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Keywords:

  • Community Justice, Restorative Justice, Reparative Probation, Victims, Citizen Involvement

Research Summary:

We performed the first outcome evaluation of Vermont's Reparative Probation Program by studying a sample of reparative cases terminated in the 2000 calendar year through a content analysis of case files and surveys of victims and community service sites. The evaluation was performed along four goals of the program: that communities are involved, victims’ needs are addressed, communities are restored, and offenders behave responsibly.

Policy Implications:

The program has been largely successful in meeting its program goals. Community involvement in probation programs with a focus on repairing harm and offender reintegration is growing. The evaluation shows that Vermont Reparative Probation was able to recruit and maintain a large volunteer pool, and involve these volunteers in sanctioning decisions. Whether this can be achieved in other settings, and whether volunteers can effectively work with more serious offenders are important questions for policy. While most cases processed in this program dealt with victimless crimes (such as drunk driving and underage drinking), victims did not participate as much as predicted, replicating results from other board evaluations. Because victim involvement is low, this practice may be less “restorative” for victims than other restorative justice models. Community service was a common sanction, offenders tended to comply with service obligations, and service sites were satisfied by their work. Despite a focus on offender reintegration, regular inclusion of reintegrative tasks, and reasonably high completion rates, this program made little use of effective correctional treatments or tasks that would develop strong attachments to the community.