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At a broad level, these schemes involve the development of restorative support and treatment networks for sex offenders where the community works in partnership with the offender and professional agencies. The use of community resources is, therefore, considerably greater than in the two main models of mediation and conferencing.
The circle is focused on the development of a network of informal support and treatment individually tailored around the offender, who is the core member, involving the wider community in tandem with state and voluntary agencies. The scheme provides high levels of support, guidance and supervision for the offender, which can mediate between the police, media and the local community to minimise risk and assist with reintegration. The offender agrees to relate to the circle of support, pursue treatment and to act responsibly in the community.
The offender has contact with someone from the circle each day in the high risk phase just after release. The life of a circle extends as long as the risk to the community and the offender are above average McAlinden, Circles aim to allay the fears of the local community, and at the same time, reduce the likelihood of further offending by holding the offender accountable to their commitment not to re-offend.
To this end, early evaluations have produced positive results. Proponents of restorative justice contend that it is more likely than retributive justice to reduce the incidence of crime because of its central concern for the safety of victims. The preponderance of evaluation studies have been carried out on the two main models of mediation and conferencing Miers et al, ; Kurki, At a general level, these studies have demonstrated that restorative justice can have a reductive effect in certain cases and can change the behaviour of some offenders. In relation to the use of restorative justice with sexual offending, an archival study of nearly court and conference cases of youth sexual assault in South Australia demonstrates that the conference process may be less victimizing than the court regime and may produce more effective outcomes Daly, Overall the prevalence of reoffending was much higher for those young offenders dealt with by the court 66 per cent than by the conference process 48 per cent.
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There is little empirical data available on circles given the relative newness of the concept. The available research evidence demonstrates, however, that circles can be effective in managing high risk sex offenders on at least two levels: in reducing recidivism rates Wilson et al, and in engaging communities in the reintegrative process Quaker Peace and Social Witness, 5. One such evaluation of circles in Ontario found that high-risk sex offenders receiving assistance via a circle re-offended at a lower rate incrementally in comparison with a control sample Wilson et al, In comparing the expected recidivism rate of these offenders with the actual observed rate, sexual recidivism was reduced by more than 50 per cent Wilson et al, Moreover, each incident of reoffending was less invasive and severe than the original offence for which the offender had been imprisoned Wilson et al, Early evaluations of these projects in England and Wales have also shown that circles have been effective in reducing expected rates of recidivism and assisting in offender rehabilitation.
Moreover, despite tentative beginnings, communities were willing to play a constructive and supportive role in this process Quaker, Peace and Social Witness, It remains unclear from the empirical evidence to date what particular features of the circle environment help to reduce offending behaviour. It may be the case that the simple provision of extra focused support reduces subsequent deviant behaviour.
In this respect, the literature also refers to pro-offending or offence related behaviour which might precede eventual recidivism Falshaw et al, In this vein, in the pilot projects in England and Wales, only eight core members out of a total of 20 were identified as displaying early recidivist type behaviour including carrying out activities which were known to be part of the modus operandi of previous offences.
Of these offenders, only three men were recalled to prison for breaching the terms of their release, none of whom had committed or been reconvicted of further sexual offences.
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One core member, however, was reconvicted for breaching a sexual offences prevention order Quaker Peace and Social Witness, 6, In each case, the recall was facilitated by information passed to the authorities by circle members. Without the intervention of the circle at such an early stage, progression to re-offence and subsequent re-conviction may well have occurred Quaker Peace and Social Witness, These findings are highly indicative of the accountability aspect of the work of circles and demonstrate effectively the critical role that they may have in managing the risk posed by dangerous sex offenders in the community.
Indeed, circles of support have in this way a proven role to play in detecting and managing dynamic risk posed by sex offenders in the community. Moreover, they also highlight that the circle model potentially offers professional agencies a clear means of actively and positively engaging with the local community on contentious sex offender issues Quaker Peace and Social Witness, At the same time, many restorative justice initiatives have objectives which are much broader than traditional regulatory responses which generally use recidivism rates as the key indicator of crime control.
Aside from reoffending or re-conviction rates there are other important measures of outcome. There are a number of arguments traditionally put forward by opponents of restorative justice as applied to sexual crime. In essence, for these critics, sexual offending is considered an inappropriate or unsuitable area within which to use a restorative response. In the main, it has been suggested by the detractors that restorative justice trivialises what are very serious criminal offences, particularly where children and the vulnerable are concerned; it fails to promote offender accountability and allows the offender to reject responsibility for the offence; it reproduces and reinforces the power imbalance entrenched in abusive relationships and leads to possible re-victimisation; and it encourages vigilantism.
In effect, contrary to the major arguments put forward by the critics, it is argued here and elsewhere McAlinden, , that some sex offenders may be suitable for a restorative approach in carefully managed contexts.
One of the most contentious issues in contemporary restorative justice scholarship is the question of whether restorative justice should be integrated into the formal criminal justice system, and if so, to what extent. Some scholars continue to emphasise the difference of the restorative vision as a fundamental shift in criminal law Zehr, , ; Bazemore, ; Barnett, ; Walgrave, Others, however, call for recognition of alternative forms of justice and highlight the compatibility of restoration and retribution.
According to this view, the two concepts may be integrated as part of the same system of justice where they would complement and work in tandem with each other rather than operate as opposing or alternative systems Zedner, ; Daly, ; Duff, , Hudson, As currently happens with circles of support, restorative schemes should be integrated into and accredited by the formal criminal justice system where local community involvement takes place in conjunction with the work of professional agencies.
Such an approach also goes some way towards addressing the central concerns of critics as discussed above. Moving from a purely punitive response to sex offending, to one where retribution and restoration are combined, will facilitate the management of both known and unknown risks posed by sexual offenders. In short, in combination with the formal criminal justice system, restorative justice is itself presented as a regulatory approach to sexual crime.
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Restorative justice does not purport to be a panacea to the quandary that is sexual crime. Indeed, the extension of the restorative paradigm to the domain of sexual offending in itself also raises a number of difficult questions concerning what is appropriate territory for restorative justice and the legitimate role of the state in restorative processes. The advent of restorative schemes with sex offenders, such as circles of support and accountability, has heralded a new era in criminal justice and has fundamentally changed how law and society respond to sexual crime in selected jurisdictions.
There is little empirical evidence that the current international fascination with sex offender registries, community notification and related measures has successfully prevented reoffending. On the contrary, such measures have been shown to potentially exacerbate the difficulties concerning sex offender reintegration and rehabilitation. The failings of such punitive and restrictive approaches, which particularly concern the community management of sex offenders, means that it is incumbent upon society and policy makers to conceive of a more effective and creative response to these types of offences on a more widespread basis.
Such programmes may provide an effective alternative for low-to-middle risk offenders in particular, who account for the majority of offenders, especially in the context of intra-familial abuse and when operated on a voluntary basis. Its potential benefits include improving public protection, providing reassurance for communities, and helping offenders to adjust to the demands of living on the outside.
It is these potential benefits, which are beginning to be supported by evidence-based research, that compel us to take restorative justice seriously in the formulation of future responses to sexual crime. Indeed, the terms are often used interchangeably but are in fact two separate entities.
SC can be utilised at the outset of the sanctioning process, prior to an offender becoming lodged within the system. COSA, on the other hand, focus in particular on the reintegration of high-risk sex offenders Wilson et al, Restorative Justice and Sexual Offences Although the use of restorative schemes with sexual offences is at present far from widespread, a few isolated initiatives have developed which are based on reintegrative or restorative principles.
The Effectiveness of Restorative Justice Proponents of restorative justice contend that it is more likely than retributive justice to reduce the incidence of crime because of its central concern for the safety of victims.follow link
Failure-to-Comply Arrests Reveal Flaws in Sex Offender Registries - The Appeal
Criticisms and Concerns There are a number of arguments traditionally put forward by opponents of restorative justice as applied to sexual crime. Restorative Justice and the Relationship with Formal Criminal Justice One of the most contentious issues in contemporary restorative justice scholarship is the question of whether restorative justice should be integrated into the formal criminal justice system, and if so, to what extent. Conclusion Restorative justice does not purport to be a panacea to the quandary that is sexual crime.
References Abel, G. Self-reported Sex Crimes of Non-incarcerated Paraphiliacs. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2, Ashenden, S. Cultural Values, 6, Barnett, R.
Restitution: A New paradigm of Criminal Justice. Johnstone Ed. Devon: Willan Publishing. Bates, A. Journal of Sexual Aggression, 10, Bedarf, A. California Law Review, 83, Boyes-Watson, C. In the Belly of the Beast?
Contemporary Justice Review, 2, Braithwaite, J. Crime, Shame and Reintegration. Sydney: Cambridge University Press. Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Masculinities, Violence and Communitarian Control. Stanko Eds. Men, Masculinity and Crime pp. London: Routledge. Cesaroni, C. Janus a notes that these civil commitment laws offer a "dangerous but seductive promise" p. In exchange for perfect protection against a few of the most dangerous and reviled sex offenders, all we have to do is remove from these persons the protection of our most fundamental constitutional limitations on government power. The SVP laws were passed with the promise of rehabilitation as a major goal.