Why won’t the government invest in restorative justice?

Victims tend to be more satisfied.

Personalising the victim tends to have a rehabilitative effect (in much the same way it’s harder to be rude to someone’s face than it is online).

If the procedure avoids a criminal trial there are huge financial savings, as well as the saved emotional costs for witnesses.

Youth justice conferences have been successfully run for years.

Queensland has an adult program as well. It is sometimes called justice mediation. But the focus is more on adult restorative justice, where one person admits wrongdoing and harm to another.

It’s a successful program, but tiny. Some areas have better access to it than others. Waiting times are more than 6 months. Some prosecution offices will not engage with the process. Others, only if desperate.

In the space created by our limited program, businesses are increasingly offering their services. Lauren Phelps offers an excellent mediation service.

One factor is the efficiency of the Magistrates Court. More than 90% of defendants plead guilty, to the offence they were first charged with. The majority of those hearings take 5 to 10 minutes. The average cost per case, in time and money, is low.

There are powerful incentives to plead guilty and be “over and done with”.

Providing an alternative, one that takes some time and care to do well, might disrupt the conveyor belt. Overall, the average cost per case might increase. Perhaps that’s why there’s little enthusiasm from those in power.

Even so, it should be looked at as a value proposition. If satisfaction, community healing, and lower recidivism can be quantified in economic terms – would the benefits outweigh the costs?

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