Youth conferencing key to reduced reoffending

A new Griffith University study suggests that youth justice conferencing rather than court appearance is more effective in reducing recidivism rates for young offenders.

Dr Simon Little from the Griffith Criminology Institute compared more than 1000 youth offenders in Queensland. He found those who were conferenced had significantly fewer recontacts with the system within two years than young offenders who went to court.

“Conferencing is an alternative to formal court processing based on restorative justice framework,’’ said Dr Little, who will present his research at the 2nd Australasian Youth Justice Conference in Brisbane on September 13.

Dr Simon Little.
Dr Simon Little

“The aim is to bring together an offender, the victim, their supporters, social workers and police to discuss the offence, the impact the offence had and to repair the harm.

“This is due to the belief that the offence is one that harms the community as a whole and should, therefore, include a range of people in the process.”

Dr Little’s research compared the children at three different points of contact with the justice system — their first, second and third points.

He found at first contact, conferencing was more effective for property offences or other offences for male non-Indigenous young people. But court worked better for young people whose first offence was violent.

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At the second contact, conferencing worked better for all violent and property offences by gender and ethnicity and for all other offences, except for young female non-Indigenous people.

Court worked better for young female non-Indigenous people for other offences.

At the third contact he found conferencing worked better for all property offences by gender and ethnicity and better for male non-Indigenous young people whose third contact was for a violent or other offence.

Inclusion of victims in process

“Conferencing is a process that aims to be less stigmatising to young people than youth court and allows for the inclusion of victims into the process,’’ Dr Little said.

“As a result both offenders and victims report greater satisfaction with the conferencing process than a court appearance.”

While a reduction in reoffending is not one of the key aims of restorative justice, the study suggests that conferencing is a more effective way to deal with young offenders than youth court.

“This is especially the case when used in response to offending by young people at their second contact with the youth justice system.

“It is most effective when used for property offences (break and enter, theft, property damage) and for violent offences (at second contact) only.”

WHAT: 2nd Australasian Youth Justice Conference

WHEN: September 13-15, 2016

WHERE: Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre