Success of alternatives to prison in reducing reoffending

One area of debate is the extent to which the alternative punishments to prison are more effective in reducing reoffending. There are two views.

Some commentators claim the alternatives to prison are a 'soft option' with offenders receiving little in the way of 'real punishment'. Others view the alternative punishments to prison as being more effective in reducing reoffending as well as better value for money.

Restorative justice

Restorative justice focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders instead of only punishing the offender.

Victims take an active role in the process. Offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and to repair the harm they've done by apologising, returning stolen goods or listening to the victim's side of the story. Restorative justice is based on a view that crime is an offence against an individual, or their community, rather than the state.

Restorative justice that encourages dialogue between victim and offender shows the highest rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability. In countries such as New Zealand or Canada, where restorative justice has been used for many years, reoffending rates amongst certain types of offenders are lower.

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