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July 16, 2008

Austrailian study on restorative sentencing alternative

This brief story from Austrailia suggests that a restorative justice process, known as sentencing circles, have not proven to be more effective at reducing recidivism than traditional sentencing processes:

A new report has found circle sentencing does not reduce the risk of reoffending by Aboriginal offenders. Circle sentencing is an alternative method of sentencing that involves the offender's community in the process.

The director of the Bureau of Crime Research and Statistics, Don Weatherburn, says the program needs to be strengthened if it is going to be effective. "I think there was enormous hope that if Aboriginal offenders were brought before members of their own community, they would sit up and take more notice than if they were brought before a white magistrate or a white judge," he said. "As it has turned out, there hasn't been any effect of circle sentencing on the risk of reoffending. It makes no difference whether an Aboriginal offender comes before a circle sentence or before a court."

Of course, as many proponents of restorative justice might stress, the value of community involvement in the sentencing process may have benefits that cannot be measure just through recidivism rates.

July 16, 2008 at 07:48 AM | Permalink


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From New South Wales, Australia, comes this study on "circle sentencing," an aspect of the "restorative justice" movement (hat tip: SL&P). Here is the abstract: Circle sentencing is an alternative method of sentencing Aboriginal offenders which involve... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 16, 2008 2:38:32 PM


Aborigines are a particularly disadvantaged group within Australian society. Therefore to judge a restorative justice programs based on them is perhaps not helpful.

Australin Bureau of Statistic figures at 30 June 2006 indicate there were 6,901 Indigenous prisoners in Australia, representing 24% of the total prisoner population (ABS 2006).

Indigenous persons make up 1% of the Australian population.

The report also notes that "It should not be concluded that circle sentencing has no value simply because
it does not appear to have any shortterm impact on reoffending. Reducing recidivism is just one of several objectives of the process. There is nothing in this analysis to suggest that circle sentencing
is not meeting the other objectives. If it strengthens the informal social controls that exist in Aboriginal communities,circle sentencing may have a crime prevention value that cannot be quantified through immediate changes in the risk of reoffending for individuals."

Posted by: Alan | Jul 16, 2008 10:51:28 PM

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