The Effectiveness of Restorative Justice Practices: A Meta-Analysis
The traditional criminal justice system, which has been often criticized as too formal, punitive and adversarial, is clearly changing. The large increase in the number of restorative justice programs operating in Canada is undoubtedly having an impact on criminal justice theory and practice. We are currently in a period of substantial change. But as the results of this meta-analysis indicate, we are moving in a positive direction. The addition of restorative justice programs has enhanced victim satisfaction in a process that was, by its very nature, rather unsatisfactory. Moreover, this response to criminal behaviour has a strong impact by encouraging more offenders to take responsibility for their actions and repair some of the harm they have caused through restitution. And while the gains made in recidivism are not as strong as “appropriate correctional treatment,” restorative justice does appear to reduce recidivism for those who choose to participate. Finally, offenders in restorative justice programs report moderate increases in satisfaction compared to offenders in the traditional system.
The proliferation of restorative justice programming worldwide is, therefore, not surprising. Both the theory and empirical research tend to offer support for such a response to criminal behaviour. The next critical step for both research and program development is to obtain a better understanding of the effect of self-selection bias that currently diminishes our confidence in these results. To more definitively claim restorative justice an effective response to criminal behaviour, we need to be able to address this limitation inherent in restorative justice research methods.
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