviour. These findings further inform the debate over agreement requirements and have policy implications for conferencing programmes. (author's abstract)
Restorative justice conferencing (RJC) using face-to-face meetings of offenders and victims: Effects on offender recidivism and victim satisfaction. A systematic review.
from the report by Heather Strang, et. al.: This systematic review examines the effects of the subset of restorative justice programs that has been tested most extensively: a face-to-face Restorative Justice Conference (RJC) “that brings together offenders, their victims, and their respective kin and communities, in order to decide what the offender should do to repair the harm that a crime has caused” (Sherman and Strang, 2012: 216). The Review investigates the effects of RJCs on offenders’ subsequent convictions (or in one case arrests) for crime, and on several measures of victim impact. The review considers only randomized controlled trials in which victim and offenders consented to meet prior to random assignment, the analysis of which was based on the results of an “intention-to-treat” analysis. A total of ten experiments with recidivism outcomes were found that met the eligibility criteria, all of which also had at least one victim impact measure
. Long-term impact of family group conferences on re-offending: the Indianapolis restorative justice experiment.
An earlier study suggests that treatment group youths experienced reduced risk in the short-term and there is no evidence in the present study to suggest that youths participating in FGCs were placed at greater risk for re-offending. Given these findings and the body of research suggesting improved outcomes for victims, continued experimentation with FGCs and related restorative processes seems warranted. Future studies would benefit from blocking procedures in the experimental design in order to examine whether treatment effects are moderated by gender, race, and initial type of offense. The lack of such blocking procedures represents a limitation of the current study. (author's abstract)
Moore, David B and O'Connell, Terry. Family Conferencing in Wagga Wagga: A Communitarian Model of Justice
Originally part of a contribution to a debate at Melbourne University, this paper describes the Wagga Model and engages with academic critics, giving particular regard to the perspective of local police, welfare and legal workers. The origins of the Wagga Wagga model of family group conferences is explained, difficulties in its implementation described, and its modification based upon Braithwaite's theories discussed. The theoretical basis for the model is discussed and the authors respond to some of the criticisms of this version of FGCs. The early evaluation effort and its results are briefly described and the application of the approach to schools is discussed. Finally, seven case studies are presented describing case background, police intervention, the caution process, outcomes and issues for each.
Harris, Nathan and Burton, Jamie B. The Reliability of Observed Reintegrative Shaming, Shame, Defiance and Other Key Concepts in Diversionary Conferences
The Reintegrative Shaming Experiment, which began in the Australian Capital Territory in July 1995, is a comparison between the court system and an alternative to traditional criminal justice interventions, called Diversionary Conferencing. The experiment is primarily focused upon testing differences in the level of recidivism resulting from the two interventions. The experiment also measures a large number of factors which have been predicted by a variety of theoretical perspectives to impact upon criminal activity and recidivism. This report presents the results of that study.
Sherman, Lawrence W and Strang, Heather. Restorative Justice and Deterring Crime.
The authors contend that experiments in reintegrative shaming by the Canberra police (Australia) indicate that offenders are more deterred from repeat offending after experiencing the restorative justice approach of diversionary conferencing than after court proceedings. These preliminary findings of the Canberra police conferencing program are especially important because some critics have called shaming conferences a "soft option."
Wachtel, Benjamin and McCold, Paul. The Bethlehem Pennsylvania Police Family Group Conferencing Project
This is a report on the Bethlehem Pennsylvania Police Family Group Conferencing Project. First-time moderately serious juvenile offenders were randomly assigned either to formal adjudication or to a diversionary "restorative policing" process called family group conferencing. Police-based family group conferencing employs trained police officers to facilitate a meeting attended by juvenile offenders, their victims, and their respective family and friends, to discuss the harm caused by the offender's actions and to develop an agreement to repair the harm. Victim and offender participation is voluntary. The effect of the program was measured through surveys of victims, offenders, offender's parents and police officers and by examining outcomes of conferences and formal adjudication. Results are related to six questions about restorative policing. Findings include: 42% participation rate, 100% of conferences (n=67) reaching an agreement, 94% of offenders (n=80) fully complying with agreements, and participant satisfaction and sense of fairness exceeding 96%. Results suggests that recidivism was more a function of offenders choice to participate than the effects of the conferencing, per se. Violent offenders participating in conferences had lower rearrest rates than violent offenders declining to participate, but this was not true for property offenders.
Palk, Gerard and Pollard, Gail and Johnson, Lyn. Community conferencing in Queensland
Community conferencing for juvenile offenders began in Queensland in 1997. This report covers the legislation in Queensland behind community conferencing. Three pilot projects are described, including information on project evaluation, data collection about actual conferences, project outcomes, and participant responses (with respect to accountability, reintegration, and recidivism). Two common concerns about the program are addressed – victim participation, and fair agreement outcomes for offenders. Future considerations for implementation of community conferencing are recognized. They relate to pre-conference preparation, conference convening, and ongoing monitoring of outcomes.
Moore, David B and O'Connell, Terry and Forsyth, Lubbica. A New Approach to Juvenile Justice: An Evaluation of Family conferencing in Wagga Wagga
This report is concerned with a process known as the family group conference, the basic principles of which are simple. In the wake of an offence, and where guilt is admitted, victims, offenders, and their supporters are given an opportunity to meet in the presence of a coordinator or facilitator. Conference participants are encouraged to discuss the direct or indirect effects of the incident on them. They may then negotiate plans for repairing the damage and minimising further harm arising from that incident. The conference process is guided by participatory democratic principles. It seeks a just response to a harmful breach of social and/or legal norms.
Sherman, Lawrence W and Woods, Daniel and Strang, Heather. Recidivism Patterns in the Canberra Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (RISE)
In this intermediate report on the data collected by the Canbera Reintegrative Shaming Experiment, the researchers discuss the recidivism patterns of three types of offenders: violent offenders, drunk drivers, and shoplifters. The data showed the before and after one-year recidivism rates for the groups randomly assigned to either the conferencing or the court.
Daly, Kathleen and Michele Venables and Mary McKenna and Liz Mumford and Jane Christie-Johnston. South Australia Juvenile Justice (SAJJ) Research on Conferencing. Technical report no. 1: Project overview and research instruments.
The South Australia Juvenile Justice (SAJJ) Research on Conferencing project consists of observations of conferencing in response to juvenile offenses. SAJJ focuses on ways of measuring restorative justice practices and assessing variability in the conference process and participants' understandings of the process. Technical Report No. 1 provides an overview of the project and its research instruments. Part I covers the following topics: the legal and organizational context of conferencing in South Australia; research leading up to SAJJ; key research questions; time frame; differences with the Reintegrative Shaming Experiment (RISE); design considerations; theoretical aims; sampling plan; data gathering plan; conference numbers; and procedures in conducting interviews. Part II describes the research instruments used - background material, design of each instrument, source and rationale of the questions, and problems in using the instruments. Technical Report No. 1 should be read in conjunction with Technical Report No. 2, which can be found at this Internet address:
Hassall, I and Robertson, J. and Maxwell, Gabrielle. A Briefing Paper: An Appraisal of the First Year of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989
Three papers describe changes brought about by the New Zealand Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989. The first paper examines the Family Group Conference as an innovative method of involving families in statutory care and protection and youth justice processes. The second paper presents statistical data for 1990 on the disposition of children and youth who came to attention, under either the care and protection or youth justice provisions of the Act. The third article finds that the number of arrests, court appearances, convictions and court orders sharply decreased following passage of the act.
Maxwell, Gabrielle and Morris, Allison. Research on Family Group Conferences With Young Offenders in New Zealand
This analysis reports data on family group conferences for more than 200 juvenile offenders in New Zealand in 1990 and 1991. The principles underlying family group conferences are new, radical, and exciting in that they emphasize diversion, restorative justice, and responding to the needs of youth through strengthening families and acknowledging cultural differences. Results revealed that these conferences achieved diversionary outcomes for the great majority of young offenders. However, crucial questions have been raised about the system's fairness and its ability to achieve its ideals. Although the process has greater potential than traditional processes to achieve these goals, much depends on practice, resources, and the systems that support the processes.

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