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Short-term effects of restorative justice conferences on post-traumatic stress symptoms among robbery and burglary victims: a randomized controlled trial

Abstract

Objectives

To examine the impact of face-to-face restorative justice conference (RJC) meetings led by police officers between crime victims and their offenders on victims’ post-traumatic stress symptoms.

Methods

Two trials conducted in London randomly assigned burglary or robbery cases with consenting victims and offenders to either a face-to-face restorative justice conference (RJC) in addition to conventional justice treatment or conventional treatment without a RJC. Post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) were measured with the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R) within 1 month of treatment for 192 victims. We assessed the prevalence and severity of PTSS scores following treatment, using independent sample t tests and chi square statistics. We further measured the magnitude of the differences between the groups, using effect size analyses.

Results

Analyses show that PTSS scores are significantly lower among victims assigned to RJC in addition to criminal justice processing through the courts than to customary criminal justice processing alone. There are overall 49 % fewer victims with clinical levels of PTSS, and possible PTSD (IES-R ≥ 25). Main treatment effects are significant (t = 2.069; p < .05).

Conclusions

Findings suggest that restorative justice conferences reduce clinical levels of PTSS and possibly PTSD in a short-term follow-up assessment. Future research should include longer follow-up, larger and more stratified samples, and financial data to account for the cost benefit implications of RJ conferences compared to ordinary PTSS treatments.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Similar results were detected using chi-square statistics (χ 2 = 4.447; p = .035)

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Acknowledgments

We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Home Office for England and Wales, the Esmeé Fairbairn Foundation, the Jerry Lee Foundation, the Metropolitan Police Service, the National Probation Service, and the 12 London Crown Courts. We offer special thanks to Jerry Lee, who has made the multi-site RCT program possible, and to the successive Metropolitan Police Commissioners, Lord Stevens of Kirkwelpington and Lord Blair of Boughton, who agreed to assign police to work on the RJC experiments in London. We would also like to thank the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing faculty and staff and Sarah Ratcliffe from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics for her statistical support.

Conflict of interest

We declare we have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Caroline M. Angel.

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Angel, C.M., Sherman, L.W., Strang, H. et al. Short-term effects of restorative justice conferences on post-traumatic stress symptoms among robbery and burglary victims: a randomized controlled trial. J Exp Criminol 10, 291–307 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-014-9200-0

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Keywords

  • Restorative justice
  • Crime victims
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • PTS
  • Experiments
  • Randomized controlled trials
  • Robbery
  • Burglary