The Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (RISE) in Canberra, Australia, were designed to measure the impact of “restorative policing” on both victims and offenders’ perceptions of justice, as well as overall satisfaction following the conference. The experiments also investigated the impact of restorative justice diversionary practices, particularly those that used the Wagga Wagga conference model, on repeat offending. The ultimate goal of the conference is to repair the harm caused by the offense by bringing together the offender, victim, and members of the community in a way that allows offenders to reintegrate into the community, and victims to return to their normal routines without fear of further victimization.
Restorative justice places both the victim and the offender at the center of the framework, allowing the victim to express the harm caused, while allowing the offender to take responsibility for his or her actions and make amends for the future. It is believed that a conference, which brings together the offender, victim, and supportive individuals for both parties, is a less stigmatizing environment for offenders. Some scholars believe that conventional criminal justice process stigmatizes the offender as an “other,” excluding him or her and hindering the reintegration process. Therefore, it is believed that the reintegrative shaming process used in restorative justice conferences could have a far greater impact on the reoffending rate of offenders, as it expresses disapproval of the offenders’ actions, yet offers support and belief in the individual for the future (Braithwaite 1989). Likewise, victims will have a more positive perception of justice and less fear of re-victimization by participating in restorative justice conferences, as they are able to have a voice in the process (Braithwaite and Mugford 1994).
The RISE experiments were conducted to test the impact of reintegrative shaming conferences used in restorative justice. Diversionary conferencing, particularly the Wagga Wagga model investigated in the RISE experiments, typically lasts 1–2 hours. During this time the offender, victim, and supportive individuals for both parties discuss the crime, its impact, and reach an agreement on how the offender can make amends for the future. The Wagga Wagga model is different than other diversionary conferences in that the conference coordinator and facilitator is a police officer, and the conference is held at a police station; other diversionary conferences are held by non-police coordinators and facilitators at various other locations. In contrast to other restorative justice models, the Wagga Wagga conference model also used a great deal of reintegrative shaming.
The RISE experiments included offenders who had committed four types of offenses: drinking and driving, juvenile property offenses, juvenile shoplifting offenses, and youth violent offenses. The aim of the project was to include “middle range” offenses, neither so trivial that they would normally be dealt with by a simple caution or warning, nor so serious that the police would be reluctant to bypass the court system in favor of an experimental alternative (serious, sexual, and domestic violence offenses were excluded).
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Although Sherman, Strang, and Woods (2000) and Tyler and colleagues (2007) found limited impact of diversionary conferencing on recidivism outcomes when examining the data from the Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (RISE), there was some impact on offenders’ attitudes about the legitimacy of the law and reoffending.
Sherman, Strang, and Woods (2000) found that diversionary conferencing resulted in a significant decrease in the reoffending rates of violent offenders. Diversionary conferencing reduced reoffending by approximately 38 crimes per 100 offenders per year.
Drinking and Driving
Although there was a small increase in drinking and driving offenses for offenders assigned to diversionary conferencing compared with offenders who went through court processing as usual, the difference between the groups was not significant.
Juvenile Property and Shoplifting Offenses
There were no differences found between the court processing and diversionary conferencing groups for juvenile property offenses or juvenile shoplifting offenses.
Police Recorded Recidivism
Tyler and colleagues (2007) found that restorative justice conferencing did not have a significant impact on recidivism compared to traditional court processing at the 2-year follow up.
Self-Report Drinking and Driving
Similarly, results did not indicate a significant treatment effect in terms of frequency of drinking and driving.
Self-Report Efforts to Not Drink and Drive
A treatment effect was found in terms of making an effort not to drink and drive. Offenders assigned to diversionary conferencing indicated that they made a greater effort not to drink and drive than those who were assigned to court processing. The difference between the groups was significant.
Self-Report Legitimacy of the Law
Offenders assigned to diversionary conferencing indicated a greater belief in the legitimacy of the law compared with offenders who went through court processing. The difference between the groups was significant.
Self-Report Reoffending Beliefs
Offenders assigned to diversionary conferencing indicated a greater understanding of the impact that breaking the law would have on their families compared with offenders who went through court processing. Therefore, even though direct treatment effects were not found to significantly impact recidivism, offenders that were assigned to the conference did view the process as more legitimate and believed that subsequent rule breaking would be a problem.