Source: (2006) Papers presented at the Fourth Conference of the European Forum for Restorative Justice, “Restorative justice: An agenda for Europe”, Barcelona, Spain, 15-17 June 2006.

The following presentation reflects the results of a qualitative study of a Dispute Resolution Program, Prince William County’s Restorative Justice Program, conducted by Sarah M. Smith through The George Washington University. The program is administered in conjunction with the 31st Judicial District Circuit Court and handles first-time juvenile offenders aged 9 to 17 charged with felonies or misdemeanours. Participants in the program are selected by judges, probation officers, or law enforcement officers as either a diversion from court or in addition to court adjudication: approximately 90% are diverted and 10% are selected by a judge. The purpose of the program is to repair the harm caused by crime through the participation of involved parties in an open, safe environment where the crime and its effects can be discussed. The program curriculum consists of an Orientation, Victim Impact Program sessions, and an Accountability Conference, if the victim agrees to participate. This study does not examine recidivism or satisfaction ratings but, rather, attempts to understand the process of restorative justice in the context of its supporting theory, linking theory to practice. The study examines how program staff encourage open and honest communication, empathic and sympathetic orientations in victims and offenders, and non-criminal, prosocial attitudes and behaviours by offenders, the purported benefits of restorative justice. In addition, empirical evidence generated by this study is used to analyze the utility of post-modern theoretical perspectives, principally ideas advanced by Foucault and Lyotard, to inform a model of restorative justice.