Restorative justice: the evidence

Document type
Sherman, Lawrence; Strang, Heather
Smith Institute
Date of publication
5 February 2007
Criminal Justice Services
Social welfare
Material type

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This report examines the national and international evidence on restorative justice as a way both of changing behaviour and of mitigating harm. The aim of the project was to bring together the results of restorative justice (RJ) trials in order to set out a definitive statement of what constitutes good-quality RJ, as well as to draw conclusions both as to its effectiveness with particular reference to reoffending and as to the role that RJ might play in the future of Britain’s youth and criminal justice systems. The research is based on a literature review of evaluations of the effectiveness of RJ, using both published and unpublished reports.  The review employs a broad definition of RJ, including victim-offender mediation, indirect communication through third parties, and restitution or reparation payments ordered by courts or referral panels. In comparison to conventional criminal justice (CJ), RJ:

  • 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; and
  • reduced recidivism more than prison (adults) or as well as prison (youths).

Based on this extensive and positive evidence the authors recommend that RJ is ready to be put to far broader use in Britain.

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