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Restorative justice conferencing (RJC) using face-to-face meetings of offenders and victims: Effects on offender recidivism and victim satisfaction. A systematic review.

Nov 21, 2013

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.

... The evidence of a relationship between conferencing and subsequent convictions or arrests over two years post-random assignment is clear and compelling, with nine out of 10 results in the predicted direction and a standardized mean difference for the ten experiments combined (Cohen’s d = -.155; p = .001). The impact of RJCs on 2-year convictions was reported to be cost-effective in the 7 UK experiments, with up to 14 times as much benefit in costs of the crimes prevented (in London), and 8 times overall, as the cost of delivering RJCs. The effect of conferencing on victims’ satisfaction with the handling of their cases is uniformly positive (d = .327; p<.05), as are several other measures of victim impact.

...RJCs delivered in the manner tested by the ten eligible tests in this review appear likely to reduce future detected crimes among the kinds of offenders who are willing to consent to RJCs, and whose victims are also willing to consent. The condition of consent is crucial not just to the research, but also to the aim of its generalizability. The operational basis of holding such conferences at all depends upon consent, since RJCs without consent are arguably unethical and breach accepted principles of restorative justice. The conclusions are appropriately limited to the kinds of cases in which RJCs would be ethical and appropriate. Among the kinds of cases in which both offenders and victims are willing to meet, RJCs seem likely to reduce future crime. Victims’ satisfaction with the handling of their cases is consistently higher for victims assigned to RJCs than for victims whose cases were assigned to normal criminal justice processing.

Download the full report.

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