Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

Conferencing and Re-Offending in Queensland

Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

Conferencing and Re-Offending in Queensland

Article excerpt

This paper adds to a growing body of Australian research on conferencing and re-offending. We gathered data from conference case files and offending history records for 200 young offenders who were conferenced in southeast Queensland from April 1997 to May 1999 to assess the impact of offender characteristics and conference features on future offending behaviour. After 3 to 5 years following their conference, just over half (56%) of the young offenders in our sample went on to commit one or more off. Bivariate analyses showed that offenders' age at conference, age at first offence, gender and prior offending history were associated with post-conference offending. Survival analysis demonstrated how these offender characteristics impacted upon estimated probabilities of re-offending. However, the conference measures were not significantly associated with post-conference offending because of little to no variation. We conclude that while there remains uncertainty about how conference features are related to re-offending, what offenders bring to their conference is highly predictive of what they do afterwards.

Restorative Justice, Conferencing and Re-offending

Interest in restorative justice for young offenders has grown during the past decade in Australia and New Zealand. The most common form of restorative justice in these countries is youth justice conferencing for young offenders. Conferencing was first developed in New Zealand following passage of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989. During the following decade restorative justice programs emerged in all Australian states and territories, and most are now legislated (Daly & Hayes, 2001).

There is considerable debate over how restorative justice should be conceptualised and defined. In dealing with criminal matters, restorative justice is often viewed as an alternative to traditional state-centred justice, and brings together those affected by crime in a facilitated, constructive dialogue about an offence, its impact and what should be done in response to it. John Braithwaite notes that several varied justice practices are claimed under the restorative justice "banner". These include transformative justice, peacemaking, relational justice, republican justice and reconciliation (Braithwaite, 2002). Tony Marshall's definition of restorative justice draws attention to the restorative process and its outcomes (Crawford & Newburn, 2003) but falls short of linking these with behavioural outcomes (e.g., future offending behaviour): "a process whereby parties with a stake in a specific offence collectively resolve how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and its implications for the future" (Marshall, 1999, p. 5). This definition seems to have driven much of the empirical research on restorative justice, which has focused more on restorative process and outcomes (e.g., how conferences are administered and run, how participants feel about conferences, how offenders make amends and how victims are healed and recover) than on behavioural outcomes (e.g., recidivism).

There is now an established literature on the benefits of restorative interventions, as well as a burgeoning literature on re-offending. To date, restorative justice conferencing has been evaluated in several Australian jurisdictions, including New South Wales (Trimboli, 2000), Victoria (Markiewicz, 1997), Western Australia (Cant & Downie, 1998), the Northern Territory (Fry, 1997) and Queensland (Hayes, Prenzler, & Wortley, 1998). These studies mainly focus on how participants perceive conferencing processes and are limited by the needs of commissioning organisations. Other academic research projects have been carried out in New Zealand (Maxwell & Morris, 1999; Maxwell & Morris, 2001), the Australian Capital Territory (Sherman, Strang, & Woods, 2000; Strang, Barnes, Braithwaite, & Sherman, 1999), New South Wales (Luke & Lind, 2002) and South Australia (Daly, 2001b, 2002, 2003a, 2003b; Hayes & Daly, 2003). …

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