Sherman, Strang, and Woods (2000) investigated the recidivism behavior of offenders involved in diversionary restorative justice conferences. The Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (RISE) randomly assigned cases, rather than offenders, to either the treatment condition (conference) or to conventional court processing. A “case” was defined as all of the offenders who were apprehended together for the same criminal offense. Both males and females were included in the study, with an age range of 15–29. RISE took place between 1995 and 2000 in Canberra, Australia. New cases were accepted until July 1, 2000.
In this study, four offenses were analyzed: drinking and driving, juvenile property offenses, juvenile shoplifting offenses, and youth violent offenses.
- Drinking and driving was defined as having blood alcohol content over .08 for all offenders. The drinking and driving subset consisted of 900 cases, with 900 offenders (n=450 for court processing and n=450 for diversionary conferencing).
- Juvenile property offenses was defined as offending with personal victims committed by offenders under the age of 18, and included offenses such as theft, burglary, auto crime, or criminal damage. The juvenile property offending-personal victims subset included 162 cases, with 238 offenders (n=114 for court processing and n=124 for diversionary conferencing).
- Juvenile shoplifting offenses were offenses committed by offenders under the age of 18 and were detected by security staff. The juvenile shoplifting offenses subset consisted of 108 cases, with 135 offenders (n=62 for court processing and n=73 for diversionary conferencing).
- Youth violent offenses were offenses committed by offenders under the age of 30, and included offenses such as common assault or aggravated assault. The youth violence subset sample included 89 cases, with 110 offenders (n=52 for court processing and n=58 for diversionary conferencing).
Repeat offending was calculated using criminal history data from the Australian Federal Police. This data includes the criminal trajectories of all individuals in each of the four offense categories. Most, but not all, offense categories included at least a 1-year follow-up period. The analysis examined before–after differences in offending rates between the treatment and comparison groups. One limitation of the experiment is that it did not control for offender and victim differences within the offense categories. Therefore, preexisting offender or victim differences could have impacted any similarities or differences both within offense categories, as well as between the control and experimental conditions. Study 2
Tyler, Sherman, Strang, Barnes, and Woods (2007) also used data from the RISE experiments to analyze the impact of restorative justice conferencing, specifically the reintegrative shaming aspect of the Wagga Wagga conference model, on recidivism and measures of support for the law. However, Tyler and colleagues only used data from the drinking and driving portion of the earlier study in their analysis. In this study, all offenders were arrested between July 1995 and December 1997, with the majority of offenders arrested as a result of police conducting random breathalyzer tests in Canberra, Australia. A randomized design was used, with offenders randomly assigned to the restorative justice conference or traditional court processing (the control).
The impact of the restorative justice conferencing was analyzed using three different methods: an interview with offenders shortly following the conference or court processing regarding their experience; a follow-up interview with offenders two years after the conference or court processing regarding their experience; and the analysis of police records four years prior and four years following the conference or court processing.
Of the 900 individuals included in this study, 730 were interviewed shortly after the conference or court processing, with 377 individuals from the treatment condition and 353 from the control condition. Two years later, 620 individuals were interviewed regarding their experience, which included 313 individuals from the treatment condition and 307 from the control condition. Finally, police records included criminal activity for all 900 offenders four years prior and four years following the conference or court processing.
The first interview was conducted to investigate offenders’ experience in the conference or court processing. In this interview, offenders were asked to make judgments on the fairness of the conference or court processing, the fairness of police treatment, and the legitimacy of the legal system. The second interview, conducted two years after the conference or court processing, investigated offenders’ law-related attitudes. These interviews focused on the offender’s belief in the legitimacy of the law and the obligation they felt to obey the law, as well as the problems they believed breaking the law would create for their family or community.