There is evidence that some victims of crime benefit from communication with offenders, at least some of the time, but little is known about how these benefits occur. Many have theorised about the mechanisms by which restorative justice produces outcomes for victims (Braithwaite, 1989; Christie, 1977; Dignan, 2004; Sherman et al., 2005; Tyler, 1989; Zehr, 1990), but few have empirically tested these theories (Bolitho, 2017; Strang et al., 2006). In her doctoral research, Diana proposed and began to test a theoretical framework, suggesting that victims expect and experience five main types of psychological change when they communicate with offenders. Qualitative and quantitative data were analysed to determine whether victims expect and experience changes in their perceptions of 1) procedural justice, 2) punishment, 3) prevention, 4) the offender and 5) themselves. Diana found evidence that each of these five changes is at least sometimes expected and experienced by victims, although further research is required to better understand each one and its relative role in victim satisfaction and wellbeing.
The purpose of this ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship is to make the research findings accessible, and to extend analysis of quantitative data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) using advanced quantitative methods. Ultimately, the purpose is to benefit victims who may choose to communicate with offenders, and indirectly to benefit the offenders involved and the wider criminal justice system. Strang & Sherman (2015, p.6) caution that some interventions may cause harm because of the “wide array of justice practices called ‘restorative’”. They suggest that the obligation therefore falls on practitioners to constantly evaluate their work or adopt only evaluated, off-the-shelf programs. While monitoring and evaluation of programs is certainly good practice, there is an equal obligation on researchers to clearly define the practices they are assessing, and to investigate how they work. The theoretical and empirical contribution of this research is a step towards more accessible, inclusive, and effective restorative justice policies and practices. When victims know what types of change can be achieved through communication with the offender, they can make more informed decisions about whether they want to participate, and they can work together with practitioners to maximise the positive outcomes.
Bolitho, J. (2017). Inside the restorative justice black box. International Review of Victimology, 23(3), 026975801771454. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269758017714549
Braithwaite, J. (1989). Crime, shame and reintegration. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Christie, N. (1977). Conflicts as property. British Journal of Criminology, 17(1), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.bjc.a046783
Dignan, J. (2004). Understanding victims and restorative justice. Maidenhead, UK: McGraw-Hill Education.
Sherman, L. W., Strang, H., Angel, C. M., Woods, D. J., Barnes, G. C., Bennett, S., & Inkpen, N. (2005). Effects of face-to-face restorative justice on victims of crime in four randomized, controlled trials. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 1(3), 367–395. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-005-8126-y
Strang, H., & Sherman, L. W. (2015). The morality of evidence: The second annual lecture for Restorative Justice: An International Journal. Restorative Justice: An International Journal, 3(1), 6–27. https://doi.org/10.1080/20504721.2015.1049869
Strang, H., Sherman, L. W., Angel, C. M., Woods, D. J., Bennett, S., Newbury-Birch, D., & Inkpen, N. (2006). Victim evaluations of face-to-face restorative justice conferences: A quasi-experimental analysis. Journal of Social Issues, 62(2), 281–306. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4560.2006.00451.x
Tyler, T. R. (1989). The psychology of procedural justice: A test of the group-value model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(5), 830–838. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.110
Zehr, H. (1990). Changing lenses: A new focus for crime and justice. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press.