Investigating the connection between restorative justice and reduced mortality rates for offenders

The Foundation's program, Public Health Law Research: Making the Case for Laws That Improve Health, was designed to build the evidence for public health law and policy, translate research findings into practical tools to increase the support for and use of law by policy makers and public health practitioners, and to translate findings to other fields and venues to improve and protect health.This study will analyze the impact of restorative justice (RJ) on offender health, using a unique dataset from a randomized control trial of restorative justice practices in Australia. Recent analyses of these data suggest that this use of RJ produced a very sharp reduction in offender mortality over many years. "Restorative justice" remains one of the few evidence-based alternatives to punitive criminal justice approaches to crime. Bringing offenders and victims together in a process of "integrative shaming" has been shown in studies in many countries to reduce recidivism and the toll of victimization. Reductions were particularly concentrated among the young violent offenders who had committed the most serious crimes. The original study included a randomized field experiment; observations of legal proceedings; multi-wave, face-to-face interviews with offenders and their victims; and official data from government sources. Because these findings stem from a well implemented randomized trial, the direct causal link between RJ and reduced mortality is exceptionally clear. We now know that using RJ in response to violent crime can save the lives of the offenders who are exposed to it. What we don't know is why this effect occurred, and what aspects of RJ conferences were most important to causing it. This research will aim to refine our understanding of offender mortality, explain how restorative justice might protect offenders from premature death, and discover which aspects of restorative justice conferencing are most directly tied to reduced death rates. Answering these questions could lead to innovations here in the US in criminal procedure and reduce deaths in the exceptionally vulnerable population of criminal offenders. The US has had a long experimentation phase with restorative justice practices, including diversion programs, specialty courts, ceasefire initiatives and others. Demonstrating a positive health impact would add to the policy impetus for effective, therapeutic criminal justice reforms.

Grant Details

Amount Awarded $148,814.00

Awarded on: 11/14/2012

Time frame: 11/15/2012 - 5/14/2014

Grant Number: 70517

Grantee

University of Pennsylvania, Jerry Lee Center of Criminology

438 McNeil Building
3718 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA, 19104-6286

215-746-3537
Website

Caroline M. Angel
Project Director

215-746-3537
Email

Geoffrey Carroll Barnes
Project Director

215-746-3537
Email