This report describes and evaluates the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Police Family Group Conferencing Project, a restorative policing experiment.
First-time moderately serious juvenile offenders were randomly assigned either to formal adjudication or to a diversionary restorative policing process called family group conferencing. Police-based family group conferencing employs trained police officers to facilitate a meeting of juvenile offenders, their victims, and their respective family and friends, to discuss the harm caused by the offender's actions and to develop an agreement to repair the harm. Victim and offender participation is voluntary. The effect of the program was measured through surveys of participants (42 percent participation rate) and by examining outcomes of conferences and formal adjudication; 100 percent of conferences (n=67) reached an agreement, 94 percent of offenders (n=80) fully complied with agreements, and participant satisfaction and sense of fairness exceeded 96 percent. Recidivism appeared to be more a function of offenders' choice to participate than the effects of the conferencing, per se. Violent offenders who participated in conferences had lower rearrest rates than violent offenders who declined to participate, but this was not true for property offenders. Tables, figures, references
Date Published: January 1, 1998