Does restorative justice work?

Restorative justice is not a soft option, as many offenders find it extremely difficult to face up to the impact of their crimes. Restorative justice has several benefits:

  • Gives victims a greater voice in the criminal justice system
  • Allows victims to receive an explanation and more meaningful reparation from offenders
  • Makes offenders accountable by allowing them to take responsibility for their actions
  • Builds community confidence that offenders are making amends for their wrong doing

Pilot studies suggest that Restorative Justice approaches can reduce post traumatic stress disorder in victims and, in some cases, motivate offenders to turn away from a life of crime.[1]

A study by the Professor of Criminology at Cambridge University found that the rate of re-conviction amongst those offenders participating in Restorative Justice was reduced by 28%.[2]

Sycamore Tree research

An evaluation of Prison Fellowship’s Sycamore Tree Programme was undertaken by Sheffield Hallam University in 2009. The study took psychometric evaluations from 5,000 prisoners taking the course between 2005 and 2009. 13% of the overall sample were women and 17% were young offenders.

The evaluation found that:

  • Across the whole sample (5,000 prisoners) there were significant positive attitudinal changes that were statistically associated with completion of the programme
  • The positive attitudinal changes were associated with all groups of prisoners and all institutional categories
  • Both male and female prisoners demonstrated an increased awareness of the impact of their actions as well as a reduced anticipation of reoffending
  • Both adults and young offenders demonstrated an increased awareness of the impact of their actions as well as a reduced anticipation of reoffending[3]

In 2011/12 over 2,000 prisoners took part in 113 Sycamore Tree programmes across 36 establishments in England and Wales.

Download the Sycamore Tree Final Report.

[1] Extract from Home Office Website http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime-victims/victims/restorative-justice/index.html

[2] Restorative Justice, the evidence. Sherman & Strang, The Smith Institute 2007. (ISBN 1 905 370 16 4) a review of international research

[3] An evaluation of the Sycamore Tree programme, August 2009, Hallam Centre for Community Justice: Sheffield Hallam University