The Value of Restorative Justice
A new (21 November 2022) economic evaluation of Restorative Justice by the charity Why me? compares restorative interventions for victims of crime and offenders with the conventional justice system. The research analysed the economic impacts of Restorative Justice interventions, including impacts on reoffending and its direct benefits to victims.
This project represents an innovative approach to demonstrating the value of Restorative Justice. Economic evaluations are underutilised in the social sector, but are compelling in demonstrating the best possible outcomes in the prevention of crime with limited resources. The partnership between an experienced economist, Frank Grimsey Jones, and Why me? conducted a rigorous piece of research which is designed to make a substantial and lasting contribution to the Restorative Justice evidence base and impact decision making.
Helpfully, Why me? has published the model so that other RJ organisations can calculate their own cost benefits via an accessible and user-friendly template via an Excel spreadsheet. The videos below feature Mr Jones explaining how to use the model.
The results of this research present a strong argument for investment in Restorative Justice, showing that Restorative Justice can reduce reoffending, save money and help victims to recover. This is before accounting for the broader benefits of Restorative Justice in improving perceptions of justice amongst victims and society.
The evaluation found that each direct Restorative Justice intervention reduced the average number of reoffences in the first year from 27 to 19. Overall, the cost-social benefit ratio of Restorative Justice was £14 per £1 invested. Of this, the direct return on investment for the criminal justice system was £4
per £1 invested. The additional benefits are related to the financial benefits and increased wellbeing for victims of crime and society.
The cost of delivering Restorative Justice, from referral to intervention, was the most important source of uncertainty. However, the cost-social benefit ratio remained substantial (£11 per £1), even when the cost of delivering Restorative Justice was increased by 50%. This demonstrates that the results were robust to uncertainty.
It was not possible to robustly model the total expected benefits if access to Restorative Justice was increased nationally. Nevertheless, for illustrative purposes, an increase in Restorative Justice referrals for this cohort, from 15% of eligible cases to 40% of eligible cases would require a £5 million investment but would lead to total benefits of £76 million. The model suggests that this would save the criminal justice system £17 million.
This cost benefit analysis adds to the strong evidence base which demonstrates that increasing access to Restorative Justice should be a policy priority for national and local decision makers.
Why me? undertook this work because, while Restorative Justice interventions have been used in the UK for some time, and all victims are required to be offered Restorative Justice under the Victim’s Code of Practice, it remains the case that only a small minority of people affected by crime receive access to it. Only 5.5% of victims with a known offender recall being offered Restorative Justice.
More investment is needed to ensure that everyone affected by crime can access Restorative Justice. The social sector often relies on value-driven reasons for investment, particularly individual stories, or needs-based arguments. Why me? wanted to use economic evaluation and modelling to be certain that money is being used to best effect and to build the case for further investment into Restorative Justice.
Existing studies have the disadvantage that they model the impact of a Restorative Justice intervention carried out in a specific way, in a specific place, at a specific time, as is typical of trial based economic evaluations. That is the reason behind Why me? creating an up-to-date and accessible economic model to communicate the value of Restorative Justice and encourage other RJ organisations to do the same.