Individuals – Sherman et al. (2000) (Drunk Driving)

Study Reference:

Sherman, L. W., Strang, H., & Woods, D. J. (2000). Recidivism Patterns in the Canberra Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (Rise). Canberra, Australia: Centre for Restorative Justice, Australian National University.

Location in the Matrix and Methodological Rigor:

Individuals; General; Reactive; Very rigorous; Possible Backfire Effect (with caveats)

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This review analyzes the effects of diversionary restorative justice conferences in Canberra, Australia known as the Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (RISE) on four types of offending. The focus of this summary is the impact of restorative justice on drunk drivers. When used as a diversion from court prosecution, restorative justice conferences generally involve a young person who has admitted to the offence, conferencing with their supporters, the victim, the victim’s supporters, a police officer and a moderator to discuss the offense and its impact. The discussion produces an outcome that the offender is expected to fulfill, often involving apologizing to the victim, financial restitution or personal or community service work. The program’s theory is largely drawn from Braithwaite’s theory of reintegrative shaming (1989), which argues that restorative intervention reduces stigmatization and provides an opportunity for offenders to reintegrate into the community and commit less crime.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The experiment randomly assigned 900 offenders to traditional court processes or to a restorative conference. Offending rates in the year before the assignment were compared to those in a one-year and a two-year follow up using official criminal history data. Other outcome measures include the perceptions of procedural fairness, experienced shaming, and emotional intensity by offenders.

What were the key findings?

The detected rates of drinking and driving remained unchanged before and after assignment to court, while they doubled after assignment to conferences. However, since the base rate of drinking and driving is low, the increases in offences caused by the diversionary conferences caused are very small- 6 crimes per 100 offenders per year for all offences; 4 crimes per 100 offenders per year for drink driving offences. These increases relate only to the first year follow up and decay over the longer timeframe. Offenders also reported experiencing stronger emotional intensity and shaming as well as being treated in a more procedurally fair manner in the conference than in the court.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that one possible reason that conference offenders have higher reoffending rate is that drivers’ licenses are suspended in court cases but not in conference cases. This interpretation is also consistent with the fact that the difference does not hold up beyond the twelve month follow-up. Further research is needed to understand the reason.

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