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Making Amends: Final Evaluation of the Queensland Community Conferencing Pilot

NCJ Number
H Hayes; T Prenzler; R Wortley
Date Published
69 pages
A pilot program of community conferencing as an alternative for conventional sentencing of juvenile offenders in Queensland, Australia was evaluated with respect to client satisfaction and conference outcomes during the program's first 13 months of operation.
The three pilot programs were initiated in April 1997. The programs shared common aspects of restorative justice, but each had distinctive features in terms of structure and operation. The evaluation used data obtained through initial and follow-up surveys of program participants, as well as information contained in client files and maintained by the Juvenile Justice Branch's data management system. Data were also obtained from the Queensland Police Service and the Childrens Courts regarding trends in cautioning and court appearances. Financial data were provided by the State Coordinator of community conferencing and the pilot coordinators to permit analysis of the cost-efficiencies associated with each pilot site. Results demonstrated that the program has been highly successful with respect to its core goal of victim-offender reparation. Participant satisfaction levels were consistently high across a range of conferencing issues. During the average of 3.4 months from the initial survey to the follow-up survey, levels of participant satisfaction remained high. Analyses of crime data indicated that conferencing did not appear to be having the intended effects on juvenile crime or court appearances; referral patterns remained relatively stable but very low during the pilot period. Criminal justice practitioners expressed strong endorsement of community conferencing, but were cautious about entering the area of restorative justice. Findings suggested that conferencing should be made available statewide, that the scope for referrals should be significantly widened, and that data collection and evaluation should expand. Tables and 47 references