Restorative justice conferencing for reducing recidivism in young offenders (aged 7 to 21)

Nuala Livingstone, Geraldine Macdonald, Nicola Carr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Restorative justice is “a process whereby parties with a stake in a specific offence resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future” (Marshall 2003). Despite the increasing use of restorative justice programmes as an alternative to court proceedings, no systematic review has been undertaken of the available evidence on the effectiveness of these programmes with young offenders. Recidivism in young offenders is a particularly worrying problem, as recent surveys have indicated
the frequency of re-offences for young offenders has ranged from 40.2% in 2000 to 37.8% in 2007 (Ministry of Justice 2009)

To evaluate the effects of restorative justice conferencing programmes for reducing recidivism in young offenders.

Search methods
We searched the following databases up to May 2012: CENTRAL, 2012 Issue 5, MEDLINE (1978 to current), Bibliography of Nordic Criminology (1999 to current), Index to Theses (1716 to current), PsycINFO (1887 to current), Social Sciences Citation Index (1970 to current), Sociological Abstracts (1952 to current), Social Care Online (1985 to current), Restorative Justice Online (1975 to current), Scopus (1823 to current), Science Direct (1823 to current), LILACS (1982 to current), ERIC (1966 to current), Restorative Justice Online (4May 2012),WorldCat (9May 2012), (19May 2012) and ICTRP (19May 2012). ASSIA,National Criminal Justice Reference Service and Social Services Abstracts were searched up to May 2011. Relevant bibliographies, conference programmes and journals were also searched.

Selection criteria
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or quasi-RCTs of restorative justice conferencing versus management as usual, in young offenders.

Data collection and analysis
Two authors independently assessed the risk of bias of included trials and extracted the data. Where necessary, original investigators were contacted to obtain missing information.

Main results
Four trials including a total of 1447 young offenders were included in the review. Results failed to find a significant effect for restorative justice conferencing over normal court procedures for any of the main analyses, including number re-arrested (odds ratio (OR) 1.00, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.59 to 1.71; P = 0.99), monthly rate of reoffending (standardised mean difference (SMD) -0.06, 95% CI -0.28 to 0.16; P = 0.61), young person’s remorse following conference (OR 1.73, 95% CI 0.97 to 3.10; P = 0.06), young person’s recognition of wrongdoing following conference (OR 1.97, 95% CI 0.81 to 4.80; P = 0.14), young person’s self-perception following conference (OR 0.95, 95% CI 0.55 to 1.63; P = 0.85), young person’s satisfaction following conference (OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.04 to 4.07; P = 0.45) and victim’s satisfaction following conference (OR 4.05, 95%CI 0.56 to 29.04; P = 0.16). A small number of sensitivity analyses did indicate significant effects, although all are to be interpreted with caution.

Authors’ conclusions
There is currently a lack of high quality evidence regarding the effectiveness of restorative justice conferencing for young offenders. Caution is urged in interpreting the results of this review considering the small number of included studies, subsequent low power and high risk of bias. The effects may potentially be more evident for victims than offenders. The need for further research in this area is highlighted.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD008131.
Pages (from-to)1-89
Number of pages90
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Early online date28 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Nicola is a Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work. She is the Research Leader of the ‘Contemporary Social Issues’ Research Cluster in the School and Co-Director of the MSc in Youth Justice. Nicola is professionally qualified as a Probation Officer and prior to joining Queen’s she worked in Youth Offending Teams in London. Her main research areas are youth justice, probation and community sanctions. She is particularly interested in young people’s experiences of justice both through formal systems (welfare and justice) and within their communities. Nicola’s PhD research (completed in 2011), explored the recent history of the youth justice system in the Republic of Ireland, with a particular focus on the reconfiguration of child custody provision in the context of the retraction of the Industrial and Reformatory School system.
Along with colleagues she is currently working on a study funded by the British Academy on young people’s experiences of paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland. This research is exploring young people’s continued experiences of violence within their communities in the context of a ‘post-conflict’ society. She is also engaged with Siobhán McAlister in a qualitative longitudinal study of young people’s transitions from custody. Using a life-history approach this research explores the routes into custody and the challenges of transition from custody for young people.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Restorative justice conferencing for reducing recidivism in young offenders (aged 7 to 21)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this