Source: (2003) Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

This report presents the methodology and findings from an evaluation of the juvenile family group conference program operated by a probation department in rural Illinois. In the study reported, almost every participant in one family group conference was interviewed, including the offender's guardian, the victim, a community member, and the arresting juvenile police officer. The participants were uniformly satisfied with all aspects of the conference. The study also focused on whether youth who would formerly not have been processed by the juvenile system have been brought into the system through the conferences ("net widening"). Program staff pointed out that few juvenile cases in the county were dismissed or resolved informally prior to the inception of the conference program, suggesting that there has not been "net widening." Three conferences that involved the reintegrative shaming of the offender were also observed. Case study program staff reported that from May 1999 to May 2001, only 2 of 26 offenders who had participated in a conference had their cases referred back to court. In both cases, the offenders reoffended, but still subsequently completed their conference agreement. Some of the challenges faced by the conference program have been obtaining the cooperation of multiple juvenile justice system agencies and balancing the goal of meeting victim needs with having the desired impact on offenders. These results are consistent with a recent review of prior research that examined family group conferences. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,