Evidence and benefits of Restorative Justice

Pablo Romero

Pablo Romero·– 06/04/2024 6:31am

Restorative justice (RJ) is an approach to dealing with crime and conflicts that emphasizes repairing harm, promote empathy, and rebuilding relationships rather than focusing solely on punishment. This approach brings together victims and offenders, often involving the community, to address the aftermath of a crime or conflict and find mutually agreeable solutions. The evidence and benefits of RJ are substantial, and its application in various contexts, particularly in the UK, offers a compelling case for its broader adoption.

Restorative Justice: A Transformative Approach

Restorative justice offers a stark contrast to traditional punitive measures. Rather than simply punishing offenders, RJ seeks to address the underlying causes of criminal behavior, encourage accountability, and facilitate healing. This approach can lead to several positive outcomes, including reduced recidivism, improved victim satisfaction, and stronger community ties.

One of the primary benefits of RJ is its potential to reduce reoffending. Research indicates that restorative processes can significantly lower recidivism rates compared to conventional justice methods. For instance, a comprehensive review by Shapland et al. (2008) found that RJ conferences reduced reoffending rates by 14% compared to non-RJ methods. This reduction is attributed to the personal accountability and understanding fostered through direct interaction between victims and offenders.

Enhancing Victim Satisfaction

Victims often feel marginalized in the traditional criminal justice system, which primarily focuses on the offender and legal procedures. RJ, however, places the victim at the center of the process. By actively involving victims in dialogue and decision-making, RJ can provide them with a sense of closure and empowerment. The UK Restorative Justice Council (RJC) reports that around 85% of victims who participate in RJ processes are satisfied with the outcomes. This satisfaction stems from having their voices heard and playing a crucial role in the resolution process.

Strengthening Communities

Restorative justice also contributes to community cohesion by addressing the root causes of crime and involving the community in the resolution process. By engaging community members, RJ helps build trust and solidarity, which can prevent future conflicts. In the UK, RJ practices have been successfully implemented in various community settings, including schools and local councils, to resolve disputes and enhance social harmony.

The UK Experience with Restorative Justice

The UK has been a pioneer in adopting RJ practices within its criminal justice system. Various initiatives across the country demonstrate the effectiveness of RJ in different contexts. For example, and among many others, the Thames Valley Police have integrated RJ into their policing strategy, offering RJ as an option for low-level offenses and community disputes. Their program has seen positive results, with high levels of victim satisfaction and reduced reoffending rates.

Moreover, RJ practices have been incorporated into the UK’s youth justice system. Youth Offender Panels, which involve young offenders, their families, and community volunteers, are a prime example. These panels focus on addressing the harm caused and developing a contract for the young offender to repair that harm. Studies show that such restorative approaches in youth justice lead to better rehabilitation outcomes compared to traditional punitive measures.

Scientific Evidence Supporting Restorative Justice

Scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of RJ in achieving its intended outcomes. A study conducted by Banwell-Moore and Hobson (2023) highlights the positive impact of RJ on reducing youth violence and improving relationships between young people and the police. The research, which involved a rapid evidence assessment for the Metropolitan Police Service, concluded that RJ practices could significantly mitigate the long-term effects of youth violence and enhance community-police relations.

Another significant piece of evidence comes from the evaluation of the RJ programs in the UK by the Ministry of Justice. Their findings indicate that RJ not only reduces reoffending, but also provides cost savings compared to traditional justice processes. For every pound spent on RJ, the system saves up to eight pounds by reducing the burden on courts and correctional facilities.

In the long-term, longitudinal studies have shown that the benefits of RJ are not just immediate, but also long-lasting. Research by Strang et al. (2013) indicated that the positive effects of RJ, such as reduced recidivism and enhanced victim well-being, persisted for several years after the initial intervention. These enduring benefits underscore the sustainability of RJ as a transformative justice approach


Restorative justice represents a transformative shift in addressing crime and conflict. Its benefits, including reduced recidivism, enhanced victim satisfaction, and strengthened community bonds, make it a compelling alternative to traditional punitive approaches. The UK's extensive experience with RJ provides valuable insights and evidence supporting its effectiveness. By continuing to integrate RJ practices and leveraging technology to facilitate these processes, societies can foster more empathetic, accountable, and cohesive communities.

For those interested in the detailed evidence and current position of RJ in the UK, the work by Banwell-Moore and Hobson (2023) and the evaluations by the Ministry of Justice offer comprehensive insights into the profound impact of restorative practices.