The Effects of Group Conferencing on Youth Recidivism and the Structure of Effective Conferences: Questioning the Critical Elements of Restorative Justice Programming in a Cohort of Higher-Risk Young People

Mr Robert Bonett1, Dr  Caleb  Lloyd, Distinguished Professor James  Ogloff

1Swinburne University Of Technology, Alphington, Australia

Objectives:

We examined the effect of group conferencing (aka. Restorative Justice Conferencing) on recidivism among a sample of higher-risk young offenders, and how variations in conference structure were related to subsequent rates of recidivism, specifically relating to victim, police and family participation in the conference process.

Methods:

We retrospectively gathered the offending histories of 2,366 young people processed through the Children’s Court between 2010 and 2018. We used life-course analytic techniques to model between-group differences, and individual-propensity for reoffending based on static and time-varying predictors. Variations in conference structure were explored using binary-logistic and negative binomial regression among a sample of conference completers.

Results:

We demonstrated that group conferencing was associated with substantive reductions in the likelihood of future offending, and that variations in conference structure were associated with improved outcomes. Specifically, conferences attended by secondary victims and police informants were associated with the largest reductions in post-conference offending, compared to conferences with primary victim participation only. Importantly, victimless conferences did not differ from conferences attended by a primary victim on any reoffending outcome.

Conclusions:

Group conferencing is an effective mechanism to reduce youth offending and can meet this aim whilst accommodating various modes of victim participation. Restorative Justice theorists and researchers stand to benefit from reconsidering the assumed mechanisms of crime reduction within programs, and the adoption of life-course methodologies to investigate recidivism.


Biography:

Robert is a Doctoral Candidate in Clinical and Forensic Psychology at the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology. His research has focused on the effectiveness of Group Conferencing in reducing youth recidivism and the effective ingredients in this program. He has worked clinically in a range of   public and forensic mental health roles, alongside a decade of previous work in not for profit organisations in justice and disability settings.