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Crime Victims Meet Their Offenders: Testing the Impact of Restorative Justice Conferences on Victims’ Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms.

Angel, Caroline M
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) Ph.D. dissertation, Nursing and Criminology Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania.

Evidence from randomized controlled trials has indicated that for victims of crime, meeting their offenders in face-to-face restorative justice conferences has resulted in psychological benefits for them. The extent to which these outcomes have been translated into clinically relevant mental health effects had yet to be examined. The purpose of this study was to (a) determine the effects of conferences, in which burglary and robbery victims met their offenders, on victims’ post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) immediately following and six months following their conferences in comparison to conventional justice participants (b) analyze the effects based on case level (unit of random assignment) and individual level data and (c) to examine predictors of PTSS from initial to follow-up interviews. This study was embedded in a larger field experiment. Crime victims (n=114 cases/137 individuals) who had either met their offenders in a restorative justice conference or experienced conventional justice were assessed by telephone regarding crime characteristics, PTSS, and predictor variables for PTSS. For both case level and individual level data in the intent to treat sample, conference participants had lower PTSS scores both initially following and six months following participation in the program than control participants (case level initial, p=.047; case level follow-up, p=.076; individual level initial, p=.070; individual level follow-up, p=.069). Subset analysis deleting one participant from the conference group resulted in statistically significant differences between groups at both interviews (case level initial, p=.03; case level follow-up, p=.048; individual initial, p=.044; individual level follow-up, p=.043). In both the case level and individual level intent to treat sample, conference participation predicted lower levels of PTSS (case level, p=.034; individual level, p=.023) and victims asking “Why me?” predicted high level of PTSS (case level, p=.002; individual level, p=.001). This research offers three major findings: Conferences do not increase PTSS and thereby further psychologically harm victims; conferences, in fact, reduce the traumatic effects of crime and; conference participation is a predictor of lower PTSS six months following participation, while ruminating about “Why did this happen to me?” predicts greater PTSS. Author’s abstract.


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