August 11, 2008

Australia: "Circle sentencing" ineffective

Speaking of restorative justice . . .

A restorative justice approach that involves the Aboriginal community in sentencing of Aboriginal offenders has no effect on recidivism risk, according to a new study.

"There was enormous hope that if Aboriginal offenders were brought before members of their own community, they would sit up and take more notice than if they were brought before a white magistrate or a white judge," said Don Weatherburn of Australia's Bureau of Crime Research and Statistics.

More important to reducing crime, he said, are treatment programs for the endemic drug and alcohol problems facing the Aboriginal community.

Of course, as pointed out by Douglas Berman at Sentencing Law & Policy, "the value of community involvement in the sentencing process may have benefits that cannot be measure just through recidivism rates."

The study, "Does circle sentencing reduce Aboriginal offending?" by Jacqueline Fitzgerald, is online in the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Reseach publication Crime and Justice Bulletin. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation also has coverage.

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