Restorative Justice and Sexual Violence: An Annotated Bibliography

Quantitative or qualitative assessments of restorative justice programs and its outcomes in the case of sexual violence

Case studies

Daly, K. (2006). Restorative justice and sexual assault: An archival study of court and conference cases. British Journal of Criminology, 46(2), 334-356.

Purpose:

  • This archival study examines the legal journey, penalties and prevalence of reoffending of 385 youth sexual assault cases that were finalized in court, by conference or by formal caution over a six-and-a-half-year period in the Adelaide Youth Court, South Australia.

Methodology:

  • The cases in this study consisted of 365 different young people associated with 385 cases, of which 226 were court cases (59 per cent), 118 were conference cases (31 per cent) and 41 were formal cautions (10 per cent).
  • Over 230 variables were coded corresponding to the youth, their offence, the victim, the seriousness of the charge(s), the case, the circumstances of the reporting of the incident(s) to police, the legal journey of the court case, the participants in the conference, the penalties imposed, and other elements.

Findings:

  • Differences between court and conference cases:
    • Compared to conference cases, youth with cases finalized in court were more likely to have previous offences, live in more disadvantaged areas, seek legal advice more often and less likely to be cooperative and remorseful. Court cases also had a bigger proportion of Aboriginal Australians and took longer to finalize (5.7 months for court case vs. 2.5 months for conference case).
  • Factors associated with a case being referred to and finalized in court instead of a conference or police caution included:
    • No admission/refusal to comment to police, the criminal history, and the seriousness of the offence.
  • Cases finalized in court (most often by guilty plea) were more likely to be extra-familial than intra-familial.
  • Between 61 and 67 per cent of all caution or conference cases resulted in a full admission by the offender compared to 19 per cent of all court cases.
  • There is lower prevalence of reoffending based on participation in a sex offender counselling program for both court and conference.
  • There is a lower prevalence of reoffending for conference cases when there is an admission of the offence to the police and vindication to victims.
  • There are incentives to admitting to committing an offence earlier than later: admission of guilt early on, resulting in a referral to conference means there is no potential for a conviction or for a detention sentence, and that the maximum time under state control is one year. By admitting to an offence at an earlier rather than later point in time, the youth trades off the uncertainty of what might happen in court for a greater degree of certainty of what can occur in a conference.
  • Formal court allows people to deny participation in the offence and formal court has limits in responding to sexual violence.
  • Data shows that it is easier for offenders of sexual violence to make an admission of guilt, and thus have access to more effective outcomes, when there is counselling and treatment available.

Author position:

  • The author notes that, from a victim’s advocacy perspective, a conference process for youth cases of sexual assault can be less victimizing than a court process. A conference process may also produce more effective outcomes, despite concerns raised from critics.

Daly, K., & Wade, D. (2017). Sibling sexual violence and victims’ justice interests: A comparison of youth conferencing and judicial sentencing. In E. Zinsstag & M. Keenan (Eds.), Restorative responses to sexual violence: Legal, social and therapeutic dimensions (pp. 143-178). New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Purpose:

  • This chapter works to develop a method to assess and compare different justice mechanisms in cases of sibling sexual violence.

Methodology:

  • The chapter consists of a systematic empirical assessment of 17 Australian cases of sibling sexual victimization from a victim’s perspective. Among these cases, six were finalized by diversionary youth justice conference and 11 sentenced in youth court.
  • The authors begin with a definition of victim’s justice interests, which consists of five elements: participation, voice, validation, vindication and offender accountability-taking responsibility. A set of variables was devised for each element, in the form of questions, and applied to the data in the form of a score for each justice interest.

Findings:

  • There are major hurdles to developing an evidence base for conferences and RJ.
  • Randomized experiments cannot be used yet to compare conference or other justice mechanisms in responding to sexual offenses—not only political challenges but the practical training required is much greater than for testing RJ with crimes like burglary.
  • About one fifth of youth sexual offences cases involve siblings.
  • Sibling sexual abuse is about three to five times as common as father-to-daughter sexual abuse.
  • Sibling offenders were more likely to show remorse during a police interview, to make admissions to the police, and to be referred to a conference.
  • Victims in sibling cases were younger (7.7 years) than most youth victims (12.6 years). Sibling offenders average age is 14.
  • Sibling offending is nearly three times more likely to involve multiple incidents.
  • Victims’ accounts of what happened and the harm caused were often muted, perhaps due to the emotional dual role parents had to play in supporting both children.
  • Offenders are overwhelmingly male; victims are predominantly female.
  • Victims justice interests are: participation, voice, validation, vindication, offender accountability.
  • Conferencing scored better on all five indicators of victims’ justice interests than court.
  • Youth participating in conferences made earlier admissions of guilt when questioned by police.
  • Courts had a significantly lower focus on the crime’s impact on victim or community compared to conferences.

Author’s position:

  • Conference proceedings should not move too quickly to focusing on offender rehabilitation; court rooms could do more to recognize the presence of victims.
  • Quantitative analysis and comparison of justice mechanisms in cases of sexual assault are possible and more work should be done in this area.

Hannem, S. (2013). Experiences in reconciling risk management and restorative justice: How circles of support and accountability work restoratively in the risk society. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 57(3), 269-288.

Purpose:

  • The author explores how the Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) initiative has been influenced by RJ and community protection movements.

Methodology:

  • This study uses ethnographic methods and an insider perspective on CoSA from someone with ten years of involvement. The “insider” had various roles: volunteer, researcher, participant in circles, and organizer. This included attending more than 200 circle meetings.
  • Explores the real and practical issues of how best to respond to the needs and problems of an individual who has been classified as a high-risk sex offender.

Findings:

  • CoSA is a community-based initiative that deals with the release of high-risk sex offenders from prison at the end of their sentence.
  • CoSA is a form of RJ though it does not directly make redress to the victims of sexual violence. The focus on the need for victim safety, encouraging reintegration, encouraging healthy and non-victimizing lifestyles, encouraging the participants to take responsibility are important ideals of CoSA rooted in restorative principles.
  • CoSA works to reintegrate and restore former sex offenders in the community. It is a risk management strategy that prioritizes inclusion while also protecting the public from victimization. CoSA recognizes risk and classification systems in its policies and sees its role as a positive alternative. The initiative also strives to recognize and respond to the core criminogenic needs of participants, as well as acknowledge their needs for companionship, compassion, and community.
  • There are many benefits of CoSA. For example, police and community surveillance are reduced for those who participate in CoSA, which leads to less media scrutiny and less chance of vigilante action.
  • CoSA upholds a responsibility to the community by committing to hold core members accountable for meeting the conditions of any legal orders, such as peace bonds or long-term supervision orders.
  • Through CoSA, caring and “family-like” relationships are created which provide a sense of belonging and acceptance to members of the circle that would not otherwise exist in the community.
  • CoSA volunteers support and work to incorporate the member in to the community, which can include mediation to reconcile family conflicts.
  • The success of CoSA shows that concerns about risks can be addressed in a restorative way that builds communities.

Author’s position:

  • The author believes that CoSA responds to sexual offending in a manner that responds to concerns of victims, communities and citizens, and recognizes the humanity of offenders. This model is a precarious balance of reintegration and risk management.
  • CoSA is a RJ initiative because it provides an opportunity to apply RJ principles. It may miss components of RJ, for instance by not directly making redress to victims of sexual violence, but the focus on victims’ need for safety, encouraging reintegration, encouraging healthy and non-victimizing lifestyles, and encouraging participants to take responsibility are important elements of CoSA which are rooted in RJ principles.

Jülich, S., & Landon, F. (2017). Achieving justice outcomes: participants of Project Restore’s restorative processes. In E. Zinsstag & M. Keenan (Eds.), Restorative responses to sexual violence: Legal, social and therapeutic dimensions (pp. 192-212). New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Purpose:

  • This chapter presents analysis of sexual violence cases referred to Project Restore.

Methodology:

  • This case study used a desk-based case review methodology of 12 cases from Project Restore’s files while using Daly’s (2014) Victimization and Justice Model as a framework guiding the analysis.
  • The study identifies outcomes at various stages throughout the restorative process and assesses if these outcomes were achieved. The review identified what participants wanted to experience and achieve as a result of their engagement in RJ.
  • The documentation review included case notes, reports prepared by Project Restore, and judges’ written sentencing remarks to identify whether victims-survivors and other participants achieved their desired outcomes.
  • The analysis procedure involved using case summary sheets and coding the desired outcome.
  • The 12 selected cases were drawn from referrals made between March 2011 and June 2012, and were referred by the court system for pre-sentence RJ.

Findings:

  • Project Restore is driven by victims-survivors of sexual violence, rather than RJ advocates or supporters. The casework addresses both historical and current sexual violence, and includes both male and female victim-survivors.
  • Referrals to Project Restore are made by the court system and referrals are supported by legislation. Recent changes in the Sentencing Act requires all offenders appearing in the District Court at any time before sentencing, who have pleaded guilty and where there are one or more victims of the offence, to be referred to RJ to determine whether a restorative process can be convened.
  • The prerequisites for ‘experiencing justice’ includes participation, voice, validation, vindication, and offender accountability.
  • Participation is the ability of victims-survivors to ask questions about what happened to them. When reporting the measures of participation, victim-survivors achieved the outcomes they had requested, as follows:
    • In 10 of the 12 cases (83%) victims-survivors planned to ask the offender to seek treatment.
    • In 9 of the 12 cases (75%) victims-survivors wanted input into sentencing.
    • In 8 of the 12 cases (67%) victims-survivors wanted to have questions answered.
    • In 5 of the 12 cases (42%) victims-survivors wanted to negotiate an agreement regarding future contact.
    • In 4 of the 12 cases (33%) victims-survivors wanted input into the development of a safety plan.
    • In 3 of the 12 cases (25%) victims-survivors were able to gain increased understanding of the offending cycle.
    • In 2 of the 12 cases (17%) victims-survivors wanted input into a treatment program the offender would attend.
  • Voice is the ability and opportunity for victims-survivors to tell their story and to tell how the sexual violence has impacted their life. In each case, the victim-survivors achieved the outcomes related to voice, as follows:
    • In 6 of the 12 cases (50%) victims-survivors wanted to tell their story.
    • In 5 of the 12 cases (42%) victims-survivors wanted the opportunity to tell participants of the RJ process how they had been affected.
    • In 2 of the 12 cases (17%) victims-survivors wanted to have others in their lives hear what had happened to them.
  • Validation is the acknowledgement and belief of the harm occurring as a result of the sexual violence. For the most part, victims-survivors achieved the outcomes they had requested when it comes to validation, as follows:
    • In 5 of the 12 cases (42%) victims-survivors wanted the harm done to them to be acknowledged.
    • In 5 of the 12 cases (42%) victims-survivors wanted their relationship with the offender to be restored.
    • In 1 of the 12 cases (8%) victims-survivors wanted an improved relationship with the non-offending parent.
  • Vindication can be evidenced by symbolic or material forms of reparation such as apologies or financial assistance. In the measures of vindication, victims-survivors  achieved the outcomes as follows:
    • In 4 of the 12 cases (33%) victims-survivors wanted an apology.
    • In 3 of the 12 cases (25%) victims-survivors wanted a reparation agreement.
    • In 1 of the 12 cases (8%) victims-survivors wanted the offender to experience a sense of loss.
  • Accountability requires the offender to take and accept responsibility; to make amends or attempts to make things right. In the measures of accountability, victims-survivors achieved the outcomes as follows:
    • In 6 of the 12 cases (50%) victims-survivors wanted the offender to demonstrate responsibility. For the most part, outcomes were successfully achieved, but in two cases, their capacity to demonstrate responsibility was limited.
    • In 5 of the 12 cases (42%) victims-survivors wanted to see the offender demonstrate accountability by making amends in some way. This outcome was achieved in all five cases.
    • In 3 of the 12 cases (25%) victims-survivors hoped the offender would name other victims he had offended against. This outcome was not achieved in any cases.
  • Offender identified outcomes of RJ included: wanting to make amends with the victims-survivors and their family, wanting to apologize, wanting to assist in the healing process, and wanting reconciliation. Other participant outcomes included: wanting input into sentencing, input into safety plans, access to treatment, and having some questions answered. Most offenders achieved the desired outcomes.
  • Treatment uptake: while many agreed to enter into a treatment program, not all could gain access, afford it, or were eligible.
  • Limitation: this is a small number of cases which does not allow for generalizations.

Author’s position:

  • The cases reviewed were mostly successful in achieving the desired outcomes and justice interests were met. The only outcomes that were not achieved were dependent on the offender’s ability to understand the impacts of his harmful sexual behavior. Some therapeutic intervention might be necessary to achieve these other outcomes.

Koss, M.P. (2014). The RESTORE program of restorative justice for sex crimes: Vision, process, and outcomes. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(9), 1623-1660.
Purpose:

  • This article presents an empirical evaluation of a RJ conferencing program called RESTORE, which was adapted for prosecutor referred adult misdemeanor and felony sexual assaults cases.

Methodology:

  • The RESTORE program was located in Arizona, USA between 2003 and 2007. The evaluation includes referrals by prosecutors of victims and offenders aged 18 or older, but excludes repeat sexual offenders, persons with police reports for domestic violence or individuals with arrests for any crimes involving non-sexual forms of physical assault.
  • This evaluation is based on 22 cases that consented to the study and includes a total of 109 individuals at intake and 100 individuals at post-conference. The program evaluation assesses: 1) pre and post reasons for choosing RESTORE, 2) preparation and conferencing experiences, 3) overall program and justice satisfaction, and 4) completion rates.
  • The evaluation also has a process monitoring component, which includes data collection from clinical and research files, and non-participant observation of conferences.

Findings:

  • Process Monitoring:
    • A total of 55% of cases were referred in the same year as the police report, 35% were referred within 12 to 24 months and 10% after more than 2 years.
    • Locating, screening, acquiring consent, and conducting forensic examinations of the responsible persons took on average 24 days. Preparation of the conference attendees took approximately 2 months. The length of the program from referral to conference was close to 3 months. The duration of the conferences was approximately 45 minutes.
  • Safety:
    • A 17-item Post-Traumatic Symptoms Scale was administered and revealed a decrease in post-traumatic stress symptoms from intake to post-conference. At intake, 82% of survivor victims met the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress compared to 66% post-conference.
    • No physical safety issues noted before, during, or after the conferences.
    • A punitive statement was made by a responsible person for a survivor victim only once. Punitive or blaming comments toward responsible persons occurred in half the conferences.
  • Outcome evaluation:
    • There are many reasons for choosing RESTORE. The most common reasons at intake: “to make the responsible person accountable”, “taking direct responsibility for making things right”, “to have an alternative to courts”, and “apologizing to the person I harmed”. The most common reasons at post-conference include: “making sure the responsible person doesn’t do what he did to anyone else” and “making sure the responsible person gets help”.
    • When it comes to preparation and conference experiences, most participants agreed or strongly agreed that the preparation achieved its intended goal. More than 90% of the participants agreed or strongly agreed that they felt safe, listened to, supported, treated fairly and with respect, and not expected to do more than they anticipated. Further, over 90% of participants thought the conference was a success. Finally, no survivor-victims felt blamed but some responsible persons did (21%), as did some family and friends of both survivor-victims and responsible persons (15% and 17%, respectively).
    • Three of the four items on which survivor-victims expressed negative opinions were on the responsible person’s sincerity, genuineness, and likelihood of re-offending.
    • All responsible persons indicated that they felt remorse.
    • When it comes to satisfaction, more than 90% of participants were satisfied with their preparation, the conference and the redress plan. The majority would recommend RESTORE to others.
  • As for completion rates, once participants consented, almost all cases led to a conference (20 out of the 22 cases).
  • Some limitations of the study include the small sample size and the difficulty to replicate without substantial funding.

Author’s position:

  • Conferencing programs like RESTORE can be feasible, safe, achieve high levels of participant satisfaction and attain many of the envisioned outcomes.
  • RJ in the context of sexual violence can be approached slowly and thoughtfully, all while recognizing the various forms and points in time where its principles are applicable.

McGlynn, C., Westmarland, N., & Godden, N. (2012). I just wanted him to hear me: Sexual Violence and the possibilities of restorative justice. Journal of Law and Society, 39(2), 213-240.

Purpose:

  • The authors consider the results of an exploratory study which investigated a RJ conference involving an adult survivor of child rape and other sexual abuse.

Methodology:

  • The authors begin by examining the current UK political and policy climate, the extent to which RJ is currently used in sexual offence cases in the UK, and the international research evidence regarding RJ in cases of sexual violence. The authors then examine a case study, in which a RJ conference was used in a case of child rape and sexual abuse. They also engage with recent developments and emerging trends in rape law and policy and they consider possible ways of using RJ in cases of sexual violence.

Key findings

  • The UK is increasingly favourable towards RJ, but has yet to give any detailed consideration to its role in relation to sexual offences.
  • Projects and analyses from New Zealand, the USA, Denmark, South Africa and Australia show an appetite for forms of justice beyond the conventional criminal justice system. Evaluations of these projects are limited, however, they suggest opportunities and possibilities for using RJ for sexual violence victim-survivors.
  • In February 2010 a restorative conference took place in the north of England involving a woman called ‘Lucy’, who is an adult survivor of child rape and other sexual abuse.
  • The authors of the article conducted interviews with: Lucy, Lucy’s Rape Crisis counsellor, the conference facilitator, and a senior police officer involved in the case.
  • Once a decision had been reached to undertake a restorative conference, all of the interviewees commented on the importance of the preparation phase and the RJ ‘script’ to be used in the conference. This script set out the order in which participants speak and the issues to be addressed. This enabled Lucy to plan and prepare, and make sure that she said everything she wanted to say.
  • The conference took place in a location that was familiar to Lucy, which was a deliberate decision to ensure she felt comfortable and safe.
  • From Lucy’s perspective, the conference was beneficial for her and led to positive outcomes. According to the two professionals involved, the conference achieved its objectives.
  • For Lucy and her counsellor, the two most significant lessons to be drawn from this RJ conference are the need for intensive, survivor-focused support, and detailed preparation by someone experienced in this area of work.
  • Lucy expressed the view that a restorative conference may not be ‘appropriate’ for everyone. The counsellor suggests that the use of RJ for cases of sexual violence should depend on the individuals, not the case.
  • The counsellor thought that restorative conferences could be used in cases which have been dropped and where the victim feels like there has been no justice. Lucy thought a restorative conference would work equally well for someone who had not reported the incident to the police.
  • Before taking RJ in cases of rape and sexual violence further, the counsellor notes there should be discussion and ‘consultation’ among women and groups working with survivors. She says that we shouldn’t underestimate the strength of victims and that ‘if we just dismiss it and say that we shouldn’t do this then we’re depriving people of that opportunity which can ... be beneficial.’
  • Many victim-survivors feel betrayed by a criminal justice system which appears to marginalise their interests and affords them so little justice.
  • Honouring the experience does not necessarily equate to securing a conviction, but encompasses being believed, dignified treatment, safety, support services, feeling in control and the ability to make informed choices.
  • There has been a shift in public policy towards greater emphasis on prevention, victim support and dignity of treatment, and away from a predominant focus on the criminal justice system and the pursuit of increased conviction rates.
  • It has been argued that RJ can carry out the traditional functions of criminal justice – retribution, rehabilitation/reintegration, individual and public protection – better than formal justice does.
  • Restorative interventions in cases of sexual violence demand risk assessment and extensive planning. The expertise and training of key personnel is also crucial.

Authors’ position:

  • The authors believe that RJ in cases of sexual violence has a role to play in meeting some of the needs and expectations of victim-survivors, by giving them a voice, by granting control, by helping to ensure that their experience is honoured, treated seriously, and treated with respect. This helps victim-survivors to gain some measure of justice.  
  • Restorative processes could be developed as part of the criminal justice treatment of a complaint of rape or sexual abuse.

Miller, S. L., & Iovanni, L. (2013). Using restorative justice for gendered violence: Success with a post-conviction model. Feminist Criminology, 8(4), 247-268.
Purpose:

  • This case study explores RJ and its outcomes at the post-conviction stage in cases of severe intimate partner violence.

Methodology:

  • The authors use a case study approach in a severe instance of intimate partner violence containing emotional, sexual, and physical violence. All participants self-selected to participate.
  • The case study used post-conviction dialogues which give the victim an opportunity to ask questions and/or voice their feelings about the crime and the offender. The case study includes open-ended interviews with both the victim and the offender at two points in time (about 3 years after the dialogue, and in a follow-up 18 months later).
  • Information was collected from multiple sources such as case files which contained notes from participants’ bi-weekly preparation meetings with facilitators and videotape from participants’ dialogue in prison.

Findings:

  • Post-conviction RJ proceedings often take place years after the crime, when the offender has been morally censured and punished by the formal justice system and enough time has elapsed for the victim to be able and ready to fully participate in the process and reap benefits.
  • The use of this model can avoid the main criticisms of RJ (e.g., that RJ is a diversion process, notions of soft justice, and pressuring victims to forgive). Post-conviction RJ does not remove the public condemnation of violence from the conventional criminal justice system.
  • Benefits of a post-conviction RJ process manifest because of the lengthy amount of time that elapses between the crimes and arrest, and the RJ program. It can be therapeutic and part of the healing process. In cases of intimate partner violence, this helps address the power dynamic between participants.
  • Benefits include victim empowerment, voice, and validation.
  • Post-conviction RJ proceeding allows for enough time to have passed for victims to gain a sense of security and develop a plan, reinforced by social and institutional support.
  • This case study highlights the positive aspects of such a program however, it also suggests that a diversionary RJ proceeding might have had harmful and counterproductive results and failed to accommodate needs.

Authors’ position:

  • The authors believe that a post-conviction RJ is therapeutic and beneficial due to the timing of the process. RJ for serious crimes should be a supplement to the traditional criminal justice process.
  • Diversion-based RJ may cause more harm if it fails to accommodate the needs of victims. The post-conviction RJ can be a more satisfying response to harm and justice.
  • Facilitators need to be specialized and training in gendered violence.

Interviews or surveys

Marsh, F., & Wager, N.M. (2015). 'Restorative justice in cases of sexual violence: Exploring the views of the public and survivors. Probation Journal, 62(4) 336-356.
Purpose:

  • This article assesses debates about RJ conferences in sexual offences. The authors test the hypothesis that RJ gives more control to survivors which does not replicate disempowerment experienced during violent incidents.

Methodology:

  • Using a convenience sample, this study used a mixed-methods, web-based, cross-sectional survey of 121 community members, of which 40 self-identified as survivors of sexual violence. The survey explored and compared survivors’ and non-survivors’ views of the application of RJ to cases of sexual violence.
  • There were 131 participants, composed of 27 (20.6%) males, 93 (71%) females and 11 (8.4%) who did not specify their gender. Their age range was between 18 and 57 years with a mean age of 31 years.
  • The participants were given three measures. They were presented with a brief one page, online information sheet about RJ and the different forms that this might take, outlining three variations of RJ. Respondents were then asked to complete a newly developed 14-item questionnaire concerning the use of RJ in cases of sexual victimization. Third, respondents were asked a series of open-ended questions. For example, questions assessed key motivations for the victim and offender for taking part in RJ, what support should be offered to victims wanting to participate, at what point RJ should be suggested and take place during the criminal justice process, and any concerns that they might have concerning the use of RJ in cases of sexual victimization.

Findings:

  • There are positive attitudes towards using RJ in cases of sexual violence among both survivors and non-survivors.
  • Survivors supported the view that victims of sexual offences should have an option to use RJ. Survivors felt that there should not be pressure to participate in a RJ process.
  • The argument is made that issues such as re-traumatizing, high attrition, and low conviction rates encourage people to search for different approaches to address justice and healing needs.
    • Survivors might be more reserved and not as optimistic about the potential benefits of meeting the person who harmed them.
    • The majority of survivors (71%) indicated that they would endorse a conference setting were they have an opportunity to meet the person who harmed them.
    • Over half (56%) of survivors indicated that they would like the opportunity to have RJ in addition to going to court.
    • Survivors were two times more likely than non-survivors to indicate a desire for a conference as an alternative to going to court (30% vs 16%).
    • When comparing survivors who had reported their victimization with those who had not reported, 70% of those who had entered the criminal justice system were against the idea of RJ as an alternative to court, in comparison to 45% of those who had not reported their victimization.
    • Just over half (51%) felt that the offender might benefit from conferences and understanding the harm that they caused.
  • While survivors were slightly less enthusiastic than non-survivors for the use of RJ in cases of sexual violence, a majority of the survivors supported the use of RJ.
  • Open-ended responses:
    • Survivors did not participate in RJ and they were never offered it as an option.
    • Survivors may be concerned about the lack of offenders taking responsibility.
    • There were mixed views about when survivors should be notified about conferencing. The majority of survivors stated that they would not have been offended if they had been offered RJ.
    • Survivors felt that the victim’s safety should be imperative throughout the whole RJ process. However, survivors themselves, are considerably less likely to see conferencing as dangerous for survivors.
  • There is little agreement as to when the best time is to make a RJ offer to survivors or as to when a conference should be delivered. With regards to when to ask, it appears that maybe at the earliest point of contact since only a very small proportion felt that they would have been offended by the notification of this option.

Authors’ position:

  • The voices of survivors are important to consider in the context of RJ in sexual violence. RJ is something that can be used in addition to or as an alternative to going to court.
  • RJ may offer something that is more procedurally just, more flexible, providing more care and support, creating more dialogue, and increasing satisfaction of victims.

McGlynn, C., Downes, J., & Westmarland, N. (2017). Seeking justice for survivors of sexual violence: Recognition, voice and consequences. In E. Zinsstag & M. Keenan (Eds.), Restorative responses to sexual violence: Legal, social and therapeutic dimensions (pp. 179-191). New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Purpose:

  • This article presents the preliminary findings of a study investigating the justice perspectives among a group of sexual violence survivors.

Methodology:

  • The article examines sexual violence survivors’ understandings of ‘justice’ particularly the concepts of recognition, voice, and consequences. This study builds on two key papers (Herman, 2005; Julich, 2006) which explored what justice means to survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
  • The study used an “Educational Empowerment Research” (EER) approach which consisted of sexual violence survivors 1) taking part in a workshop with a short presentation of current legislation and research on punishment for sexual offenders (the educational element) as a core aspect of justice, followed by 2) a facilitated discussion in which they were treated as ‘victims’ but as ‘experts through experience’. Participants drew on their lived experiences of sexual violence.
  • Participants were recruited by opportunity sampling through local charities, universities, relevant social media groups and by word of mouth.
  • Interviews were conducted to examine sexual violence survivors’ ideas of justice and injustice in greater death, and any engagement with formal and/or informal justice mechanisms.
  • Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed with the participants’ consent. 
  • Participants included 20 women who had experienced sexual violence at least once in their lives.

Findings:

  • Participants did not find that ‘justice’ was necessarily obtained via the conventional criminal justice system.
  • All participants struggled to articulate what justice feels like.
  • Based on the various discussions with participants, the authors identified the term ‘kaleidoscopic justice’ which they defined as a justice that is continually shifting pattern; constantly refracted through new circumstances, experiences and understandings; non-linear, with multiple beginnings and possible endings; and on-going/ever-evolving experience without certain ending or result.
  • ‘Kaleidoscopic justice’ includes various elements such as social and cultural change, prevention, voice, recognition, consequences, dignity and support.
    • Recognition is fundamental. Recognition for participants meant the shared perception of something as existing or true – they have been harmed and victimized. It is more than simply being believed, it’s about being acknowledged. Participants noted the desire to obtain recognition from the offender, but also from family, friends and society.
    • Voice. The participants noted the importance of sharing the experience, voicing the harms they have suffered and for this to be recognized. Participants want to tell their story in their own way. This would allow the victims and survivors to take ownership of justice processes and telling their story on their own terms.  Their voice can be seen as either 1) active participation, or 2) speaking out.
      • Voice as active participation. Victims and survivors often feel they have a peripheral role within the CJ process; that they are an object of evidence, disempowered and left with little to no control over their presence or involvement in their case. Participants noted the desire to be more central to, and in control of the justice process, which would give them an opportunity to reclaim and exert power in the justice process.
      • Voice as speaking out. This offers victims and survivors an opportunity to speak and make sense of their experience, while also shaping the understanding of others. A forum to voice the harm that has been done to them enables the victims and survivors to better understand what happened, offload the weight of the crime and redress power imbalances.
      • In some cases, confrontation would be harmful for the victims and survivors, and even encourage the offender to continue to cause harm to others (“would just get off on someone saying it’s affected them that much”).
      • The level and extent of facilitator training, the support afforded to survivors and the preparation process significantly impact survivors’ interest and ability to speak in their own voice.
      • Power imbalances highlight the need to adopt best practices and ensure criminal justice system professionals have a deeply embedded understanding of the dynamics of sexual violence.
    • Consequences as justice. Participants spoke of their wish for perpetrators to experience consequences (death penalty, imprisonment, a guilty conviction, ensure no future reoffending, public acknowledgement, termination of employment (when offence is in the workplace)). What is considered appropriate consequences varies from person to person.
  • Participants had limited knowledge of justice options beyond the mainstream criminal justice system.

Author’s Position:

  • Some restorative approaches may provide an opportunity to satisfy, to some extent, survivors’ justice needs. Survivors’ concepts of justice extend well beyond both the conventional criminal justice system and restorative approaches.
  • The authors believe that restorative approaches are likely to offer greater potential for survivors to have their voice heard in comparison to the mainstream criminal justice system.

Miller, S. L., & Hefner, M. K. (2015). Procedural justice for victims and offenders? Exploring restorative justice processes in Australia and the US. Justice Quarterly, 32(1), 142-167.

Purpose:

  • This paper draws on interviews with key actors engaged in post-conviction RJ programs for serious crimes in Australia and the USA. It asks whether post-conviction therapeutic RJ programs for violent crimes enhance procedural justice for both victims and offenders.

Methodology:

  • The article focuses on two programs, one in Australia and one in the USA. The programs use a post-conviction therapeutic RJ model to help heal and empower victims of serious crimes, while providing offenders with the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and assist in the recovery process. All participants in the program had to agree to participate. The authors draw primarily on interviews with the facilitators and staff of the two highly similar RJ programs.

Findings:

  • Fairness of process for victims:
    • The criminal justice system focuses on the rights of the offenders and the community through the apprehension, prosecution, and punishment of offenders. According to RJ facilitators, victims often feel forgotten or neglected causing harm to their psyches, stalling healing, and creating distrust of the criminal justice system. 
    • RJ is victim centered and emphasizes treating victims with dignity and giving them many opportunities to participate and share feelings. This reinforced victims’ feeling of justice and belief in the system. In RJ, victims feel like they were able to express the range of emotions they felt, discuss the consequences stemming from the crimes, receive answers to questions and gain assurance that the offenders were not going to retaliate upon release. RJ also challenged victims’ feelings of self-blame.
  • System legitimacy for victims:
    • Both the US and Australia facilitators noted that victims were satisfied with certain aspects of the formal criminal justice system process. They felt relieved when the offenders are incarcerated, felt the offenders truly deserved punishment, and that it was fair and just, and also that society needed to be protected from them. However, regardless of how satisfactory victims find the outcome of the criminal justice system, interviews reveal that victims felt betrayed, confused, suspicious, mistreated, and ignored during the formal process.
    • Victims see RJ as far more legitimate because it offers the victim a voice at every step of the process and the victim is treated with respect.
  • Mobilization and empowerment of victims:
    • Both mobilization and empowerment of the victim in other facets of their lives were unintended positive outcomes of the RJ programs. Many victims talked to other victims about their experiences and participated in public awareness venues.
  • Fairness of process in the formal criminal justice system for offenders:
    • Offenders lose faith in the legitimacy of the formal criminal justice process, or feel disconnected from it, when they perceive the process is unfair.
    • Offenders have the opportunity to tell their stories and be treated with respect in RJ.
    • RJ facilitators in both countries felt that hearing what victims had to say exerted a long-lasting effect on offenders’ remorse and accountability, which often took the form of showing empathy towards victims.
  • System legitimacy for offenders:
    • Despite the fact that the offenders believed they deserved punishment, and that in some ways prison was even beneficial to them, they did not fully support the criminal justice system.
    • In addition to the positive consequence, such as offenders’ accepting the punishments they were handed, facilitators found that the fairness and flexibility of RJ provided offenders with the motivation to comply with practitioners in obtaining help with their lives. Additionally, the flexibility of the RJ program created a sense of legitimacy for offenders which, allowed them to trust, obey, and conform to the decisions made by justice professionals.
  • Compliance for offenders:
    • Research suggests that when individuals are treated fairly by legal authorities, they are more likely to self-regulate future behaviors and comply with social and institutional rules and values.
    • In both countries, all of the facilitators agreed that offenders who were able to tell aspects of their story in a RJ setting became more invested in what victims thought of them and more committed to long term behavioral change.

Author’s Position:

  • The authors believe that RJ is compatible with procedural justice for both victims and offenders. They feel that RJ aids in correcting harms created by the formal criminal justice system, and, thus, satisfies and enhances procedural justice goals for both victims and offenders.

Proietti-Scifoni, G., & Daly, K. (2011). Gendered violence and restorative justice: the views of New Zealand Opinion Leaders. Contemporary Justice Review, 14(3), 269-290.
Purpose

  • The article seeks to understand the different ways that New Zealand Opinion Leaders who worked in government, headed major victim service organizations, or provided victim support or RJ facilitation, reflect on the question of appropriateness of RJ in gendered violence cases.
  • The article focuses on adult cases referred by community-based organizations, the police, and courts, where the process typically occurs at post-plea and pre-sentence.

Methodology

  • Interviews were conducted with 19 participants in March 2004. The individuals were deemed to be persons with well-formed views, who reflected a range of positions in relation to the research topic, and were nominated by several knowledgeable researchers, academics, and policy makers.
  • Interview transcripts were analyzed using content analysis strategies.

Findings

  • Three groups emerged with views about the appropriateness of RJ. The views include pragmatic, contextual, and experiential features. This is more nuanced than a principled stance ‘for’ or ‘against’ RJ.
    • The Supporters (n = 9) broadly support RJ for gendered violence, although not for child sexual abuse. They also discuss the need for additional provisions if RJ were to be used.
    • The Skeptics (n = 6) generally oppose using RJ in gendered violence cases. All view it as unsuitable for child sexual abuse and were minimally supportive of its potential for adult victim/survivor cases.
    • The Contingent Thinkers (n = 4) like the Supporters, they broadly endorse RJ, but presented more conditions, in particular, those related to community or cultural control.
  • The Opinion Leaders saw few advantages of using RJ in child sexual abuse cases where the child victim is present in the meeting. There was greater support for RJ in child sexual abuse cases if the child is not present in the meeting.
  • Opinion Leaders in all three groups noted that some contexts were more favorable to RJ, such as in relationships of roughly equal status (e.g. sibling violence), when offenders had little or no previous offending, and when couples wished to maintain a relationship.
  • Opinion Leaders in all three groups also spoke of the need for additional protections and conditions if RJ were to be used.
  • The Opinion Leaders’ views were shaped by their degree of experience with RJ and their current professional role.

Authors’ position:

  • The authors believe that views of appropriateness of RJ in gendered violence cases are nuanced and complex.

Van Camp, T., & Wemmers, J. (2013). Victim satisfaction with restorative justice: More than simply procedural justice. International Review of Victimology, 19(2), 117-143.

Purpose:

  • The purpose of this research is to identify and examine factors that contribute to victim satisfaction with RJ and assess if RJ is seen by victims to be procedurally fair.

Method:

  • Qualitative interviews were conducted with 34 victims of violent crimes that took part in victim offender restorative-based interventions. The study took place in both Canada and Belgium.
  • The interviews were meant to collect personal reflections and were facilitated through a single question, then prompted with responses.

Findings:

  • Victim satisfaction with RJ arises primarily from procedural justice. Nonetheless, satisfaction is also consistent with the fact that RJ approaches are flexible, provide care, center on dialogue, and permit engagement with pro-social motives.
  • Every respondent was satisfied with the RJ approach and they described how RJ enhanced an understanding of the motives and the violent event. This satisfaction was found regardless of the outcomes. Even if the outcome was unsatisfactory, the fairness of the procedure maintained a general satisfaction in the RJ intervention.
  • RJ interventions have a healing impact.
  • RJ may not be suitable for everyone but, at the very least, victims should be informed about RJ.
  • When there were unfavourable outcomes, it was commonly attributed to the negative attitude, lack of engagement, or using RJ to create an advantage (e.g., lenient sentence) for the offender.
  • When offenders or surrogate offenders recognize the consequences of the crime and take responsibility for the harm suffered, victims report feeling liberated, validated, and empowered. In addition to informal accountability of the offender, many victims wanted formal, public, and criminal justice-based accountability. Therefore, victims appreciated the complementary nature of RJ.

Authors’ position:

  • The authors agree with the notion of speaking with a mediator so that fairness can be incorporated in the procedure. The authors agree that speaking with a mediator decreases unfavourable outcomes of RJ and increases overall satisfaction.
  • The authors support using RJ as it allows victims to have control and feel empowered.
  • The authors disagree with using punishment and incarceration as it does not allow the victim to be involved, thus decreasing satisfaction and feelings of justice.

Van Camp, T., & Wemmers, J. (2016). Victims’ reflections on the protective and proactive approaches to the offer of restorative justice: The importance of information. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 58(3): 415-442.

Purpose:

  • This article assesses the role of information on RJ practices for victims.

Methodology:

  • This study included 34 victims of serious crimes that were interviewed using unstructured, open-ended questions. The respondents were from Belgium (n = 21) and Canada (n = 13). They were asked about their experiences, knowledge, and thoughts of RJ practices.
  • The study compares the experiences of victims with a protective approach, which uses an individualized offer for RJ, and victims with a proactive model, which favours a systematic offer of RJ.
  • This is an exploratory study of an unrepresentative sample, which includes a disproportionate number of female victims of violence. The findings are from a small group of victims of serious crime who were eventually interested in RJ as a complementary process.

Findings:

  • Experiences with RJ may be “protective” or “proactive”. A protective approach involves an individualized offer and a lack of systematic information about RJ. A proactive approach favours a systematic offer and informed choice about RJ.
  • The interviews reveal that victims of violent crime prefer being proactively informed about RJ options. The proactive approach is generally more satisfactory for victims.
  • Results indicated that victims preferred to be proactively informed about RJ as long as there is respect of conditions (if present). Respect meant that victims’ participation is voluntary and is in parallel with criminal justice proceedings.
  • The proactive and protective approaches offer RJ in a variety of different ways. Victims who were offered RJ with a protective approach were generally less satisfied and generally felt that not being offered RJ placed them at a disadvantage. This includes some respondents who sought to meet the person who harmed them but had been ignored.
  • RJ appears to be suitable for a wide variety of offences and respondents identified few instances where a RJ offer should not be made. Indeed, most favoured a general RJ offer, regardless of the type of offence, identity of offender, and the consequences of victimization.
  • Victims generally want to know about the RJ options sooner rather than later and they would prefer to decline the offer than not know about RJ or not have information about RJ.
  • Victims generally appreciate having RJ as a complementary process to the typical judicial proceedings and decision-making paths. When RJ is complementary, RJ can focus on healing and potentially address the therapeutic elements of RJ.

Authors’ position:

  • The authors support RJ because it meets victims concerns, engages them, is fair, and has therapeutic values.
  • The authors note the need for more awareness of RJ.
  • The authors favour a procedural model for RJ that focuses on an outreach-oriented approach that involves early information and informed choices. This includes victim services contact as soon as a crime is reported, basic information about victim supports and RJ practices, and general information even for those who did not think that they would need victim assistance.
  • More direct outreach approaches and personalized information about RJ is preferable to form/template-based letters.

Wager, N., & Wilson, C. (2017). Circles of support and accountability: Survivors as volunteers and the restorative potential. In E. Zinsstag & M. Keenan (Eds.), Restorative responses to sexual violence: Legal, social and therapeutic dimensions (pp. 265-282). New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Purpose:

  • Drawing on volunteers who work with sexual offenders in the Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) program (an intervention program based on restorative principles), the authors explore the experiences of survivors as volunteers of the CoSA program and compare them with volunteers without experiences of sexual violence. The study challenges any negative conceptualizations of survivorship (i.e., where a victim is considered to be vulnerable, permanently damaged, and in need of protection).

Methodology:

  • The authors conducted 13 semi-structured interviews with volunteers in the CoSA program, including five interviews with survivors (“survivor-volunteers”) and eight interviews with volunteers who did not have a history of sexual violence.
  • Interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis and themes were qualitatively presented.

Findings:

  • The core theme that arose from the analysis was “resilience and recovery”. This theme highlighted the ways in which volunteers of the CoSA program characterized and understood survivorship. In particular, volunteers without a history of sexual violence considered a survivors’ identity as impactful and as motivation to volunteer in the program and that these individuals (survivor-volunteers) were resilient and unshockable. Survivor-volunteers, on the other hand, did not see their identity as defined by their experiences of sexual victimization and felt their motivation to volunteer stemmed from experiences of other challenging life events. They explained their resilience as an ongoing work-in-progress. This core theme of “resilience and recovery” is explained by the following sub-themes:
    • Survivor identity: those with past experiences of sexual violence did not consider their survivor status as their master identity when volunteering in the CoSA program. Volunteers without past experiences of sexual violence demonstrated concern about the appropriateness of survivors as volunteers in the program.
    • Transitioning from victim to survivor: participants with past sexual violence experiences discussed their transition from ‘victim’ to ‘survivor’ and how this was significant in their choice to volunteer for the CoSA program. For example, the notion that “you can’t change the past, but you can choose your future” was a common realization among survivor-volunteers.
    • Survivor status as a key motivational factor for volunteering: while volunteers with no prior experiences of sexual violence assumed that survivor-volunteers were motivated by their past victimization, this was not the case; for survivor-volunteers, there were other significant life events that formed the decision to volunteer for the program such as major health issues, divorce, retirement, psychiatric diagnoses and mental health issues.
    • Maintaining resilience vs being unshockable: some survivor-volunteers actively worked to maintain their resilience in order to protect their wellbeing (when faced with challenging behaviour from the sex offender receiving services from the program, for example), while other volunteers considered resilience as already acquired and developed. Even though many volunteers considered themselves unshockable, there was an awareness that the nature of their work may alter this at any point in time.
  • Prior to data collection (i.e., interviews with volunteers), the authors envisaged that survivors of sexual violence would experience a form of restorative justice. Through dialogue with offenders, survivors could gain answers to questions or make sense of their experiences. Although these elements did not necessarily emerge in their analysis of the interviews, the authors found that other aspects of restoration that fall within the principles of restorative justice did arise. In other words, the survivor-volunteers occupied a unique and important space within the program, of which the authors are still attempting to understand fully.

Author’s Position:

  • The authors conclude that survivor-volunteers do not participate in the program in search of self-healing or to undergo a meaning-making process.
  • There is restorative value for survivors when volunteering to work with sex offenders.
  • More research must be completed in order to fully conceptualize the dynamic and restorative nature of the program.

Wasileski, G. (2017). Prosecutors and use of restorative justice in courts: Greek case. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 32(13), 1943-1966

Purpose:

  • This study investigates prosecutors’ experiences with RJ practices in cases of intimate partner violence in Athens, Greece.

Methodology:

  • This qualitative study used a semi-structured, open-ended interviews of 12 female public prosecutors and three male mediators. All interviews except for one were audio recorded, and all included handwritten notes.
  • The interviews lasted approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  • The researchers used purposive sampling technique to recruit participants.
  • An inductive qualitative analysis was conducted to engage themes and patterns from interview transcripts.

Findings:

  • Mediation in Greek criminal law aims to bring the victim and offender together to resolve the problem of intimate partner violence.
  • The requirement to offer mediation means that it does not function as a RJ approach that provides an opportunity for victims to gain their voice and enhance autonomy but instead, mediation puts victims into a risky position.
  • Results indicated that prosecutors were confused about the overall themes of RJ. This could potentially be due to their experiences, professional positions, and views of RJ in intimate partner violence formed by their legal training.
  • There was little understanding of the role of offender accountability programs. Instead, participants over-estimated the focus on the offender and did not engage with the goals of increasing awareness of harm, acknowledging wrongdoing, or providing an opportunity to take responsibility.
  • Participants also misunderstood interpersonal violence dynamics. For instance, some interviewees were not immune to prejudicial attitudes towards to victims’ credibility.
  • Gender norms and practices are entrenched by structural forces in court. This means that RJ in cases of intimate partner violence is introduced in an atmosphere that places little emphasis on the needs of victims while simultaneously diminishing the gravity of intimate partner violence.

Author’s position:

  • Prosecutors do not have a complete understanding of the dynamics of intimate partner violence and the philosophy of RJ, making it difficult to implement or improve RJ.
  • With current resources, effective mediation is not feasible in Greece’s court settings. It is plagued with limitations of prosecutors’ lack of knowledge of RJ and broader trends related to gender violence.
  • The author supports RJ practices being used in the context of intimate partner violence but this should include clear guidelines and training and education on gender violence.

Mixed methods

Bletzer, K. V., & Koss, M. P. (2012). From parallel to intersecting narratives in cases of sexual assault. Qualitative Health Research, 22(3), 291-303.

Purpose:

  • This qualitative study examines the effectiveness of the Responsibility and Equity for Sexual Transgressions Offering a Restorative Experience (RESTORE) model through a textual analysis of documents. The study measures the RESTORE model’s effectiveness based on the empathy in the responsible person’s apology.

Methodology:

  • A total of 66 cases of a sexual nature were referred to the RESTORE program over the two and one half years the program was active. The referred cases included felony sexual assault (n = 40) and misdemeanor indecent exposure cases (n = 26). Of these referrals, 16 cases enrolled in the program. Each enrolled case identified one responsible person and one survivor/victim.
  • The study uses textual analysis of written documents such as victim impact statement, letters of clarification and responsibility, and other sources such as summaries, police reports, intake forms, coordinators’ appraisals, and the conference quality-control observational matrix. Qualitative analysis is used to examine the responsible person’s expression of apology and the responsible person’s empathy.

Findings:

  • Based on the analysis of the pre-enrollment police reports and pre-conference intake forms, responsible person’s often denied responsibility and/or blamed the survivors/victims. The pre-enrollment statements often included doubts, denial of harm caused and absence of feeling a need to make amends or right the wrong.
  • The apology letters prepared at the end of the reparation process showed the responsible person’s awareness of the harm done, which was often linked to the expression of remorse and regret.
  • Apology letters showed some changes in attitude by the responsible person.
  • Most responsible persons avoided significantexpressions of empathy.
  • The acceptance of responsibility surfaced once the responsible person had the opportunity for some reflection on the harm caused.
  • After the completion of the program, all responsible persons accepted responsibility in a manner noticeably different from their initial statements prior to enrollment.
  • Each responsible person, except for one, included a kind word about the RESTORE program and noted the benefits in the apology letters.
  • Some responsible persons occasionally made comments that retraumatized the survivor/victim.
  • The study’s limitations include: a small sample size, difficulties in locating the referred persons, disinterest and preference for traditional criminal or civil justice processes among candidates who opted out of after referral, and dismissal or withdrawal of enrolled participants.

Authors’ position:

  • Though the authors caution the potential gendered power imbalances, the RESTORE model provides empowerment to the survivor/victim and reintegrates participants by providing meaningful benefits.
  • The authors note that though safeguards need to be in place, RJ is a model that focuses on the participants’ needs.

Elliott, I. A., & Zajac, G. (2015). The implementation of circles of support and accountability in the United States. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 25, 113-123.

Purpose:

  • This article synthesizes and critiques the Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) literature, and then describes the findings of an evaluability study of five CoSA providers in the United States. The article also describes CoSA’s implementation, methods of evaluation, and the possible obstacles to rigorous evaluations.

Methodology:

  • After beginning with a synthesis and evaluation of CoSA literature, the article describes the findings from five sites delivering, or intending to deliver CoSA programs in: 1) Fresno, CA; 2) Denver, CO; 3) Durham, NC; 4) Lancaster, PA; and 5) Burlington, VT.
  • The research consisted of site visits which consisted of in-person interviews with program personnel and stakeholders, and an examination of documented material related to policies and regulations. The study’s data was collected and analyzed using a measurement tool that looked at 41 items across 10 categories such as management, model, operations, staff, outcomes, core members and volunteers. Another tool was used to look at the availability of 23 key variables from various sources.

Findings:

  • The majority of CoSA programs are based on the Correctional Service of Canada model.
  • The model has been adapted in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States. CoSA typically involves four groups of stakeholders: 1) project staff, 2) service users, 3) specific criminal justice staff, and 4) community service providers.
  • The CoSA model includes 5 phases: 1) appointment of members, establishment of the program in the local community and establishment of the role of the Program Director, 2) enrollment of the Core Members and the Circle Volunteers, 3) establishment and functioning of the Circle, 4) ongoing support, and 5) dissolution of the Circle.
  • Due to the methodological limitations, there is not enough evidence to claim that CoSA is a proven effective program.
  • For future evaluations, a comparison of a CoSA group and a control “not-CoSA-yet” group, as well the following outcomes could include:
    • Recidivism as a continuous variable (i.e., the number of months between release and reconviction, if any).
    • Distal variables such as increased risk awareness, problem solving, self-esteem and pro-social cognition.
    • Proximal variables such as successful access to services such as housing and financial aid.
    • Core member selection issues - The selection criteria for CoSA programs usually included motivation for change, seeking an offence-free life and agreement to abide to the release conditions. As such, the control group should be drawn from the same sample of highly motivated inmates as the experimental group. This would avoid selection bias, however may not allow for further generalizations to all “high-risk, high-need” sex offenders. Selection criteria should be used consistently and rigorously.
    • Sample size, site capacity and low baselines of recidivism - The limited sample size was an issue for a successful evaluation of the CoSA program. However, researchers/evaluators may find other ways to increase the precision of the impact of the program when using experimental methods, such as controlling for differences in baseline variables of participants and by sharing data between criminal justice agencies.
    • Some issues were noted around data sharing and accessing information from other agencies (i.e., ownership of data issues).

Authors’ position:

  • The authors conclude that CoSA is not an evidence-based practice but the evaluation work has produced encouraging results. Although evaluations of community-based RJ programs such as CoSA are difficult, research and evaluations should continue and remain optimistic.

Gavrielides, T. (2015). Is restorative justice appropriate for domestic violence cases? Revista De Asistenta Sociala, 14(4), 105-121.

Purpose:

  • This qualitative study examines RJ in domestic violence cases in conjunction or in parallel with the current criminal justice system in the United Kingdom in 2014/15.
  • The study looks at the circumstances and prerequisites of these cases, the measurement of ‘success’, the barriers encountered, and the limitations around implementation of RJ in domestic violence cases.

Methodology:

  • The study used qualitative methods over a period of two years in six phases:
    • Phase 1: five in-depth, semi-structured interviews with RJ and/or domestic violence experts.
    • Phase 2: focus group with 22 RJ and/or domestic violence experts.
    • Phase 3: focus group with five victims of domestic violence.
    • Phase 4: in-depth, semi-structured interviews with eight practitioners (proxies) who had worked with victims and offenders convicted for the same crime, who went through a RJ process in the last two years.
    • Phase 5: case study of two RJ practitioners who had a domestic violence case.
    • Phase 6: one-on-one and group in-depth unstructured interviews with key service providers of domestic violence services.
  • Study used a non-probability sampling and convenience sampling.

Findings:

  • Despite concerns from many groups (e.g., victims’ groups), there are community-based RJ projects dealing with domestic violence cases.
  • The biggest barriers to using RJ in domestic violence cases in the United Kingdom are: public perception, and misunderstanding of terminology, and definitions.
  • The strengths of RJ in domestic violence cases include: addressing the victim’s needs as a tool of empowerment, providing options to the victim, and minimizing secondary victimization and recidivism.
  • Risk assessments were identified as a key component of the RJ projects. However, there are some concerns regarding the differences in risk assessment forms and safety precautions (fear of re-traumatization).
  • The main reasons for using a RJ process was to seek understanding, safety, and closure. However, due to the complexities of domestic violence cases, a RJ process was often identified as not sufficient.
  • The study’s limitations included: a small sample size, external validity, the inability to generalize to the population, and the adjustments of variables.

Author’s position:

  • The author supports widening the discussion of RJ and domestic violence. So, when appropriate, RJ can empower victims of domestic violence as well as enable offenders to engage in dialogue.
  • Co-facilitation is a good practice to achieve a gender-balance.

Gavrielids, T., & Artinopoulou, V. (2013). Restorative justice and violence against women: Comparing Greece and the United Kingdom. Asian Criminology, 8(1), 25-40.

Purpose:

  • This study examines domestic violence cases from Greece and the United Kingdom in order to identify common elements, differences and standards when applying RJ.

Methodology:

  • This study consists of a literature review and a small scale qualitative study of seven case studies of domestic violence cases in Greece and the UK in 2009/10.

Findings:

  • Greece
    • In Greece, RJ is available by law and is a relatively new practice. RJ is applied only in misdemeanour cases, before or after prosecution, and with certain conditions attached. The general prosecutor is responsible for initiating the mediation and the public prosecutors are the mediators. If RJ is unsuccessful, the case is then referred back to the criminal justice system.
    • Some issues include: 1) the top-down approach; 2) role expectations/contradictions (mediator/public prosecutor); 3) lack of coordination; and 4) public views of RJ as a soft measure for offenders and that the victim comes second.
  • UK:
    • RJ is not provided by legislation, but rather community-born. RJ has been applied since the 1970s. RJ is generally initiated by the victim in violence against women cases. The RJ mediators are independent and parties enter RJ voluntarily.
    • Some issues include: 1) RJ remains a voluntary initiative; 2) funding, evaluation and consistency; 3) practice standards are voluntary; and 4) no formal structure.
  • A proposed model for further research includes: 1) the key principles of voluntariness, empowerment and informed choices, 2) principles of fairness, respect, equality and dignity, 3) the principle of confidentiality, 4) having professional standards, accreditation and ethics, 5) the independence of mediators, practice, evaluation and research, 6) the process should be victim-led and initiated, 7) having expert practitioners, and 8) provide follow-up support services.
  • The study’s limitations included: a limited scope, and that no generalizations can be made.

Author(s) position:

  • The authors concluded that law alone cannot guarantee success for mediation, but there is a need for victim-lead processes with a bottom-up structure that focuses on empowerment principles. The authors do not believe that RJ should be dismissed in cases of violence against women.

Gill, A. K., & Harrison, K. (2013). Sentencing sex offenders in India: Retributive justice versus sex-offender treatment programmes and restorative justice approaches. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, 8(2), 166-181.

Purpose:

  • This study explores punitive methods, treatment programs, and RJ as strategies to address sexual violence in India.

Methodology:

  • This study uses the case of 23-year-old Nirbhaya, who was brutally assaulted and gang-raped in Delhi in 2012, to explore potential punishment reforms.
  • The study also examines the literature to describe the different arguments for and against punishment options, and explore alternative solutions.

Findings:

  • This article highlights the accredited sex-offender treatment program (SOTP) in England and Wales, which uses cognitive-behavioural therapy. The goal of the program is to teach offenders new skills and life management techniques, change attitudes, and contribute to relapse prevention.
  • The completion of this program lowers the risk of reoffending in sexual offenders. Evidence shows that positive reinforcement of good behaviour is more effective for change than negative reinforcement.
  • RJ Approaches - RJ techniques emphasize reintegration, restitution, reparation, reconciliation and community partnership, and are thus a way to reduce the likelihood of reoffending. The article highlighted the Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) program, where research from Canada and England and Wales shows positive results. CoSA is seen as a helpful option in managing risk in the community.

Author(s) position:

  • The authors suggest a need for policy and legal reforms such as sentencing principles reform, changes in the nature of medical evidence collection and investigative procedures. The authors recommended further exploration of the use of sex-offender treatment programs and RJ approaches to provide change in India.

Hayden, A. (2012). Safety issues associated with using restorative justice for intimate partner violence. Women's Studies Journal, 26(2), 4-16.

Purpose:

  • This study examines the extent to which RJ could increase the reporting of intimate partner violence, the implications of gender and RJ, the ways RJ could increase/decrease safety for victims, and how the process could be made safer in intimate partner violence cases.

Methodology:

  • This study uses qualitative methods which include: 1) 15 in-depth interviews with experts in RJ, 2) observation of two courts specializing in family violence, and 3) in-depth unstructured interviews with eight victims and six offenders.

Findings:

  • The study found the following qualities increase safety in RJ processes: appropriate preparation prior to a conference, screening for history of intimate partner violence, assessment of victims/offenders’ readiness to participate, expectations and remorse, having support people present at RJ, possible inclusion of children in the RJ process (where appropriate), the use of appropriate language, co-gender facilitation, and in some cases, written agreements.
  • The study identify the following risk factors in RJ facilitators that may make participants feel less safe: gender (in)appropriateness, (lack of) skills, academic and practical experience, (lack of) routine monitoring and debriefing, having friendly and sensitive personalities, common sense, culturally (in)appropriate behaviour, facilitator’s (un)awareness of their own background and education/experience.
  • The study identifies other factors that could negatively impact safety in RJ processes: power imbalances, manipulations, involvement of drugs and alcohol, lack of remorse, serious mental health problems, lack of recognition of the victims’ needs, coercive control and risk of retribution.
  • The study highlighted some RJ practices that can be applied to make these processes safer: fully-informed and preparation of both offenders and victims, appropriate timing of the conference, voluntariness, and high skill/knowledge/training of facilitators.
  • Overall, this study found that RJ offered a greater sense of justice and fairness than the criminal justice system.

Author’s position:

  • The author is supportive of the use of RJ in intimate partner violence cases. However, safety considerations should be in place.

Julich, K., Sturgess, S., McGrego, C. K., & Nicholas, L. (2013). Cost as a barrier to recovery: Survivors of sexual violence. Sexual Abuse in Australia and New Zealand, 5(2), 57-68.

Purpose:

  • This study explores and assesses the New Zealand Law Commission’s proposal for formal RJ to be made available for certain sexual offenses. This provides an opportunity to examine the interactions between the criminal justice system and alternative processes.

Methodology:

  • The report includes a review of literature, best-practices, and a case study of the New Zealand Law Commission’s recommendations related to RJ and sexual violence.

Findings:

  • The Law Commission has suggested three situations in which an alternative process could be referred back to the criminal justice system:
    • where information emerges that makes it unsuitable for the case to continue to be dealt with in an alternative process, such as information regarding additional offending;
    • where the survivor or the offender opts out of the alternative process; or,
    • where no agreed-upon outcome can be achieved, or the accused fails to participate in an acceptable way or to fulfil any undertakings made.
  • In each of these situations, there is the potential for the survivor's wishes to be overridden.
  • Restorative processes as an alternative to the criminal justice system require careful balancing of survivor autonomy and public safety.
  • There remain legitimate concerns about the suitability of RJ for addressing harms like sexual offending. However, the experiences of the RESTORE program suggest that well-trained and well-resourced RJ providers can address many of these concerns.
  • If the survivor and the offender opt to pursue a restorative process as an alternative to criminal prosecution, criminal prosecution can be halted and precluded, provided that the offender participates in good faith and fulfils all the RJ requirements.
  • In some cases, referrals back to the criminal system are possible where the offender poses a risk to public safety.
  • If information about additional offending comes to light or a party opts out of the process or the offender does not participate satisfactorily, RJ providers must be able to apply a public safety override. This would allow RJ providers to refer the case to the criminal system regardless of the wishes of the involved parties.
  • To satisfactorily address the harms of sexual offences, the state should play a role in regulating restorative outcomes. The outcomes may include attending treatment programs and taking responsibility.
  • Clinicians have an important role when implementing a RJ response to sexual offending, which includes: an awareness of overriding RJ in the interest of public safety, an understanding of RJ and criminal justice system interactions, and supports for survivors.

Authors’ position:

  • The authors believe that RJ offers survivors more autonomy in addressing harms of sexual offending. However, clinicians must be aware of situations where survivor’s autonomy can be overridden.

Keenan, M., Zinsstag, E., & O’Nolan, C. (2016). Sexual violence and restorative practices in Belgium, Ireland and Norway: A thematic analysis of country variations. Restorative Justice, 4(1), 86-114.

Purpose:

  • This article compares and contrasts the provision of RJ in cases of sexual violence in Belgium, Ireland, and Norway.

Methodology:

  • The article examines the use of RJ in sexual violence cases in Belgium, Ireland, and Norway. This article uses existing literature, large-scale surveys, statistical reports, and reports that present empirical evidence, to conduct a thematic analysis. The study also uses extensive fieldwork in the form of site visits to Belgium, Ireland and Norway (including interviews with a number of stakeholders, practitioners and service providers).

Findings:

  • Legal reforms take place in most developed countries in an effort to improve the response to sexual violence. This includes rape shield laws, the refinement and expansion of the definition of sexual offences, and victim impact statements. These reforms and changes in social norms might contribute to increases in reporting, this also leads to greater attrition rates.
  • Innovative justice focuses on improving victims’ access to and experience of justice by additional non-adversarial mechanisms, such as RJ which is participatory, empowering, flexible, safe and can run alongside traditional criminal justice processes. Concerns of RJ include risk of re-traumatisation and/or re-victimisation, and the shift of sexual violence into the private sphere which could lead to a decrease in public awareness and condemnation of sexual violence.
  • In Belgium, RJ developed out of close connection between academics and criminal justice professionals and were targeted at all crimes in the 1990s.
  • In Belgium, RJ operates alongside traditional criminal justice processes, and in some cases even independently. Access to RJ is seen as a right in Belgium. ‘Penal Mediation’ is offered by civil servants as well as NGOs who are contracted to provide other RJ services all over the country, with targeted services based on age of the perpetrator and the languages spoken.
  • The referral of young offenders to the mediation service is best practice in Belgium.
  • The core principles of confidentiality, neutrality and voluntary participation are set out in Belgian legislation—and there is no requirement that victim-offender mediation influence the criminal sanction imposed, but the law does stipulate a report can be submitted to the court prior to sentencing. Mediation is legally required to be available at all stages of the criminal procedure, including post-sentence.
  • In Ireland, sexual violence cases are recommended to be excluded from RJ interventions, but some organisations process such cases. The provision of RJ in the area of sexual violence to date is largely done by a few organizations in the voluntary sector. While the government funds some of the organizations employing RJ in sexual violence cases, lack of funding is an issue.
  • Irish legislation does not specifically refer to restorative justice, and provisions for restorative cautioning are only an option for young people in court—there no legislative provision for RJ for adults. As such, RJ operates in an ad hoc fashion in Ireland.
  • In Norway, some services offer RJ processes to a small number of sexual violence cases. There is, however, some political reluctance. The growing work and international research is gradually changing this norm. RJ can take place pre-conviction or post-conviction, though for sexual violence pre-conviction mediation is likely to be of minor gravity or where criminal prosecution were unlikely to proceed.

Authors’ position:

  • The authors believe that RJ in cases of sexual violence offers victims the opportunity to achieve justice, with or instead of traditional criminal justice processes. It also offers offenders the opportunity to repay a moral debt, repair harm, and work towards their reintegration into society.
  • The authors believe legislation, funding, and supportive systems are necessary for RJ.
  • Though opportunities for interagency/inter-disciplinary liaisons are limited due to confidentiality and neutrality issues, it might add value to the RJ process in some cases.

Koss, M. P., Wilgus, J. K., & Williamsen, K. M. (2014). Campus sexual misconduct: Restorative justice approaches to enhance compliance with title IX guidance. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 15(3), 242-257.

Purpose:

  • This article envisions RJ enhancements to traditional student conduct processes by 1) defining sexual violence and sexual harassment within the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter (administrative guidance to campus response to sexual assault issued by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights), 2) elaborating on the Dear Colleague Letter position on alternative resolutions and differentiates mediation from RJ, 3) sequencing action steps from case reports, and 4) discussing building support for innovation beginning with existing campus responses.

Methodology:

  • This article examines and discusses the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter in the context of the student conduct theory. 

Findings:

  • Institutions of higher education are responsible for addressing at least 42 types of sexual behaviour in an attempt to eliminate misconduct, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects.
  • The Dear Colleague Letter mandates a quasi-criminal justice, investigative and judicial response to sexual misconduct that is too narrow for the scope of sexual misconduct and the desired outcomes of institutional response.
  • The Dear Colleague Letter permits the use of RJ in student sexual misconduct cases as a resolution process, a victim impact process, a sanctioning process, and a reintegration process.
  • RJ resolution in cases of sexual misconduct have been feasible, safe, and reached participants’ satisfaction.
  • RJ can support the interest of the victim/survivors, institutions, the Office for Civil Rights, and student conduct professionals.

Authors’ position:

  • The authors note that empirical evidence suggests that a RJ model for resolving student misconduct is superior to a judicial hearing model in achieving educational outcomes. The authors believe that RJ may have the ability to enhance institutional responsiveness and provide options that, in some cases, may better achieve the underlying goals of federal law and administrative guidance in the context of campus response to sexual violence and the field of student conduct management.
  • However, they are unsure whether the best approach would be to either A) implement some RJ approaches for non-sexual cases first in order to obtain buy-in, or B) start RJ implementation with lower level forms of sexual misconduct in order to avoid reinforcing the attitude that the methods are not suitable for any sexual matter. In any case, the authors encourage further discussion and exploration of the use of RJ in sexual misconduct cases among institutions.

 

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