UK Ministry of Justice study on Restorative Justice and Reoffending

United Kingdom

An independent evaluation of seven Cambridge-led experiments in restorative justice show that the experience of victim offender mediation reduces reconviction and recidivism by 27%. The evaluation was undertaken by Professor Joanna Shapland (Director of the University of Sheffield´s Centre for Criminological Research), Lawrence Sherman (Wolfson Professor of Criminology at Cambridge) and Dr. Heather Strang (Director of the Center for Restorative Justice at the Australian National University) in collaboration with the Justice Research Consortium and Sir Charles Pollard. Their findings were presented July 1, 2008 at the Cambridge Conference on Evidence-Based Policing.

The study compared approximately 400 cases where offenders attended restorative justice conferences to the same number of cases that did not over a 6 year period. The study cites overall positive experience for victims from the mediation process, while offenders often described their experience to be traumatic and life-changing.

The study examined re-conviction rates of offenders in the restorative justice group over a period of two years. It found that recidivism by violent offenders fell by 55%. Non-violent and property crime fell by 15.5%. The study notes that, if taken in isolation, the results of the experiments were uncertain, but that the likelihood of the pattern of reduction of frequency of re-offense by chance was one in 100 when compared to the control group.

“Since 75% of all convictions in England and Wales are re-convictions of repeat offenders, in principle we could see restorative justice reduce crime substantially across the country.”

“While the experiments did not show that offenders receiving restorative justice were more likely to stop offending completely, we found that offenders committed less crime overall because they slowed down their rate of offending and reduced the overall cost of the crimes they committed”, says Professor Shapland.

Professor Sherman noted, “These results now mean that 10 out of 12 tests of restorative justice have reduced the frequency of repeat offending in the UK, US and Australia” and “may be especially useful for violent offenders coming out of prison if they are willing to meet their victims and work out an accommodation. Our own evidence shows that restorative justice reduced victim desire for revenge in eight out of eight tests in Australia and the UK, and the Sheffield report shows 33% less repeat offending among offenders coming out of prison after restorative justice than without it.”

Sir Charles Pollard, said that “since 75% of all convictions in England and Wales are reconvictions of repeat offenders, in principle we could see restorative justice reduce crime substantially across the country.”

Download the Ministry of Justice paper “Does Restorative Justice Affect Reconviction? The fourth report from the evaluation of three schemes” below.

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