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Program Profile: Restorative Justice Conferences (London, England)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on January 10, 2018

Program Summary

This is a restorative justice program that uses face-to-face conferences to reduce posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) among burglary/robbery victims and reconviction rates among offenders. The program is rated Promising. Results showed a statistically significant reduction in victims’ clinical levels of PTSS, but no statistically significant effect on reconviction rates among offenders.

Program Description

Program Goals
The goal of the Restorative Justice Conferences (RJC) program is to reduce victims’ posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) by facilitating a face-to-face interaction with the perpetrator of the crime. RJC aims to empower victims to face their offenders and gain closure about the circumstances surrounding the crime. This can help reduce the emotional and psychological stress of victims associated with the offense.
 
Target Population
The target population for this intervention is victims of burglary/robbery offenses and their perpetrators in London, England. Victims are eligible for the program if they meet the following criteria: 1) are over 17 years of age, 2) have their offender plead guilty at trial, 3) have their offender consent to participate, 4) give their consent to participate, and 5) can speak and understand English.  Additionally, the perpetrator must have committed a specific offense such as burglary, aggravated burglary, and robbery.
 
Program Components  
RJC consists of 2- to 3-hour meetings where police officers from the London Metropolitan Police serve as trained facilitators and assist in initiating discussion around the crime and the harm caused. Meetings are intended to elicit intense emotions in which the offender attempts to make amends for the crime and often apologizes to the victim. The conferences are held in London prisons where offenders were awaiting sentencing. Family and friends of both the victim and offender can attend. Each conference discusses the following during the conference: 1) what happened, 2) who was affected and why, and 3) what could be done to try to repair the harm.
 
Program Theory
RJC is based on restorative justice theory, which emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. While some approaches concentrate on punishing or treating offenders, the restorative justice process seeks to repair the harm by involving the entire community in rehabilitating offenders and holding them accountable for their behavior. By bringing together victims, offenders, families, and other key stakeholders in a variety of settings, restorative justice helps offenders understand the implications of their actions and provides an opportunity for them to become reconnected to the community (Bergseth and Bouffard 2007).  

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Clinical Levels of PTSS
Angel and colleagues (2014) found that victims who participated in restorative justice conferences in London, England showed lower posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) scores than those who received the customary criminal justice process. This difference was statistically significant.
 
IES-R Total Scores
Angel and colleagues (2014) found lower Impact of Event Scale (IES-R) scores for the treatment group, compared with the control group. This difference was statistically significant.
 
Study 2
Reconviction for JRC London
Shapland and colleagues (2008) found no statistically significant differences between the control group and the treatment group on reconviction rates of burglary and reconviction rates of street crimes.
 
Frequency of Reconviction for JRC London
There were no statistically significant differences found between the treatment and control groups on frequency of reconvictions for burglary and frequency of reconvictions for street crimes.
 
Severity of Reconviction for JRC London
There were no statistically significant differences found between the treatment and control groups on severity of reconviction for burglary and severity of reconviction for street crimes.  
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Angel and colleagues (2014) used a randomized controlled trial to study the impact of face-to-face Restorative Justice Conferences (RJC) on victims’ measures of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in London, England, in collaboration with the London Metropolitan Police. Victims of burglary, aggravated burglary and robbery, with their perpetrators, were eligible to participate. Offenders were processed through the Crown Court where a pre-sentence report was used to determine eligibility for the victim and offender. Cases that were eligible were assigned to specially trained police constables who worked full time on RJCs.
 
The study sample consisted of 192 eligible victims. Victims were randomly assigned to the treatment group or control group. The treatment group consisted of 89 victims who received customary criminal processes coupled with the RJC. The control group consisted of 103 victims who received the customary criminal processes through the courts, and did not participate in any face-to-face RJC. Victims in the treatment group had a mean age of 39 years at random assignment. Females represented 51 percent of the treatment sample, and 84 percent were white. Burglary cases in the treatment group represented 66 percent while robbery cases represented the remaining 34 percent. Victims in the control group had a mean age of 39 years old. Females represented 58 percent of the control sample and 86 percent were white. In the control group, 69 percent were burglary cases and 31 percent were robbery cases.
 
To measure PTSS, a revised version of the Impact of Event Scale (IES-R) was used one month after random assignment. This scale is designed to measure intrusion, avoidance, and hyperarousal symptoms in people who have experienced a fearful life event. IES-R is a well-validated, 22-item, self-report instrument with scores ranging from 0 to 88; higher scores indicate more severe clinical severity of PTSS and possible PTSD.
 
The study also used three sets of analyses to measure outcomes. First, an independent sample t-test was used to determine the prevalence of clinical levels of PTSS and differences in PTSS scores between the control and treatment groups. Second, the study used an independent sample t-test to analyze PTSS levels between the experiment and control groups 30 days after random assignment. For the third analysis, a standardized mean difference test was used to measure the magnitude of the differences in PTSS scores. No subgroup analyses were conducted.
 
Study 2
Shapland and colleagues (2008) used a randomized controlled trial to determine the impact of conference style restorative justice conferences (RJC) on reconviction rates in London, England. The face-to-face conferences targeted adult offenders accused of burglary and street crimes such as robbery, attempted robbery, and theft. Each case was tried in the Crown Courts in Greater London after a verdict of guilty, but prior to sentencing.
 
Offenders and victims who agreed to participate in the study were randomized into either the experiment group and received restorative justice services, or to the control group and did not receive any services. Those that received restorative justice services were contacted by Justice Research Consortium (JRC) staff for follow-up interviews 2 to 3 weeks after the initial conference. The follow-up call was used to discuss any difficulties following the conference or randomization.
 
Two randomized controlled trials were conducted: one involving burglary and one involving street crime (robbery, attempted robbery, theft from a person). The study sample consisted of a total of 186 offenders convicted of burglary. There were 92 individuals in the treatment group and 94 individuals in the control group. The study sample also consisted of 106 perpetrators of street crime. There were 53 who were randomly assigned to the treatment group, and 53 were assigned to the control group. There were no significant differences between the treatment and control groups.
 
Re-offending was measured by further offending resulting in an official reconviction. Administrative data from the Ministry of Justice was collected on the date each offender was released from prison and on any prison sentences received over the 2-year follow up. No subgroup analyses were conducted.
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Angel, Caroline M., Lawrence W. Sherman, Heather Strang, Barak Ariel, Sarah Bennett, Nova Inkpen, Anne Keane, and Therese S. Richmond. 2014. “Short-Term Effects of Restorative Justice Conferences on Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms Among Robbery and Burglary Victims: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 10: 291–307.


Study 2
Shapland, Joanna, Anne Atkinson, Helen Atkinson, James Dignan, Lucy Edwards, Jeremy Hibbert, Marie Howes, Jennifer Johnstone, Gwen Robinson, and Angela Sorsby. 2008. Does Restorative Justice Affect Reconviction? The Fourth Report from the Evaluation of Three Schemes. City of Westminster, UK: Ministry of Justice.  

https://restorativejustice.org.uk/sites/default/files/resources/files/Does%20restorative%20justice%20affect%20reconviction.pdf
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Bergseth, Kathleen J., and Jeffrey A. Bouffard. 2007. “The Long-Term Impact of Restorative Justice Programming for Juvenile Offenders.” Journal of Criminal Justice 35(4):433–51. 


Foa, E. B., and Michael J. Kozack. 1986. “Emotional Processing of Fear: Exposure to Corrective Information.” Psychological Bulletin  99:1 20–35. 


Marshall, Tony. 1999. Restorative Justice: An Overview. Home Office Occasional Paper. London, England: Home Office.


Shapland, Joanna, Anne Atkinson, Emily Colledge, James Dignan, Marie Howes, Jennifer Johnstone, Rachel Pennant, Gwen Robinson, and Angela Sorsby. 2004. Implementing Restorative Justice Schemes. Home Office Online Report. London, England: Home Office.


Shapland, Joanna, Anne Atkinson, Helen Atkinson, Becca Chapman, Emily Colledge, James Dignan, Marie Howes, Jennifer Johnstone, Gwen Robinson, and Angela Sorsby. 2006a. Restorative Justice in Practice-Findings from the Second Phase of the Evaluation of Three Schemes. Home Office Online Report. London, England: Home Office.


Shapland, Joanna, Anne Atkinson, Helen Atkinson, Becca Chapman, Emily Colledge, James Dignan, Marie Howes, Jennifer Johnstone, Gwen Robinson, and Angela Sorsby. 2006b. Restorative Justice in Practice: The Second Report from the Evaluation of Three Schemes. Sheffield, England: Centre of Criminological Research, University of Sheffield.


Shapland, Joanna, Anne Atkinson, Helen Atkinson, Becca Chapman, James Dignan, Marie Howes, Jennifer Johnstone, Gwen Robinson, and Angela Sorby. 2007. Restorative Justice: The Views of Victims and Offenders: The Third Report from the Evaluation of Three Schemes. Sheffield, England: Centre of Criminological Research, University of Sheffield.


Shapland, Joanna, Gwen Robinson, and Angela Sorsby. 2011. Restorative Justice in Practice. London, England: Routledge.


Sherman, Lawrence W., and Heather Strang. 2007. Restorative Justice: The Evidence. London, England: The Smith Institute.


Sherman, Lawrence W., Heather Strang, Caroline Angel, Daniel Woods, Geoffrey C. Barnes, Sarah Bennett, and Nova Inkpen. 2005. “Effects of Face-to-Face Restorative Justice on Victims of Crime in Four Randomized, Controlled Trials.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 1:367–95.


Strang, Heather, Lawrence Sherman, Caroline M. Angel, Daniel J. Woods, Sarah Bennett, Dorothy Newbury-Birch, and Nova Inkpen. 2006. “Victim Evaluations of Face-to-Face Restorative Justice Conferences: A Quasi-Experimental Analysis.” Journal of Social Issues 62(2):281–306.

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Program Snapshot

Age: 18+

Gender: Both

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Correctional

Program Type: Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, Restorative Justice, Victim Programs

Targeted Population: Serious/Violent Offender, Victims of Crime

Current Program Status: Active