Restorative justice in the criminal justice system uses victim and offender dialogue to address the harm caused by a crime as well as victims’ experiences, interests and needs (Latimer 2005*). This approach can be practiced using sharing circles, victim-offender mediation, or facilitated face-to-face conferences that include victims, offenders, their families, friends, and other community members. Restorative justice can occur throughout the criminal justice process, from pre-arrest to post-sentence, and can take place in settings such as prisons, therapeutic facilities, and communities (Daly 2016, Koss 2014*). Judges may consider reducing some offenders’ sentences following restorative justice participation (Sherman 2007).
Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)
Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes
Increased satisfaction with justice process
Reduced post-traumatic stress
Evidence of Effectiveness
There is strong evidence that restorative justice in the criminal justice system reduces recidivism (Campbell-Strang 2013, Latimer 2005*, Sherman 2015, Sherman 2007). For juvenile offenders, effects on recidivism appear strongest when restorative justice practices are implemented with researcher involvement and high fidelity to tested models (Schwalbe 2012*, Hipple 2014*).
Victims of crime who participate in restorative justice efforts have greater levels of satisfaction with the justice process than those who participate in the traditional justice process (Campbell-Strang 2013, Latimer 2005*). Restorative justice conferencing can also reduce victims’ post-traumatic stress symptoms (Sherman 2015, Angel 2014*, Koss 2014*).
Offenders who participate in restorative justice appear more likely to comply with restitution requirements than those who participate in the traditional justice system (Latimer 2005*). In some circumstances, offenders report greater levels of satisfaction with the restorative justice process than the traditional justice process (Latimer 2005*, Sherman 2007).
Victim-offender mediation appears to reduce juvenile recidivism (Nugent 2004*). Arizona-based studies indicate that juvenile offenders in restorative justice conferencing are less likely to reoffend than peers in a traditional diversion program (Rodriguez 2007*, De Beus 2007*); effects are greater for girls and youth with few prior offenses than boys and youth with more prior offenses (Rodriguez 2007*). First-time juvenile offenders who participate in restorative justice programs may be less likely to reoffend than peers in the traditional justice system (Bergseth 2013*); additional evidence is needed to confirm effects (Cochrane-Livingstone 2013).
Researchers suggest that police-led conferences and in-person requests to victims support victim participation in restorative justice conferences (Sherman 2007). Victim-centered practice, open and respectful interactions in a safe environment, and facilitator training also support effective restorative justice for youth (Choi 2012*).
A Washington-based analysis estimates that restorative justice conferencing cost about $1,080 per participant in 2016, with a benefit to cost ratio of $3.49 (WSIPP-Benefit cost).
Impact on Disparities
Restorative justice has been implemented in some states, such as Illinois (IBARJ), and in many American Indian and Alaska Native communities (Tribal Youth-RJ). City-level efforts are also underway in many communities, including Baltimore’s Community Conferencing Center (CCC-Baltimore), Brooklyn’s Common Justice (CJ-Brooklyn), and Minneapolis’ victim-offender mediation program (OJJDP Model Programs).
CJR-RJ - Center for Justice and Reconciliation (CJR). Restorative Justice (RJ).
Citations - Evidence
* Journal subscription may be required for access.
Campbell-Strang 2013 - Strang H, Sherman LW, Mayo-Wilson E, Woods D, Ariel B. Restorative justice conferencing (RJC) using face-to-face meetings of offenders and victims: Effects on offender recidivism and victim satisfaction: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2013:12.
Latimer 2005* - Latimer J, Dowden C, Muise D. The effectiveness of restorative justice practices: A meta-analysis. The Prison Journal. 2005;85(2):127–44.
Sherman 2015 - Sherman LW, Strang H, Barnes G, et al. Twelve experiments in restorative justice: The Jerry Lee program of randomized trials of restorative justice conferences. Journal of Experimental Criminology. 2015;11(4):501–540.
Sherman 2007 - Sherman LW, Strang H. Restorative justice: The evidence. London, UK: Smith Institute; 2007.
Schwalbe 2012* - Schwalbe CS, Gearing RE, MacKenzie MJ, Brewer KB, Ibrahim R. A meta-analysis of experimental studies of diversion programs for juvenile offenders. Clinical Psychology Review. 2012;32(1):26–33.
Hipple 2014* - Hipple NK, Gruenewald J, McGarrell EF. Restorativeness, procedural justice, and defiance as predictors of reoffending of participants in family group conferences. Crime & Delinquency. 2014;60(8):1131–1157.
Angel 2014* - Angel CM, Sherman LW, Strang H, et al. Short-term effects of restorative justice conferences on post-traumatic stress symptoms among robbery and burglary victims: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Experimental Criminology. 2014;10(3):291–307.
Koss 2014* - Koss MP. The RESTORE Program of restorative justice for sex crimes: Vision, process, and outcomes. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 2014;29(9):1623–1660.
Nugent 2004* - Nugent WR, Williams M, Umbreit MS. Participation in victim-offender mediation and the prevalence of subsequent delinquent behavior: A meta-analysis. Research on Social Work Practice. 2004;14(6):408–16.
Rodriguez 2007* - Rodriguez N. Restorative justice at work: Examining the impact of restorative justice resolutions on juvenile recidivism. Crime & Delinquency. 2007;53(3):355–79.
De Beus 2007* - De Beus K, Rodriguez N. Restorative justice practice: An examination of program completion and recidivism. Journal of Criminal Justice. 2007;35(3):337-347.
Bergseth 2013* - Bergseth KJ, Bouffard JA. Examining the effectiveness of a restorative justice program for various types of juvenile offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 2013;57(9):1054-1075.
Cochrane-Livingstone 2013 - Livingstone N, Macdonald G, Carr N. Restorative justice conferencing for reducing recidivism in young offenders (aged 7 to 21) (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2013;(2):CD008898.
Choi 2012* - Choi JJ, Bazemore G, Gilbert MJ. Review of research on victims’ experiences in restorative justice: Implications for youth justice. Children and Youth Services Review. 2012;34(1):35–42.
WSIPP-Benefit cost - Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP). Benefit-cost results.
Citations - Implementation Examples
* Journal subscription may be required for access.
IBARJ - Illinois Balanced and Restorative Justice (IBARJ). Strengthening community through restorative justice.
Tribal Youth-RJ - Tribal Youth Resource Center, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Archived webinars - Philosophy and practice: Restorative justice and restorative approaches in tribal communities (RJ).
CCC-Baltimore - Community Conferencing Center (CCC). Baltimore, MD.
CJ-Brooklyn - Vera Institute of Justice. Common Justice (CJ).
OJJDP Model Programs - Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). OJJDP model programs guide.
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