Program

Jun 23, 2008

OVERVIEW

Restorative
Justice Conferencing involves a meeting between youth offenders, victims of
their offense, and family members or others who have been affected by the
offense. The end result of these meetings is an agreement for reparations
which is signed by all parties. A randomized, experimental evaluation of
the Restorative Justice Conferencing program found that it was effective in
reducing the incidence of re-arrest in offenders.

DESCRIPTION OF
PROGRAM

Target population: Non-serious,
non-violent criminal offenders under the age of 14

Restorative Justice Conferencing recognizes the minimal time
often given to juvenile cases and the passive role played by the
juveniles. It is based in the idea that an offender will be more
responsive to known members of their community rather than an unknown criminal
justice system, especially if they see the effects of their actions. Taking
advantage of this, the program seeks to get offenders to come face-to-face with
the people who have been affected by their offense. Conferences, which
last about 45 minutes in length, are attended by the offender, victims,
parents, and others who have been affected by the incident. All parties
discuss the incident and come to an agreement which lays out how the offender
will make reparations for their actions. At the end of the meeting, a
written agreement is signed by attendees and a volunteer is designated to act
as an overseer to make sure the offender carries out the terms of the
agreement.

EVALUATION(S) OF
PROGRAM

McGarrell, E. (2001). Restorative justice
conferences as an early response to young offenders. Bulletin. Washington,
DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Evaluated
population: 458 offenders with a median age of 13 years from
Indianapolis. Across the control and treatment group, 61% of offenders
were nonwhite and 39% were white and two-thirds were male. Shoplifting
was the most common primary offense that the offenders committed; other
offenses included battery, theft, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct,
trespassing, intimidation, and other offenses.

Approach: To participate in the evaluation, the
children had to meet a set of criteria. They had to be under the age of
14, be a first-time offender, have no other pending charges, and admit
responsibility for the offense; they also could not have committed a violent or
serious offense. After meeting the criteria, children were randomly
assigned to either the control group or the Restorative Justice Conference
program. Children in the control group were then assigned to one of 23
other diversion programs that were normally available to offenders.

Children were assessed by researchers at the conferencing
session using an observation checklist. In additin, the juveniles, their
parents and the victims completed interviews to measure satisfaction with the
program, whether the program helped them, whether they thought the outcome of
the program was fair, if they were able to express their views during the
conference, if they felt involved, and if they felt they were treated with respect
during the program. In addition, researchers gathered data from the
offender’s file to see if they had completed the program that they were
assigned to and if they were re-arrested.

Results: More offenders in the treatment program
completed their program than offenders in the control programs (83% versus
58%). Juveniles and particularly victims in the treatment group expressed
greater satisfaction with how their case was handled. Six months after
the intervention children in the treatment program were less likely to be
rearrested than children in the control group. In fact, there were 40%
fewer total arrests in the treatment group compared with the control group (20%
versus 34%). At 12 months after the end of the program, children in the
treatment program were still less likely to be arrested compared with those in
the control programs (30% versus 42%). Impacts did not differ by gender,
race, or type of offense.

Interview data with both victims and offenders were not
analyzed in terms of significance and probability testing because of delays in
the interview process. However, initial findings seemed to support the
program in terms of victim and offender satisfaction and also in terms of
effectiveness, fairness, offender involvement, and respect for the offender.

SOURCES FOR MORE
INFORMATION

Website: http://www.restorativejustice.org/

References

McGarrell, E. (2001). Restorative justice conferences
as an early response to young offenders. Bulletin. Washington, DC:
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

KEYWORDS: Children, Adolescents, Juvenile Offenders, High-Risk, Clinic/Provider-Based, Parent or Family Component, Delinquency

Program information last updated 6/23/08