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Recidivism patterns in the Canberra Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (RISE)

Lawrence W Sherman, Heather Strang and Daniel J Woods
Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University

November 2000


This is the final report on a project partially funded by the Criminology Research Council. The original title of the project, in the name of John Braithwaite and Lawrence W. Sherman, was "Reintegrative shaming of violence, drink driving and property crime : a randomised controlled trial". This report describes findings on the recidivism behaviour of offenders involved in the Canberra Reintegrative Shaming Experiments, which compared the effects of standard court processing with the effects of a diversionary conference for four kinds of cases: drink driving at any age; juvenile property offending with personal victims; juvenile shoplifting offences detected by store security officers; and youth violent crimes. Across the four experiments that make up the Reintegrative Shaming Experiments project (RISE), very different results have emerged for the different offence categories. In the youth violence experiment, those offenders who were assigned to conference subsequently offended at substantially lower levels-38 fewer offences per year per 100 offenders-than did the offenders assigned to court. This was not true for any of the other experiments. For drink-driving offenders, a very small increase in detected reoffending was found for the conferenced offenders relative to court-about four offences per offender per year per 100 offenders. The methodological conclusion of this five-year project is that multiple randomised trials are advisable for testing a new method of justice. The design of RISE anticipated the possibility of detecting different effects for different types of offences. That still remains the most plausible account of the differences reported, as opposed to differences by type of offender background. Further research should continue to break out different offence types for testing, rather than lumping diverse offence types together. The substantive conclusion of RISE is that restorative justice can work, and can even reduce crime by violent offenders. But there is no guarantee that it will work for all offence types. Caution and more research are needed before rapid expansion of any new approach to treating crime. Less caution is needed, however, in testing restorative justice on more serious types of violent offences. The findings in this report provide firm ground for repeating the violence experiment in many other venues and with more refined types of violent offences, including robbery, assault and grievous bodily harm.