The effect of Youth Justice Conferencing on re-offending                


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Release date: Thursday, 15 March 2012 Embargo: 10.30am

A program designed to bring young offenders face to face with the victims of their crime and encourage them to accept responsibility for their offending is no more effective than the NSW Children's Court in reducing juvenile re-offending, a new study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found.

The Bureau compared a sample of 918 young people who were referred to a Youth Justice Conference (YJC) with a matched sample of 918 young people eligible for a YJC who were dealt with by the NSW Children's Court.

The offenders in the study were carefully matched on age, gender, Indigenous status, number of concurrent offences and the number and nature of prior convictions.

The matched samples were compared in terms of whether or not they were convicted of a further offence within three years, the number of separate occasions on which they were convicted of a further offence, the time taken to commit new offences and the seriousness of any subsequent offence.

The Bureau found no significant difference between offenders dealt with in a YJC and those dealt with in court in the proportion re-offending. About 64 per cent of the conference group and about 65 per cent of the court group were reconvicted of a further offence in the 24 month follow-up period.

The Bureau also found no difference between the YJC and court groups in the seriousness of their re-offending, the time to the first proven re-offence or the number of proven re-offences.

Because justice procedure offences (e.g. breach bond) can be affected by policing policy, separate analyses were conducted with and without justice procedure offences included. The results were the same in each case.

Because some of those referred to a youth justice conference did not actually complete an outcome plan, separate analyses were conducted comparing matched samples of young people who were dealt with by a court or who attended a conference and completed their outcome plan. Again, the results were essentially the same.

Commenting on the findings, the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn said that the study indicates that the conference regime established under the NSW Young Offenders Act (1997) is currently no more effective than the NSW Children's Court in reducing juvenile re-offending among persons eligible for a conference.

"One can only speculate about the reasons for this but one possible explanation is that YJCs do not address the underlying causes of juvenile offending (e.g. drug and alcohol use, parental neglect and abuse, poor school performance, boredom and unemployment)."

"Those who participate in YJCs find the experience very rewarding but we may need to look elsewhere for programs that reduce the risk of juvenile re-offending."

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 9231-9190