Individuals – Shapland et al. (2008) (Northumbria – Adult Offenders)

Study Reference:

Shapland, J., Atkinson, A, Atkinson, H., Dignan, J., Edwards, L., Hibbert, J., Howes, M, Johnstone, J., Robinson, G. and Sorsby, A. (2008), ‘Does restorative justice affect reconviction? The fourth report from the evaluation of three schemes’ (London: Ministry of Justice).

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; General; Reactive; Very rigorous; Mixed findings

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This report analyzes the effects of various restorative justice conference schemes. The focus of this summary is for adult offenders of violence and property crimes. Restorative justice was defined to involve: “a process whereby parties with a stake in a specific offence collectively resolve how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future”. Conferencing involved a face-to-face meeting between the offender and victim with a police facilitator(s). One or more supporters of the victim and the offender were also present (family, people affected by the offence, people who are important to the offender or victim).

How was the intervention evaluated?

The experiment randomly assigned 105 adult offenders to receive a post-plea restorative justice conference, or to court sentencing with no conference. Re-offending was examined in the context of reconviction or further offending resulting in an official disposal. Research staff determined the date when each offender was released from prison and examined whether the offender received any subsequent prison sentences over the next two years.

What were the key findings?

Results for this study are mixed. There was no significant difference in reconvictions within the two years of the study period between the conference group and the control group for offenders of assault cases; 52% of the conference group and 49% of the control group were reconvicted within 2 years. However, the conference group had significantly fewer reconvictions for offenders of property cases; 61% of the conference group and 94% of the control group were reconvicted within 2 years. Further, there was evidence that offenders assigned to conferences were less likely to reoffend when: they realized the harm done by the offense, they wanted to meet the victim(s), they were more actively involved in the conference, and they felt that the conference had been useful. Finally, across all conference schemes, both offenders and victims were highly satisfied with the process of restorative justice and what happened in conferences.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

Overall, this study suggests that restorative justice conferences may reduce recidivism among adult property offenders but not among assaultive adult offenders. The conferences have more positive effects on offenders who have more positive experiences with the conferences, and they appear to improve victim and offender satisfaction with the justice process.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?