Effective “restorative justice” programs can reduce recidivism among violent criminals, says criminologist Lawrence Sherman of the University of Pennsylvania. In restorative justice programs, offenders meet with their victims, and sometimes victims’ families, to discuss the harm they did and how to repair it. A review of 11 studies involving 2,021 offenders in Indianapolis, Australia, and England showed that in the seven United Kingdom projects, recidivism was 27 percent lower among restorative justice participants than among defendants not involved in the program.
Sherman spoke at the 9th annual Jerry Lee Crime Prevention Symposium in Washington. Considering the number of future crimes averted by having defendants take part in restorative justice, $8 was saved by every $1 spent on the program, Sherman said. By hearing the victim’s point of view in the restorative justice process, a criminal might decide to “turn his life around and stop doing [these kinds of things] to other people,” Sherman said. Asked to comment on Sherman’s findings, Arthur Wallenstein, corrections director in Montgomery County, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C., said that restorative justice should be used to help victims, who generally want an apology from the perpetrator. Joye Frost, acting director of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime, said that “transformative justice” would be a better term for the procedure because “victims are never restored to their original state.”