Evidence Based Research in Support of Restorative Justice
I recently had an exchange with a criminal justice professional. He explained that he thought restorative justice was valuable. But then he added that he thought restorative justice was good for low-level offenders but not for offenders considered “high risk.” I said to him, “Well, that ‘s actually not the case. It’s just the reverse.” The research is there and we must be aware of it and use the evidence to make our case for restorative justice. It works for all offenders regardless of the offense.
Some of the best research making the case for restorative justice was produced by Dr. Heather Strang and Lawrence Sherman in 2007 called “The Evidence” published by the Smith Institute (London). Sherman is a professor of criminology at Cambridge. Strang directs the Centre for Restorative Justice at the Australian National University. http://www.smith-institute.org.uk/file/RestorativeJusticeTheEvidenceFullreport.pdf
In the report’s executive summary it states the following: “Restorative justice seems to reduce crime more effectively with more, rather than less, serious crimes.” Their research suggests that restorative justice works with violent crimes more consistently than with property crimes. The report found that restorative justice, in which victims confront their offenders, reduces the frequency of reconviction by an average of 27%. The study included almost 800 cases.
RJI is in strong support of building the case for restorative justice through evidence based research. As we advocate for restorative justice in the public policy arena we must be very aware of evidence that exists. More research must be funded to attest to what we already know. Restorative justice works—not only with low level offenders, often juveniles, but adult offenders who have committed violent offenses. Those of us who advocate for restorative justice must arm ourselves with the facts. And the facts are there in our favor.