DOI: 10.1177/17488958231215228 ISSN: 1748-8958

The effectiveness of restorative justice programs: A meta-analysis of recidivism and other relevant outcomes

Lindsay Fulham, Julie Blais, Tanya Rugge, Elizabeth A Schultheis
  • Law

Restorative justice is an alternative approach to traditional legal system programming that focuses on repairing harm and enhancing client accountability. Despite the proliferation of restorative justice programs, research suggests that their effectiveness depends on various factors such as program type and methodological quality of the studies. The goal of this study was to synthesize the research on the effects of restorative justice in reducing recidivism as well as improving other outcomes for male and female adult clients. Information from 27 studies examining 34 unique samples was included in the meta-analysis. Results indicated that restorative justice programs were associated with significant and small reductions in general recidivism but not violent recidivism. In addition, restorative justice programs resulted in greater victim and client satisfaction, victims’ views of procedural justice, and client accountability compared to traditional legal system approaches. There were significant sample, study, and program moderators that influenced the effects of restorative justice in reducing recidivism outcomes. Taken together, the results over the past 40 years of research provide minimal support for the effectiveness of restorative justice programs in reducing recidivism overall and highlight the importance of considering moderating factors when evaluating and improving the effectiveness of restorative justice programs. Notably, this meta-analysis clearly demonstrates restorative justice’s effectiveness in improving other relevant outcomes for clients and victims.

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