Moving Forward: Two Approaches to Repairing the Harm Through Restorative Justice
The concept of restorative justice is increasingly being used to design programs that bring together those affected by a crime, including the offender and victim, to discuss its impact on their lives and how to make amends. These programs vary, in part, by the participants they involve and whether they are diversionary in nature or operate post-adjudication. Many programs focus on particular types of offenders or crimes and therefore may have differing objectives. Despite this, these programs have the common goal of improving the justice experience of both victims and offenders whose lives have been impacted by a crime or conflict. This study evaluates the effectiveness of two restorative justice programs: the juvenile-focused Community Conferencing program in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Victim Offender Dialogue program that operates in the Ohio prison system that is focused on victims and offenders of severe violence. Outcomes are measured differently in each site in order to reflect the programs' differing goals. In Baltimore, through the use of propensity score matching, Community Conferencing participants' recidivism rates are compared to youth who did not participate in the program. Recidivism is measured after 3, 6, and 12 months. In Ohio, semi-structured interviews with participants assess their level of satisfaction with the dialogue program. Offenders who began the lengthy dialogue preparation process but did not meet with victims are compared to those who completed the process and participated in a face-to-face dialogue meeting. Contrary to my hypothesis, this study's findings indicate participation in the Community Conferencing program is not associated with a decrease in recidivism. On three recidivism measures, participation in the program is associated with an increase in recidivism. As hypothesized, victim and offender participants in the Victim Offender Dialogue program report high levels of satisfaction with the program. Offenders who completed the program and participated in a dialogue reported receiving greater benefits from their participation as compared to offenders whose process did not end in a dialogue. Implications for policy and future research are discussed.
NotesDegree awarded: Ph.D. Justice, Law and Society. American University
Degree grantorAmerican University. Department of Justice, Law and Society