The Bethlehem Police Family Group Conferencing Experiment was the first randomized trial of restorative justice in the United States. Moderately serious juvenile offenses were randomly assigned either to court or to a diversionary "restorative policing" process called family group conferencing. Police-based family group conferencing used trained police officers to facilitate a meeting attended by juvenile offenders, their victims, and their respective family and friends. This group would discuss the harm caused by the offender's actions and develop an agreement to repair the harm. The effect of the program was measured through surveys of victims, offenders, offender's parents, and police officers, and also by examining the outcomes of conferences and formal adjudication. The book contains an extended appendix that presents these outcome-based statistics for this seminal program. At a time when research for new restorative justice programs in the 1990s was just beginning to surface, this study provides a valuable picture of the successes of the family conferencing model in its early formation.
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Paul McCold, PhD, is a criminologist and the chair of the Thurston County Restorative Justice Initiative. He is an adjunct professor at St. Martin's University and Simon Fraser University and was founding faculty at the Graduate School of the International Institute for Restorative Practices in Pennsylvania. Dr. McCold represented the Friends World Committee on Consultation (Quakers) at the Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and was chair of the Working Party on Restorative Justice at the United Nations. Ben Wachtel is director of communications and technology for the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP). He has worked with the IIRP since its inception and its sister organizations, Community Service Foundation and Buxmont Academy, since 1995. Ben served as a researcher on the Restorative Policing Experiment, a National Institute of Justice-funded study of the Bethlehem Police Department's restorative justice conferencing program with juvenile offenders, completed in 1998.
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