This research proposal shall start by providing a review of various studies that have been conducted regarding the aspect of restorative justice. This proposal shall also establish the research question and hypotheses that will be aimed at guiding the research study. In addition, the subjects of the research and the evaluation design, population, as well as the sample shall be outlined. Another critical area of this research proposal shall be the variables, data collection methods, and data analysis methods to be used in the study. The proposal shall also review ethical issues regarding the study. Lastly, the research proposal shall lay down a project management plan, which shall be comprised of the research schedule and budget.
This research study aims at examining the effectiveness of restorative justice in addressing the crimes that are committed in the society. The use of restorative justice can be traced back to the ancient societies. In these societies, community members would come together to resolve a criminal act in the presence of the victim and the offender. The use of restorative justice aims at integrating the culprit back into the society and addresses the injustice committed. It also aims at preserving the relationship between the offender, the victim and the community at large.
Review of literature
The criminal justice system has kept changing to adapt to the dynamic demands that are geared towards effective delivery of justice to victims and offenders. Restorative justice has no clear-cut definition that has been accepted among all stakeholders. Nonetheless, there is a core element that stands out in the various definitions accorded to restorative justice. In the definition of the term, repair of the harm caused by the criminal act and restoration of the parties involved to a state of stability that was distracted by the criminal activity. Therefore, restorative justice can be defined as an approach to justice focussing on repair of the harm resulting from a criminal activity. This approach also holds the offender responsible for the crimes committed through the provision of a chance to the parties affected by the crime to resolve their needs arising from the criminal activity. These needs include healing, reparation and reparation, as well as prevention of future harm.
Essentially, from the mid-20th century, much progress has been realised in the criminal justice realm based on the retributivist ideals (Zedner, 1994). In this respect, the criminals were punished for their crimes with the punishment being commensurate to the offence committed. Retributivist ideals bases on the rational choice theory asserting that individuals make a choice in committing crimes and thus they deserve to be punished (Braithwaite and Pettit, 1990). Nonetheless, these policies result into the alienation of criminals from the community; side lining of victims and culprits within the justice system; and incarceration of many offenders with the simple intention to stop others from committing a similar mistake. There is a lot of evidence pointing to the notion that retributivism has failed to control crime and prevent recidivism (Braithwaite and Pettit, 1990).
The adoption of restorative justice initiatives was intended to resolve numerous issues associated with retributivism. Retributive justice holds the capacity to reinstate the victim at the centre stage with the offender (Hoyle, 2002). Restorative justice claims to provide a process that empowers victims and reintegrates offenders back into the society thereby preventing reoffending. Marshall defines restorative justice as “a process whereby all parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future” (Marshall, 1996, p. 37). Essentially, crime is a violation of people and relationships, victims and the community are harmed. Therefore, it is the obligation of the offender to heal the harm caused through restorative justice (Zehr and Mika, 1998). Although Marshall (1996) indicated that this form of justice requires direct contact between the victim and the culprit, other scholars have asserted that restorative justice can be achieved through a facilitator. In this case, this is referred to as indirect mediation (Shapland, et al., 2006).
This approach to justice incorporates a relational response to wrongdoing and focuses on the relationships that have been harmed and what should be done in repairing the relationships. In this case, the problem is not circumscribed to the individual responsible for the harm in question, but rather the relationship between the culprit and the victim (Bazemore, 1998; Zehr, 1990). Essentially, the relationships are characterised by social equality translating to “equal dignity, concern and respect” (Llewellyn and Howse, 1999, p. 25). When one commits a wrong it means that social equality has been destabilised. The emphasis on negotiated, as opposed to guilt-proving facts appreciates the fact that those involved in the process – the victim and culprit – are affected in one way or another. Acknowledging the harm by the culprit has been described as “a crucial step towards their taking responsibility and being accountable to their actions” (Llewellyn and Howse, 1999, p. 29). This provides a leeway through which the culprit experiences empathy for the victim and feels the urge to redress the harm caused (Bomaine, 1998; Llewellyn and Howse, 1999). There is some variability in the structures used to facilitate this process (Immarigeon, 1999). Nonetheless, conferencing models lay emphasis on the voluntary inclusion of anyone affected by the criminal act and the necessity to provide a safe forum for truth-telling, encounter and negotiated reparation agreement (Llewellyn and Howse, 1999).
Restorative justice programs have been classified into three categories. This includes mediation between the victim and the culprit, family group conferencing, as well as circles. In victim-offender mediation, the one offended, as well as the culprit are brought together by a mediator in an effort to deliberate about the crime committed and establish a resolution and an agreement between the two parties. This model is commonly used as a post-charge alternative measure, but can also be used as a post-sentence in serious crimes. The family group conferencing model involves the family in resolving conflicts. This aspect was first developed in New Zealand among the Maori and later developed in Australia. Essentially, this approach to justice has since been adopted in many other countries. Here, community justice forums are established in an effort to divert cases of less serious crime in which the offender readily admits responsibility. Lastly, circles model originated from the North American Aboriginal traditional practices and ceremonies where individuals sat is a circle to speak in turn while discussing and resolving an issue that affected the society. This approach has been used differently to addressing the various needs of the society. The approach was used as a sentencing circle; healing circle in the context of community corrections; and as community-assisted hearings on decisions in respect to the conditional release of an offender from the prison (Vandoremalen, 1998).
Effectiveness of restorative justice
Restorative justice has been implemented to serve various functions. Notably, restorative justice has been adopted to improve the needs of the victims and lead to a reduction in recidivism. Also, this model of justice is meant to serve as an alternative to incarceration while ensuring that meaningful consequences and obligations are provided. In addition, this increases public confidence in the justice system, reduces the pressure on the criminal justice system, and reduces the cost of diverting cases.
An evaluation on the effectiveness of the restorative justice has been conducted by various authors using different criteria. In an evaluation that was conducted in Canada, it was discovered that the victims and offenders who took part in the mediation stood a high chance to be satisfied with the way that the justice system addressed their case compared to the offenders and victims who did not take part in the mediation exercise (Umbreit, 1995). In yet another study, Nuffield (1997) noted that upon the implementation of restorative justice, most victims who had incurred material losses had a higher chance of receiving restitution through the mediation process compared to those whose cases were decided in the courts. Another study by Roberts (1995) there was strong support for restorative justice programs from both the victims and offenders. Those who participated were happy with what they experienced; the flexibility and the absence of pressure; and caring and supportive staff (Roberts, 1995). In an evaluation of the community justice forums conducted in Canada, it was found that the offenders, victims, and the facilitators were happy with the procedures involved and the fairness of the outcome (Chatterjee, 1999).
A study conducted by Bonta, Boyle, Motiuk and Sonnichsen (1983) revealed that there was a positive attitude towards restitution among victims, where satisfaction levels were directly proportional to the amount of money that was paid to the victims. In another study, results showed that offenders who took part in the restorative justice program had lower rates of recidivism compared to those who were incarcerated or placed on probation (Bonta, Wallace-Capretta and Rooney, 1998). In the evaluation of the community holistic circle healing program, it was revealed that participants attributed significant improvements welfare of their community to the restorative justice model (Couture, Parker, Couture and Laboucane, 2001).
The main research question addressed in this research proposal regards the effectiveness of the restorative justice forums. In particular, the research question is: How acceptable and effective is the restorative justice forum within the criminal justice system?
The null hypothesis for this proposal study is that there restorative justice forums are not effective and acceptable within the criminal justice system. Similarly, the alternative hypothesis is that the restorative justice forums are readily acceptable and effective within the criminal justice system.
Evaluation site and subjects of the study
This proposal study will have the criminal offenders, victims and the community as the subjects of the research. The study shall observe the implementation of restorative justice among the subjects and note the satisfaction and acceptability levels. This will be compared with subjects who have been subjected to the conventional justice system.
This research proposal will take a meta-analysis design in providing an analysis of the effectiveness of restorative forums. In this respect, the proposal will conduct a review of the literature in which relevant research shall be identified and gathered. In data collection, the data shall then be extracted via pre-determined coding procedures. Data analysis shall be conducted through the statistical techniques. This design was chosen because it is considered to be superior in research synthesis than the conventional narrative reviews. This is because meta-analysis reviews are “more systematic, more explicit, more exhaustive, and more quantitative” (Rosenthal, 1991, p. 17).
Variables and data collection methods
Coming up with a coding manual presented a great challenge. This can be seen in the realisation that various studies addressed the issue of recidivism in different ways. Various definitions attributed to recidivism will be accepted by sticking to the previous meta-analytic reviews done in the criminal justice literature. For an overall mean effect size, there will be a need to combine the results so as to generate a single effect size for each program. Also, in cases where there were several supplement phases recounted in one research, the selection of the longest at-risk period was done. In determining the effect of follow-up length and use of various control and comparison groups, it will be important to code the multiple effect size for each program (Latimer, Dowden and Muise, 2005).
In an effort to comprehensively draw comparison between the satisfaction of both the offended and the culprit, a twofold gratification variable will be created. This will be arrived at through the coding of positive measure of satisfaction as satisfied while both neutral and negative responses shall be classified as unsatisfactory. The following table indicates the variables that will be considered in the study (Latimer, Dowden and Muise, 2005).
TABLE 1: Primary Variables in Meta-Analysis
a). Research article information
Year of the study
Author(s) of the study
Type of publication
Country in which research was conducted
b). Program characteristics
Type of restorative justice program
Entry point in the criminal justice system
Training, selection criteria, experience, and educational background of the
Eligibility criteria for offender participation
Existence of training manuals or procedural guidelines
c). Participant characteristics
Criminal history of offenders
Age, gender, and ethnicity of offenders
d). Outcome measures
Victim satisfaction rates
Offender satisfaction rates
Restitution compliance rates
e). Methodological characteristics
Random assignment to control and/or treatment groups
Length of follow-up for recidivism
Characteristics of control and/or comparison group
Use of an independent evaluator
Adopted from: Latimer, Dowden and Muise, 2005
The association that exists between taking part in a restorative justice program and the related outcomes shall be calculated basing on the statistics found in each study. The outcomes include recidivism, victim satisfaction, offender satisfaction, and restitution compliance. The phi coefficient shall be regarded as the effect size coefficient. In the event that the essential data will not be found in a single research, yet a non-significant relationship between participation in a restorative justice and the outcome is reported the effect size shall be recorded as zero (Latimer, Dowden and Muise, 2005).
Upon calculation of the effect size from each of the study, a series of analysis shall be conducted on all the four outcome measures. In the first place, the general mean effect size, together with the corresponding confidence intervals and standard deviation shall be calculated. Notably, the weighted, as well as un-weighted mean effect size shall be calculated; nevertheless, it is only the un-weighted figures that will be used in the interpretation of the results and moderator analyses. This will be considered since it is important to estimate the actual number of victims thereby leading to a reduction in the reliability aspect of the weighted estimates. In addition, the weighted mean effect sizes are only marginally lower or higher than the un-weighted effect sizes. Therefore, this will not lead to a considerable difference to the conclusions of the analysis (Latimer, Dowden and Muise, 2005).
The study shall also aim at establishing the general difference between the restorative programs and the other programs that lack restorative tendencies. This was meant to determine whether the mean size is considerably different from zero or not. A zero effect size would establish that indulgence in the restorative justice did not have an impact on the ensuing outcomes. Additional analyses will be done to find out whether given variables like demographic and study characteristics presents a moderating effect on the effect size magnitude. For instance, in the event satisfactory data is availed, the study shall explore the impact of age of the study sample on the program outcome. This will give a mechanism in which certain effects shall be identified for future research (Latimer, Dowden and Muise, 2005).
If the hypotheses developed for this research study shall be demonstrated through the study, there is no doubt that this will be a major breakthrough for policy makers. Essentially, the policy makers shall either adopt or scrap off the notion of restorative justice forums in the criminal justice system. If it will be found out that restorative justice forums are not effective and acceptable among the subjects, then the policy makers shall have no choice but to reject the notion of integrating restorative justice into the mainstream criminal justice system. However, in the event that restorative justice forums shall be proved to be effective and acceptable, the policy makers shall have the obligation to incorporate restorative justice mechanisms into the mainstream criminal justice system (Latimer, Dowden and Muise, 2005).
This research proposal shall be conducted while adhering to the ethical standards that are stipulated to guide any research undertaking. Given that this research shall be a meta-analysis study, it is important to note that the study shall adhere to the rules and regulations of such studies. Essentially, the ethical aspect of duplicate submission shall be observed with the greatest concern, this work will be original and has not been submitted in any other institution for academic or any other purpose. The other ethical issue touches on falsification or fabrication of information. This research study will ensure that the information provided is not falsified or fabricated to suit the intentions of the researcher. Plagiarism is another ethical issue that should be considered in this research study. Indeed this research uses information from other published works, but it gives credence to the authors of such works. The various research studies that the paper borrows from have been referenced appropriately to avoid the breach of this ethical aspect (Jain, 2010).
Project organisation, management, schedule and budget
a). Project organisation and management
This research project shall be organised and managed by the researcher as it is unnecessary to include various researchers. Nonetheless, assistance shall be required in the administration of tasks such as coding. This will call for the services of a contracted assistant for the performance of this task.
b). Project schedule
Phase of the project
Preparation of research procedures
Conducting an extensive literature review
Analysing the data
Writing the conclusion
Subcontractor (Administration tasks)
One week @ $ 500 per week
Stationery @ $ 300
Laptop hire for six weeks @ $ 20 per week
Printer hire for four weeks @ $ 10 per week
Printing: 80 pages @ $ 0.5 per page
This research proposal aimed at studying the effectiveness of restorative justice forums is well timed in the wake of review of the criminal justice system. This research study is meant to provide the answer to the begging question regarding the effectiveness and acceptability of restorative justice. As the society evolves, it is critical to tap into other forms of addressing emergent issues that arise in the criminal justice system. Although the conventional justice system emphasises on the retributive aspect, little is done in regard to the relationships between the victim and the offender. Also, there is little in respect to the offender integration within the society. Therefore, these are some of the aspects that can be addressed by restorative justice forums.
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