Restorative justice: the evidence

L. W. (Lawrence) Sherman, H. (Heather) Strang, G. (Geoffrey) Barnes, S. (Sarah) Bennett, C. M. (Caroline) Angel, D. (Dorothy) Newbury-Birch, D. J. (Daniel) Woods, C. E. (Charlotte) Gill

    Research output: Book/ReportOther report

    1024 Downloads (Pure)


    A review of research on restorative justice (RJ) in the UK and abroad shows that across 36 direct comparisons to conventional criminal justice (CJ), RJ has, in at least two tests each: • substantially reduced repeat offending for some offenders, but not all; • doubled (or more) the offences brought to justice as diversion from CJ; • reduced crime victims’ post-traumatic stress symptoms and related costs; • provided both victims and offenders with more satisfaction with justice than CJ; • reduced crime victims’ desire for violent revenge against their offenders; • reduced the costs of criminal justice, when used as diversion from CJ; • reduced recidivism more than prison (adults) or as well as prison (youths). These conclusions are based largely on two forms of restorative justice (RJ): face-to-face meetings among all parties connected to a crime, including victims, offenders, their families and friends, and court-ordered financial restitution. Most of the face-to-face evidence is based on consistent use of police officers trained in the same format for leading RJ discussions. These meetings have been tested in comparison with conventional criminal justice (CJ) without benefit of RJ, at several stages of CJ for violence and theft: • as diversion from prosecution altogether (Australia and US); • as a pre-sentencing, post-conviction add-on to the sentencing process; • as a supplement to a community sentence (probation); • as a preparation for release from long-term imprisonment to resettlement; • as a form of final warning to young offenders. Violent crimes Six rigorous field tests found RJ reduced recidivism after adult or youth violence. Three of these were randomised controlled trials (RCTs), conducted with youth under 30 in Canberra, females under 18 in Northumbria, and (mostly) males under 14 in Indianapolis. Reasonable comparisons also show effects for adult males in West Yorkshire and the West Midlands, as well as for violent families in Canada. Property crimes Five tests of RJ have found reductions in recidivism after property crime. Four were RCTs done with youth: in Northumbria, Georgia, Washington and Indianapolis. Diversion of property offenders to RJ, however, increased arrest rates among a small sample of Aboriginals in Canberra. Victim benefits Two RCTs in London show that RJ reduces post-traumatic stress; in four RCTs RJ reduces desire for violent revenge; in four RCTs victims prefer RJ over CJ. RJ versus prison In Idaho an RCT of RJ as court-ordered restitution did no worse than short jail sentences for youth. In Canada adults diverted from prison to RJ had lower reconviction rates than a matched sample of inmates. Offences brought to justice Five RCTs in New York and Canberra show diversion to RJ yields OBTJ (offences brought to justice) rates 100% to 400% higher than CJ, including for robbery and assault, when offenders take responsibility but need not sign full admission to crime. A way forward The evidence on RJ is far more extensive, and positive, than it has been for many other policies that have been rolled out nationally. RJ is ready to be put to far broader use, perhaps under a “Restorative Justice Board” that would prime the pump and overcome procedural obstacles limiting victim access to RJ. Such a board could grow RJ rapidly as an evidence-based policy, testing the general deterrent impact of RJ on crime, and developing the potential benefits of “restorative communities” that try RJ first.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherThe Smith Institute
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    Dive into the research topics of 'Restorative justice: the evidence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this