Tuesday, July 20, 2010

UK urged to embrace restorative justice for juvie corrections

An important new report out of the U.K. could signal the start of a widespread shift toward use of "restorative justice" techniques in juvenile law, modeled on a program in Northern Ireland. According to this source:
A landmark report has called for the introduction of restorative justice across England and Wales to halve the current number of juveniles in custody.

The Independent Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour reports that restorative justice in Northern Ireland should provide the model for major changes to the youth justice system.

The commission, which carried out an 18-month study into alternative responses to youth crime, concludes that restorative meetings known as "youth conferencing" are the way to deliver better justice for the victims of crime, while cutting re-offending rates and custody numbers.

Its report, Time for a Fresh Start, estimates the cost of dealing with youth crime and anti-social behaviour as being more than £4bn each year.

It also argues that many millions of pounds are being wasted each year on custody for under-18s with each place costing taxpayers between £69,000 and £193,000 a year, but as many as three out of four young offenders are being re-convicted within a year of completing their sentence.

The commission sets a target for the current use of custody to be halved to fewer than 1,000 young offenders at any one time without adding to crime rates or compromising public safety.

And it urges a significant reinvestment of resources in early intervention to tackle serious anti-social behaviour among children, prevent later offending and save more money for the taxpayer.
In the introduction to the document, authors said:
We have been impressed by the restorative Youth Conferencing Service introduced in Northern Ireland five years ago and believe that its professionally co-ordinated approach provides a suitable model for England and Wales. Reconviction rates among young offenders involved in restorative justice processes are relatively low and youth conferencing in Northern Ireland has been accompanied by lower use of custody. Approval ratings among victims and all those involved are high. No one there suggests it is in any sense a ‘soft’ or easy option. Young offenders themselves acknowledge just how tough it has been to have to face up to the harm and misery they have caused their victims, their families and the community. Restorative justice is an approach whose time has come, and the results, when professionally managed, speak for themselves.
Texas just cut our own juvenile prison population in half, but instead of restorative justice the Lege invested in evidence-based probation programming to supervise those youth in the community. I find it interesting that Britain wants to achieve the same goal using a completely different model. Also notable, with more than double Texas' population, England and Wales incarcerate slightly fewer youth now than Texas does AFTER slashing our own youth prison population in half! But the Independent Commission says their juvie incarceration rate is too high. What do you suppose they'd think about our system?

There has been a great deal of talk about restorative justice in Texas, and a few small programs here and there have been based on the concept. (At TDCJ, for certain offenses victims can choose to engage in mediated discussions with offenders in a restorative-justice inspired program. And when Ronnie Earle was Travis County DA he experimented with restorative justice ideas in juvenile court.) But Texas officials have never come close to embracing the notion on the scale suggested here, as the foundational basis for the entire juvie justice system. This a lengthy report and there's a big stack on my to-read list ahead of it, but the topics coincide with many frequently discussed on this blog and may well interest readers in the juvie arena.


Anonymous said...

"It urges a significant reinvestment of resources in early intervention to tackle serious anti-social behaviour among children, prevent later offending and save more money for the taxpayer."

In the US anti-social behavior among children is supported by a large anti-social support system that is thoroughly committed to continuing down the path that it finds rewarding. That vicious aspect of our culture dominates large parts of all American cities and many well behaved adults go to greats lengths to condone and be permissive toward that viciousness. These adults, when not blaming the police, express the attitude "oh, they didn't mean to do it" or "they made a mistake and I'm sure after they talked to the counselor they have learned their lesson and won't do it again."

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What are you talking about, 7:45? Be specific. Use proper nouns.

Anonymous said...

C'mon Grits. You're not obtuse. It's not that difficult to figure out what 7:45 was talking about. We have a culture in this country, promoted by the entertainment and music industries, that celebrates and promotes anti-social behavior among youth. The breakdown of the family and the lack of positive paternal role models also likely plays a large part in this problem. These are all issues that you've discussed at one time or another on your blog. If a child has never been taught to feel sympathy or empathy, how in the world can a restorative justice program ever hope to accomplish anything with that child?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I'm not being obtuse, I want 7:45 to make the accusations they're making about someone, anyone, specific instead of complaining generally about the secret cadre of Liberals who supposedly control the national culture like Oz behind the curtain.

Do you really think video games and rap music cause crime, 8:40, or movies or other aspects of modern culture? (FWIW, I didn't get that takeaway at all from 7:45.) I'd suggest you find charts of video game sales, hip hop music sales and juvenile crime over the last decade and compare them. You'll find steep upward curves for video games and hip hop music and a steady downward trend for juvenile crime. Where do you see the relationship?

I'll agree bad parenting is a problem, as is having so many incarcerated parents. Then, 7:45 didn't mention parents either, or anybody. There's just some grand conspiracy out there to make everything as bad as possible, to hear the anonymous whiners in some of these comment strings tell it.

Anonymous said...

When money is tight, alternatives to incarceration are more appealing. However, once the economy recovers worldwide, it's back to the big house. While I am opposed to incarceration for the sake of incarcertation, many times there is no alternative. Most of the so-called evidence based practices are developed by foundations that believe racism and capitalism are the cause of crime. There goal is to bring about socialism which they believe will reduce crime overall.

Alan said...

Seems like restorative justice would fly even in our shallow politics, because it can't be said to hold offenders blameless and treat them better than their victims. And it's cheaper than prison beds. And though it's only a partial substitute for good parenting, we have a better chance of inventing such substitutes than we have of restoring Ozzie & Harriet.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:05, use proper nouns, please, for all future accusations. Which foundations, exactly, are promoting "socialism" according to reliable, anonymous you?

Mark # 1 said...

Ah yes; when the facts don't agree with your preconceived "notions" or stereotypes, why, then, disregard the facts by attempting to discredit those who deliver the facts. . .Why am I not surprised. Somewhere, a bridge is being freely crossed without incident.

sunray's wench said...

The important thing to remember with Northern Ireland is the ingrained religious separation that has been a feature of the province for so many years. I can see some parallels between that an American today. You have to go some way to break down those barriers, which often facilitate anti-social behaviour, before you can get the kids to understand that what they are doing is not right.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what this guy is talking about. Study after study shows that kids tend to emulate parents' behavior rather than that of their peers. After all, kids have observed and learned from parents' behavior for years before they are subjected to any peer pressure. By the time children make it to grade school, many of their personality traits are already set. If a child isn't able to feel empathy or sympathy by age 6 or so, he or she isn't ever going to. Now of course children can and do get led into criminal behavior by their own bad ideas or by others, but if that core empathy is in there, restorative justice can work. Studies have also shown that many criminal offenders don't make a connection between their crimes and actions and real people. Some of them, when confronted by the actual real people they harmed, get a dose of reality that was lost somewhere in the drug and alcohol infused world they inhabited. I have personally witnessed some offenders react positively to restorative justice, and clean up their act and not only not re-offend, but become positive members of their community. That core of empathy has to be there in the first place though, or it will not work. That's why making sure children have a decent environment in their earliest years is vitally important. When restorative justice works, its better for everyone, including the State's budget. That alone should be reason enough for conservatives to want to try it.

Anonymous said...

Grits, you are a flaming liberal! (notice the proper noun)!

Since this is a juvenile blog, I will keep it juvenile related. The MacArthur Foundation as well as the Annie E Casey Foundation are two liberal big government foundations that push juvenile justice reform. They are influential in America and increasingly in Texas. They argue that juvenile detention leads to adult incarceration. In short, the system is blamed for increasing crime and the governement is responsible for the 'fix'. These foundations and others throw millions of dollars at reform in criminal justice. They blame capitalism and 'white mans' policies for disproportionate minority contact.

Mark # 1 said...

It's amusing how the dittoheads, teabaggers and other assorted mouth-breathers think that the word "liberal" is an unsavory characterization. Maybe less talk radio and more political history is the prescription?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

11:51, cites, sources, documentation, anything? Who says? I mean beyond anonymous internet commentary. It's hard to take seriously the charge that anybody with that much money in the stock market is anti-capitalist.

Anonymous said...

Well Grits, the two responses from anonymous have yet to contain a single "fact." Pennsylvania has implemented restorative statewide and I have done a great deal of investigation about it. Like everything else, there's lots of good and some not so good.


Sujatha said...

I've spearheaded a small restorative diversion program in Oakland, CA modeled after New Zealand's Family Group Conferencing model. We don't have official stats just yet (n too small), but in two years only one of our young people has reoffended out of the 18 who've completed the process. (Compare the county recidivism rate of 75%.) We're doing felonies and high level misdemeanors, and I'd estimate that we save the County over $50K every time we do a case. (There are no clear numbers from the county on exactly how much we spend when a young person goes through the system) So with a staff of 4 1/2, I could save the county $5 million a year. And that's not factoring in additional savings from reduced recidivism.
There's wide-spread system buy-in for the pilot (i.e the DA and two police departments have been referring cases), but the trouble these days is getting it funded so we can get do a good number of cases and have them properly studied so we, too, can be an evidence-based practice and get properly funded and take it to scale.