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Restorative justice could actually restore justice

November 1, 2009

….There may, however, be an alternative to despair. This alternative
is restorative justice, which involves confronting the perpetrator of a
crime with its victim, and having the victim explain the consequences
that the crime had.

Restorative justice sounds like a soft
option, a way of letting criminals off the hook through an effortless,
and essentially costless, apology. Handled in the wrong way, that is no
doubt what it can be. But to my surprise, there is some strong
statistical evidence that going through restorative justice can have a
major reforming effect on criminals.

Prof Lawrence Sherman, Wolfson Professor of Criminology at
Cambridge, carried out a rigorous study, funded by the Home Office and
evaluated independently, of 850 offenders. Half had agreed to
participate in restorative justice – that is, to meet the victims of
their crimes; the others were not offered that alternative. Those who
went through the restorative justice process committed, on average,
28 per cent fewer crimes over the following two years, as measured by
their reconviction rate.

No other intervention comes close to
that result. When matched for their criminal pasts, those released from
prison and those given community sentences have almost identical
reconviction rates, of around 50 per cent – which is about the level
among those who are simply cautioned or fined. So for restorative
justice to result in a drop in the rate of reconviction of more than
25 per cent is extraordinary. If Prof Sherman’s result is all it seems
to be, then restorative justice achieves something that no other
procedure has: it persuades a significant number of criminals to commit
fewer crimes.

Read the whole article.


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