Volume 1, Issue 1, June 1998

ISSN 1096-4886 http://www.westerncriminology.org/Western_Criminology_Review.htm
© 1998, The Western Criminology Review. All Rights Reserved.

Restorative Justice Interventions for Juvenile Offenders:
A Research Agenda for the Next Decade

Mara F. Schiff

Citation: Schiff, Mara F. 1998. "Restorative Justice Interventions for Juvenile Offenders: A Research Agenda for the Next Decade." Western Criminology Review 1(1). [Online]. Available: http://wcr.sonoma.edu/v1n1/schiff.html.


Restorative justice is about healing the harm done to victims and communities as a result of criminal acts, while holding offenders accountable for their actions (Zehr 1990; Van Ness and Strong 1997). The lack of rigorous empirical research on restorative justice, however, makes it difficult to know the effects of restorative justice on victims, communities, and offenders. The goal of this article is to examine the current state of research on restorative interventions for juvenile offenders. The article distinguishes what we know from what we need to know and suggests a future restorative justice research agenda.

Keywords: restorative justice, juvenile justice, victim-offender mediation, family group counseling, restitution, community service, research methodology

Restorative Justice Interventions for Juvenile Offenders:
A Research Agenda for the Next Decade

Restorative justice is about healing the harm done to victims and communities as a result of criminal acts, while holding offenders accountable for their actions (Zehr 1990; Van Ness and Strong 1997). One of the important issues in studying restorative justice is understanding whether restorative interventions are having the desired effects on victims, communities, and offenders. At present it is difficult to know whether and how well restorative justice is "working." There is a lack of empirical research that uses valid and reliable effectiveness measures to evaluate restorative justice interventions. The impact of such interventions on communities is especially problematic because definitions and boundaries of community are amorphous and hard to pin down (Bazemore 1997; Bazemore and Schiff 1996). Moreover, although restorative justice focuses primarily on the victim and the community, respectively, the effects of such programs on offenders is equally important because offenders are members of the community, and are often victims as well. Lack of knowledge about the effects of interventions on offenders may exacerbate the disintegrative impact of current justice system approaches (Braithwaite 1989).

This article has three goals. The first is to summarize current knowledge about the effects of restorative interventions on juvenile offenders. The second is to provide an agenda for future restorative justice research. To accomplish this, I identify the criteria that have been used in prior process or outcome evaluations to determine "effectiveness" in restorative terms and examine how these have been translated into measurable indicators in prior process or outcome evaluations. (For a more complete review of the research literature on the impacts of restorative interventions on juvenile offenders see Schiff 1998.) The third goal is to suggest that there should be consistent effectiveness measures across studies and to present some preliminary indicators that are sensitive to this unique response to the problem of crime.

This review examines interventions that are central to restorative justice, including victim-offender mediation (VOM),2 family group conferencing, circle sentencing, reparative probation and others. These interventions are sometimes referred to as restorative justice processes. Other interventions are also examined that can incorporate features of restorative justice, including restitution, community service and other responses to delinquency. These interventions can be referred to as restorative justice outcomes .3 In practice it is often difficult to maintain distinctions between different types of restorative interventions and to evaluate their unique effects. There is considerable overlap, for example, between victim-offender mediation (VOM) and restitution, as restitution is often the outcome of VOM. All of these interventions aim to "humanize" the justice system (Umbreit and Coates 1992b) by increasing contact between victims and offenders and by involving victims, offenders, and the community equally in the justice process.


VOM is designed to allow victims and offenders an opportunity to reconcile and mutually agree on reparation. The object is to deal with crime as a conflict to be resolved between the persons directly affected rather than as a conflict between the state and the accused (McKnight 1981; Hughes and Schneider 1990).

Demographic Characteristics

Most VOM programs record characteristics of participants, including race, sex, employment status, and prior criminal history (Kigin and Novak 1980; Zehr and Umbreit 1982; Coates and Gehm 1985; Bussman 1987; Kuhn 1987; Marshall and Merry 1990; Umbreit and Coates 1992a; Warner 1992 ). A previous relationship with the victim is sometimes noted (Kuhn 1987; Marshall and Merry 1990). VOM cases typically deal with property crimes such as theft, burglary, criminal damage, or vandalism (Marshall and Merry 1990; Umbreit and Coates 1992a), although VOM is beginning to be used with more serious, violent cases (Umbreit 1998; this issue).

While we know a fair amount about who participates in VOM programs, we know very little about the impact of such characteristics on the outcome of the process or the agreements reached through VOM. Moreover, we do not know to what extent the processing of certain offenders through VOM is fair and equitable in comparison to traditional intervention.

Reasons for Participation, Satisfaction, Compliance, and Coercion

Typical measures of offender involvement in VOM include reasons for participation, satisfaction with the process and the outcomes achieved, and compliance with agreements achieved through mediation. The vast majority of offenders studied feel that VOM is a difficult and demanding experience (Smith 1986; Marshall 1990; Umbreit and Coates 1992b; Umbreit 1996). Those who participate often hope that it will help to reduce their court sentence, get them a job, provide an opportunity to demonstrate remorse or offer an apology, and/or to repair a relationship (Kuhn 1987; Marshall and Merry 1990; Coates and Gehm 1989; Warner 1992). Most offenders see the incident as "opportunistic" and express regret.

Many studies indicate that offenders are satisfied with VOM, although there is a lack of consistency in definitions of "satisfaction" across programs and studies (Coates and Gehm 1985, 1989; Smith, Blagg and Derricourt 1985; Marshall 1990; Dignan 1990; Umbreit and Coates 1992b, 1993; Rock 1992; Umbreit 1998). However, not all offenders have been satisfied with their level of input (Smith et al. 1985). Most offenders studied are happy with the contract achieved through VOM (Coates and Gehm 1985; Umbreit and Coates 1992a, 1992b, 1993); sometimes preferring to complete both financial restitution and community service (Novak, Galaway and Hudson 1992). A lack of consistency in definitions of "satisfaction" across programs and studies has hindered these studies.

Research to date has not determined how much coercion is associated with restorative interventions. Offenders are sometimes unclear about the purpose of VOM, and may participate because they believe they will be dealt with more harshly if they don't. Certainly the existence of actual or perceived coercion is relevant in assessing the "restorativeness" of the intervention (Marshall and Merry 1990). Some research has found high rates of voluntary participation (Umbreit and Coates 1992a, 1992b, 1993), while other studies indicate more evidence of coercion (Coates and Gehm 1989; Warner 1992).

A common measure of the success of VOM is levels of compliance with agreements achieved through mediation. These vary from program to program, averaging about 80 percent (Galway 1983; Iivari 1987; Kuhn 1987; Pate 1990). Prior victim-offender relationship also affects compliance but not always in the same direction. Some research finds higher completion rates and increased involvement in the process when the victim and the offender have a prior relationship (Pearson 1982; Marshall and Merry 1990), while other studies find less compliance when the parties are acquainted (Warner 1992).

Effects on Court Sentences

There is little research on the impact of VOM on court outcomes. One study in Britain finds that VOM results in decreased use of custody, conditional discharge, probation, and community service orders (Marshall 1990). Another (Marshall and Merry 1990) finds that a poor mediation outcome increases the offender's sentence; this study finds that an antagonistic victim more than doubles the likelihood of a custodial sanction although this effect could be due to the lack of sufficient controls for offense severity. Future research must pay more attention to the relationship between VOM and subsequent court outcomes, and must be careful to use more rigorous research designs.

Effects on Recidivism

Recidivism has also been used to measure the effectiveness of VOM. The limited data show that offenders who participate in VOM have lower recidivism rates compared to similar offenders experiencing traditional juvenile justice system processing (Pate 1990; Umbreit and Coates 1992b, 1993; Nugent and Paddock 1995). Those who reoffend may also commit less serious offenses than those in comparable control groups (Nugent and Paddock 1995). However, Rock (1992) found no significant difference in recidivism rates among offenders who participated in VOM in Texas and those who did not.

A significant problem with current research on VOM is the lack of sufficient control groups, which would permit more definitive conclusions about the impact of restorative interventions on recidivism. Only a few studies have controlled for the impact of structural and demographic variables on recidivism. For example, Nugent and Paddock (1995) find that family size and the extent of direct contact between the victim and the offender (Dignan 1990) decreased recidivism rates. More attention needs to be focused on the relationship between VOM and recidivism.


Family Group Conferencing (FGC) is another promising restorative intervention institutionalized in New Zealand and Australia and being experimented with elsewhere (Fraser and Norton 1996; Robertson 1996; Maxwell and Morris 1996, and this issue; Wundersitz and Hetzel 1996; Ban 1996; Marsh and Crow 1996; Immarigeon 1996; Longclaws, Galaway and Barkwell 1996; Pennel and Burford 1996; McCold and Starr 1996). There is, however, little research on FGC (Maxwell and Morris 1996) and little systematic data collection is occurring that might facilitate such comprehensive evaluation (Robertson 1996).

Significant concerns have been expressed that FGC will widen the net of social control over juveniles, be coercive, inconsistent, not proportional or ignorant of the principle of parsimony in sanctioning (von Hirsch 1993; Braithwaite 1994; Polk 1994; Moore and O'Connell 1994; Warner 1994; Maxwell and Morris 1996; von Hirsch, forthcoming; Bazemore 1997; Moore 1995; Maxwell and Morris 1996; Moore and O'Connell 1994). However, there is no conclusive evidence that supports or refutes these concerns (McCold and Starr 1996).

Satisfaction, Compliance and Recidivism

Research in New Zealand has found high levels of participant satisfaction with FGC (Maxwell and Morris 1993, 1996, this issue; Morris, Maxwell and Robertson 1993; Moore 1995). Preliminary reports from the United States are similar (McCold and Starr 1996). Only one New Zealand study has examined the youth court's response to FGC outcomes, and it finds both official as well as participant satisfaction with agreements reached (Maxwell and Morris 1993; Olsen, Maxwell and Morris 1995).

Current research in Canberra, Australia (the Reintegrative Shaming Experiments, or RISE), finds that youth perceive the FGC process as fair and not a"soft" option (Sherman and Strang 1997; Sherman and Barnes 1997). Youthful offenders feel more likely to obey the law following a conference than after court, and to have increased respect for the police and the justice system process (Sherman and Barnes 1997; Sherman and Strang 1997). In the only controlled study of the effects of FGC in the United States, McCold and Starr (1996) have found practically no differences in youth perceptions of fairness between FGCs and the traditional court process. However, more youth in the United States felt that they were "held accountable" for their actions following FGC than a control group processed through the traditional court (McCold and Starr 1996). In an uncontrolled New Zealand study, about seventy percent of youth believed the outcome of the FGC process was fair and appropriate (Maxwell and Morris 1993).

Only two studies to date have examined compliance levels. Each finds eighty-five percent or better (Wundersitz and Hetzel 1996; Maxwell and Morris 1996). The lack of data here indicates that considerably more work must be undertaken to learn how much FGCs affect compliance compared to traditional court processing and the impact this has on recidivism.


Almost nothing is known about relatively recent restorative interventions such as circle sentencing, reparative probation and victim-impact panels. Circle sentencing has only recently been applied outside its traditional Native American environment (Stuart 1996; Melton 1995) and there has been virtually no published research documenting outcomes from this process. Preliminary unpublished anecdotal evidence suggests positive results (Stuart 1996).

Reparative probation is being tested in Vermont (Dooley 1995). It is grounded in the traditional probation model and is directed primarily at non-violent probationers. Reparative probation is implemented by a Reparative Coordinator on the staff of the Department of Probation, and carried out by a Community Reparative Board which collectively determines appropriate restorative sanctions (Bazemore 1997). A study is presently underway to determine the effects of this intervention.

A final and not well-documented intervention is the victim awareness or victim impact panels (Mercer, Lorden and Lord 1994). These involve meetings between offenders and victims (or surrogate victims when necessary and/or appropriate) to educate the offender. There are no data on the efficacy of this intervention.


In sum, what we know about restorative interventions is that some, such as VOM, seem to have a positive impact on offenders. Offenders seem to be satisfied with the process; feel themselves to be held accountable appropriately and subject to fair and equitable outcomes; and they tend to commit fewer subsequent crimes. Moreover, available research indicates that compliance rates are good, suggesting that offenders hold themselves accountable for accomplishing agreed-upon goals. There is some evidence of leniency at court following restorative interventions.


To date, outcomes that can incorporate restorative justice have been primarily limited to restitution and community service, although many other responses to delinquency are possible (such as direct service to the victim, payment into a compensation fund, attendance at victim impact classes, or other nontraditional sanctions that may result from negotiated agreements or restoratively intended court requirements). These alternatives are not reviewed here because there is only limited documentation of their prevalence and/or effectiveness. Only outcomes that can incorporate restorative justice, and for which there is consistent and reliable research, are presented here. As noted earlier, many of these programs did not include resorative principles.


Restitution aims to simultaneously hold an offender accountable for his/her actions while also making amends to the victim for the harm and/or damage done. When implemented in a manner consistent with restorative justice principles, restitution seeks to restore the victim (and/or the community) to the state of wholeness that existed prior to the offense. Ideally, restitution enables the offender to both make reparation and to "put things right" with the victim.

Current effectiveness measures for restitution include program compliance, recidivism rates, and offender perceptions of the effectiveness of restitution. More is known about restitution than about other interventions largely because it has been in use the longest and enjoys broad legitimacy. The mere existence of a restitution program, however, does not signify its inclusion as part of a comprehensive restorative scheme. Because the number of programs actually implemented within a restorative context is limited, restitution programs reviewed here may include some that do not have explicitly articulated restorative goals. It is important, however, to include these because they can help inform us about appropriate questions and indicators for future research.

Satisfaction, Compliance and Recidivism. Schneider (1990) finds that incarcerated juveniles are more remorseful and feel that their sanctions are less fair than those given restitution. They also feel that incarceration is not as severe as restitution. The degree of punitiveness experienced by offenders receiving restitution varies by study. Zehr and Umbreit (1982) show that offenders experience restitution as more punitive than restorative, while others (Schneider 1986; Coates and Gehm 1985) find lower perceived levels of punitiveness.

In general, compliance levels in juvenile restitution programs are high (Schneider and Schneider 1980; Schneider and Bazemore 1985; Schneider 1986; Zehr and Umbreit 1982). Compliance is greater depending on the type of program through which the restitution is ordered (Schneider and Schneider 1984a; Schneider 1985), the size of the order, the amount of time allowed to pay, and how closely offenders are monitored (Softley 1978; Schneider and Schneider 1980; Schneider, Griffith and Wilson 1982; Schneider and Schneider 1984a, 1984b; Schneider 1986; Wheeler, Rudolph and Hissong 1989; Ervin and Schneider 1990; Davis, Smith and Hillebrand 1991; Umbreit and Coates 1992a, 1992b; Davis and Bannister 1995; Smith, Davis and Hillebrand 1996). Occasionally, the direction and magnitude of these effects varies. For example, Smith et al. (1996) found that non-payment for adults was not related to the size of the order or time given to pay, while Schneider and Schneider (1980) found the opposite effect for juveniles.

Some research finds that compliance is greater when restitution is ordered through a restorative intervention, such as VOM, rather than through a traditional criminal justice process (Schneider and Schneider 1984; Schneider 1986; Wheeler et al. 1989; Ervin and Schneider 1990). Offenders who negotiate directly with their victims through VOM are more likely to complete restitution than those ordered to do so through the court (Umbreit and Coates 1992a, 1992b).

Some research indicates lower recidivism rates for offenders given restitution than those who receive incarceration or probation (Hudson and Chesney 1978; Cannon and Stanford 1981; Hofford 1981; Heinz, Galaway and Hudson 1986; Schneider 1986; Rowley 1990; Ervin and Schneider 1990; Butts and Snyder 1991). Programs that include enforcement and follow-up mechanisms may result in lower rates of subsequent offending. Schneider (1986) also found that completing the restitution order was itself a strong predictor of decreased recidivism. However, there is conflicting evidence on the size of that effect (Schneider 1986; Guedalia 1979).

Other research has either not found decreased recidivism rates following restitution (Bonta et al. 1983; Wax 1977) or that it was not possible to isolate these effects (Roy 1995). Hence, while much research suggests that youths sentenced to restitution programs may have lower recidivism rates, it is not clear whether such results are due to the restitution program or other factors, such as the type of defendants selected for participation or other services simultaneously offered.

Community Service

Few community service programs incorporate restorative principles. In fact, many community service programs have been implemented without any theory that relates programs to objectives (Bazemore and Maloney 1994; Walgrave and Geudens 1996a). Walgrave and Geudens' (1996a) review of literature on community service for juvenile offenders in the U.S., Europe, Canada, and New Zealand found that only 11 of 25 projects studied mention restoration as an explicit goal. Most of these operated in conjunction with rehabilitation, and eight had punitive goals. Only one study specifically refers to restoration in response to damage caused (van der Laan 1991). Research on the effects of community service programs is still limited. Their lack of consistent standards has led some (Schneider 1985; Bazemore 1991) to conclude that such services should not be included as a part of a reparative sanctioning system (Pease 1985; Harland and Rosen 1991). Thus, most community service research has not looked for or found restorative effects.

Completion and Recidivism. Satisfaction is most apparent when offenders believe they are given meaningful work to do, learn useful skills, and feel that their service benefits others (Varah 1981; McIvor 1991). Thorvaldson (1978) finds that offenders have more favorable attitudes about community service than they do about fines and probation. Completion rates are high (Skinns 1990; Klein 1990; McIvor 1991; Van der Zande 1987; Vallieres and Simon 1982; Bol and Overwater 1986; Rowley 1990). Some evidence suggests that having contact with the beneficiaries of the work, or seeing the social value of the work (i.e., whether the work had a "restorative" focus) is related to higher levels of compliance (McIvor 1991). The lack of information on satisfaction and compliance is notable here. There is practically no empirical data on the degree to which community service is used in a restorative context, the factors that influence satisfaction and compliance, and the relationship between satisfaction and completion of community service.

There is conflicting evidence on the effects of community service on recidivism. Schneider (1986), van der Laan (1991), Rowley (1990) and Geudens (1996) find lower recidivism among offenders sentenced to community service than control groups, while others do not (Pease, Billingham, and Earnshaw 1977).


Research suggests that restitution and community service are associated with positive outcomes. Identifying successful outcomes is relatively easy (e.g., decreased recidivism, increased school/employment attendance, compliance with the sanction, victim satisfaction with the outcome). However, it is more difficult to ascertain what program elements, or combination thereof, are responsible for the outcome.


This review of research suggests the promising effects of restorative interventions for juvenile offenders. However, what is notable about research in this area is the lack of controlled studies, the absence of consistently used measures of effectiveness, and the paucity of research on the most recent interventions. In this sense the existing research raises more questions than answers. The main reasons for the existing state of research can be attributed to two factors. First, it reflects the recency of some restorative interventions in juvenile justice; some final evaluation results have yet to be published (e.g., the RISE experiments in Australia, the FGC project in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, or the reparative probation project in Vermont). In addition, some innovative sanctions have simply not been subject to rigorous review and evaluation (e.g., circle sentencing processes in the Yukon territory or some of the newer mediation and conferencing processes that have arisen in various states in the United States).

Second, effectiveness measures for restorative interventions are not clear or standardized. This reflects our relative lack of sophistication about how best to evaluate restorative processes and sanctions. Relevant, consistent and measurable indicators of the degree to which a program is restorative and the effectiveness of the interventions would be useful to develop.

In the remainder of this paper I address research challenges for the next decade, including 1) determining the extent to which evidence for restorative goals and values are systematically implemented both across programs and throughout the juvenile (and criminal) justice process; and 2) program-specific empirical issues.

Systemic Restorative Goals

Systematic research must identify the extent to which programs are truly restorative in nature and not simply transmogrified retributive or rehabilitative approaches. It must clarify precisely what characterizes a restorative processes or outcome and present such findings in terms that are meaningful to policymakers.

Evidence of a restorative approach would include several components. First, it would demonstrate the consistent involvement of all parties affected by the crime--the victim, the community and the offender. Second, there must be documentation that the program fits into an overall justice system framework focused on the development, implementation and maintenance of restorative goals and values. Such values must emphasize healing and reparation rather than retribution and punishment. Third, there must be evidence of satisfaction with both the process and the outcome on the part of both the victim and the offender. To date there has been no systematic research effort which aims to evaluate the presence or absence of these elements in the variety of programs that would label themselves, or be labeled, restorative.

Evidence suggesting that more white, middle-class offenders are sent to VOM and receiving restitution must be examined more closely (Kigin and Novack 1980; Coates and Gehm 1985; Umbreit and Coates 1992a; Warner 1991; Zehr and Umbreit 1982; Warner 1994). If such findings indicate discrimination on the part of justice system decisionmakers then programs must work to minimize it. Careful attention must be paid to sociodemographic characteristics of offenders in restorative programs as compared with those processed through more traditional mechanisms, and especially how these characteristics related to compliance and recidivism rates.

Research must also examine the extent to which restorative programs may empower governments to systematically overcontrol large segments of the youth population. It should identify if restorative sanctions are imposed in addition to other, more traditional sanctions, or if offenders who would not otherwise be sanctioned are ending up in so-called "restorative" programs. In addition, research must identify if offenders are subject to significantly harsher sanctions upon resentence after either "failing" to complete, or reoffending, during or after a restorative program. Specific outcome measures here are less meaningful than are carefully selected and monitored control groups, as well as study designs that permit long-term effects to be examined. Specific measures might include the types of sanctions imposed, the types of offenders involved and attention to the specific process involved.

It is especially important to identify outcome indicators that can be consistently applied across a variety of program types and jurisdictions. In order for research to be useful in a variety of contexts, evaluators must agree on a set of indicators that are valuable and appropriate measures of effectiveness. The following are some suggested means by which to standardize data collection and analysis on issues of broad systemic concern.

The Relative Impact of Processes and Outcomes. It is important to determine the relative impact of the restorative process in which the offender participates and the completion of the sanction. Important indicators here include type of process, type of sanction, completion rates, and time to completion. Moreover, the interactive effects of recidivism and compliance rates with process and outcomes should be examined.

Coercion in Restorative Programs.. The impact that real or perceived coercion has on satisfaction and compliance rates must be clarified. Qualitative measures are appropriate here, focusing in particular on offender perceptions of coercion.

Implementation in a Restorative Framework. As suggested by much of the research reviewed here, as well as other literature on restorative justice (Bazemore and Schiff 1996; Bazemore 1997), research has not sufficiently focused on whether programs are developed and implemented comprehensively or in isolation from a restorative framework. Such research must clarify whether and how programs are operating outside of the restorative context and the impact this has on the evolution of the restorative model.

The Restorative Impact of Interventions. Research protocols must develop and apply measures that can determine the extent to which an intervention satisfies the criteria of "restorativeness" (Claasen 1996; Bazemore 1997). This involves clear definitions as well as relevant and measurable indicators. Only then will it be appropriate to evaluate the degree to which "restorativeness" has been achieved while still using traditional outcome measures such as compliance and recidivism rates.

Program-Specific Empirical Issues

Program-specific empirical indicators can demonstrate explicit programmatic outputs that assess the impacts of restorative interventions on victims, communities, and offenders in meaningful terms. The literature suggets the following:

Recidivism rates. Rearrest, reconviction and reincarceration rates should be examined, with particular controls for time at risk to assure comparable followup periods. Research must clarify whether recidivism following a restorative intervention is significantly reduced, the same as or worse than what occurs following traditional juvenile justice interventions and what programmatic factors tend to result in lower recidivism rates.

Compliance rates. Research must first examine levels of compliance with restorative programs/outcomes and, second, the relationship between compliance rates and recidivism. If higher completion rates result in lower recidivism, then programs should obviously concentrate resources on increasing compliance as a means of reducing juvenile crimes rates and increasing public perceptions of safety. Specific outcome measures here should include program and sanction completion rates, time to completion, the relationship of program compliance to recidivism, and offender satisfaction and reasons for program non-completion.

Victim and Offender Satisfaction Rates. If, as suggested here, satisfaction is an important aspect of gauging the "restorativeness" of a program, then consistent indicators across different types of programs and jurisdictions must be developed in order to minimize the ambiguity of the term. Measures must distinguish between perceptions of the process and of the outcome and precisely define the parameters of victim, offender and community satisfaction.

More Evaluations of Recent Interventions. FGC, circle sentencing, reparative probation and victim impact panels have yet to be rigorously evaluated. Neither have some of the more traditional interventions ostensibly undertaken in restorative contexts.


This article has presented an overview of the research literature on the impact of restorative justice processes and sanctions on juvenile offenders. Its aim has been to present a comprehensive examination of what we know, and don't know, about the effectiveness of restorative justice interventions for juveniles. This review identifies some of the indicators that have been relied upon by evaluators, and the extent to which these are applied across studies. What this review suggests is that while there is some valuable information available, the overall breadth of careful, methodologically sound and systematic research is lacking.

A research agenda for the next decade must focus on filling the gaps between what is and is not known and, importantly, developing a series of questions and indicators designed to illuminate whether restorative justice "works". In current political debates where crime and justice take center stage and cries of "get tough" dominate the policy agenda, it is important to develop and present methodologically sound, generalizable research that can be used to politically support a restorative agenda. Restorative justice can only transform the justice system into one that simultaneously promotes healing, reparation and accountability by presenting incontrovertible evidence of its benefits.

While this article has presented some important information about the extent of the knowledge about restorative justice interventions, it has presented only the most basic outline of a comprehensive research protocol that might inform future evaluations. A valuable next step in this process would be to identify clear and measurable indicators that could be generalized across studies and jurisdictions. A set of clearly defined "restorativeness" indicators, as well as simple and straightforward social and economic impact data, will ultimately serve as the best tools for promoting the concept and application of restorative justice. Moreover, translating findings into language that is understandable and politically salient will be critical for bringing restorative justice to the forefront of the policy agenda in the decade ahead.


1. The author wishes to thank Pat Jackson for his helpful comments and exceptional editorial support.

2. The distinction between restorative processes and outcomes is taken up in the discussion of this paper.

3. Early Victim Offender Mediation programs have also been referred to as Victim Offender Reconciliation Programs (VORP). This terminology is no longer popular because it implies a goal of reconciliation between the victim and the offender, which is often offensive and insensitive to the victim. Although many of the programs reviewed in this paper were originally referred to as VORPs, I will use the term VOM here as it is more current and victim sensitive. The reader should bear in mind that some of the programs herein reviewed originally referred to themselves as VORPs. (Other works in this issue also refer to VORPs--Ed.)


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Mara F. Schiff

Mara Schiff received her Ph.D. in public administration from New York University in 1992. Dr. Schiff has worked for government, academic, and nonprofit organizations since 1981, concentrating on criminal justice policy planning and research. From 1989 through 1993 she served as Research Director in the Program Planning Unit in the New York City office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety. She is currently assistant professor of criminal justice at Florida Atlantic University where her research and publications are in restorative and community justice, substance abuse, and juvenile justice. In addition, Dr. Schiff is involved in a variety of community based projects to promote and implement the concept of restorative justice locally through victim-offender dialogue, delinquency prevention, and other neighborhood justice initiatives.

Contact information: Department of Criminal Justice, College of Urban and Public Affairs, Florida Atlantic University, 220 SE 2nd Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301; phone: (954) 762-5638; FAX: (954) 762-5673/93; e-mail: Mschiff@fau.edu.

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