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Does Restorative Justice Affect Recidivism?

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Restorative justice is an innovative approach to the criminal justice system that focuses on repairing the harm caused by crimes committed

The methods used in the conventional justice system may deter the offender from committing further crimes, but it does neither repair the harm caused, nor help them acknowledge their responsibility, instead it stigmatises them, worsening the situation instead of improving it.

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One of the biggest problems that is faced by the court system is recidivism. Recidivism refers to the rate of offenders who are repeat offenders. Restorative justice, which promotes restitution rather than sentencing, has been honored by some as the solution to our overcrowded prison system. Unfortunately, it is not because it removes consequences for the offender, increases repeat offenses, and envenoms many individuals so they commit additional crimes that may be of similar or different nature. A restorative justice program should be a part of ones’ sentencing when a crime has been committed, this way there is justice served by the offender as well as closure for the individuals affected by the crime. Restorative justice is not only beneficial in providing more room in overcrowded prisons, but it offers a viable approach to justice, which focuses on the needs of the offenders, the victims, and the community. In all forms of restorative justice, the victims are active members in the process while the offenders take responsibility for their actions through apologies and acceptance of what they did

They communicate that they understand what they did was wrong and they try to repair the harm whether through apologizing to the victim, returning stolen goods, or compensating with money or time through community service.

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Victim-offender conferencing had a positive overall effect on delinquency, but this effectwas based solely on methodologically weak studies. Family group conferencing had asimilarity positive overall effect, but the effect for the more credible random assignmentstudies was small, raising concerns regarding the effectiveness of this approach.Arbitration/mediation programs had a small overall effect and while promising, theeffectiveness of this program type is uncertain given the current evidence. (Corsaro, 2003). Circlesentencing programs had a moderate to small overall effect, but with only two studies inthe category, no firm conclusions regarding the effectiveness of this approach can bedrawn.Both restitution programs and teen courts had small overall effects for delinquency outcomes and these effects were essentially zero for the higher quality studies. ( Hendrix, G. M

(2004)). Similarly,the effects for impact panels and reparative boards were small, with no randomassignment studies contributing to the analysis.

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In essence, restorative justice seeks to involve victims and the community in a process that holds the offender accountable for repairing the harms committed by the offender. In many restorative justice programs victims, and often community members, meet with offenders to understand why the crime occurred and discuss how to "make right the wrong". How effective these efforts are in reducing further harmful behaviour from the offender is of growing interest to researchers and criminal justice agencies.

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Corsaro, N. A. (2003). Disorganized neighborhoods and restorative justice: an examination ofsocial characteristics and the indianapolis juvenile justice experiment(Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN).

Hendrix, G. M. (2004). A test of reintegrative shaming theory’s concepts of interdependence andexpressed shame in restorative justice conferencing (Master’s thesis, Michigan StateUniversity). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (UMI No.1422579).

Jeong, S. (2010). Long-term effects of restorative justice conferencing on future criminality: TheIndianapolis experiment (Doctoral dissertation, Michigan State University). Availablefrom ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (UMI No. 3440032).

McGarrell, E. F. & Hipple, N. K. (2007). Family group conferencing and re-offendingamong first-time juvenile offenders: The Indianapolis experiment. Justice Quarterly,24(2), 221–246.

McGarrell, E. F., Olivares, K., Crawford, K., & Kroovand, N. (2000). Returning justice to thecommunity: The Indianapolis Juvenile Restorative Justice experiment

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