Source: (2004) Crime and Justice. 31: 243-292.
The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 incorporated family group conferences into New Zealand’s youth justice system. Though not premised on restorative justice ideas, New Zealand’s system is broadly compatible with them. Alleged offenders under age fourteen may not be criminally prosecuted (except for murder or manslaughter), and offenders from fourteen to seventeen years old must be referred to a family group conference either before formal charges or before sentencing. Conferences include the offender and family members, the victim and supporters, and others and are chaired by a youth justice coordinator (often these are social workers). Outcomes must be accepted by all participants. Offenders, their families, and victims are more satisfied with conferences than with justice system processes. Victims are least satisfied, however, and least willing to participate. Implementation failures may partly explain this. Court referral rates and institutional placements have fallen sharply. Reconviction data are tentative, but offenders’ positive conferencing experiences may predict lower recidivism. Some police remain negative or skeptical. Recent government decisions to build youth penal facilities and rely more heavily on actuarial risk prediction may be inconsistent with conferencing. Overall, though, accomplishments have been substantial, and the future looks promising. Author’s abstract.
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