This is a report on the Bethlehem Pennsylvania Police Family Group Conferencing Project. First-time moderately serious juvenile offenders were randomly assigned either to formal adjudication or to a diversionary “restorative policing” process called family group conferencing. Police-based family group conferencing employs trained police officers to facilitate a meeting attended by juvenile offenders, their victims, and their respective family and friends, to discuss the harm caused by the offender’s actions and to develop an agreement to repair the harm. Victim and offender participation is voluntary. The effect of the program was measured through surveys of victims, offenders, offender’s parents and police officers and by examining outcomes of conferences and formal adjudication. Results are related to six questions about restorative policing. Findings include: 42% participation rate, 100% of conferences (n=67) reaching an agreement, 94% of offenders (n=80) fully complying with agreements, and participant satisfaction and sense of fairness exceeding 96%. Results suggests that recidivism was more a function of offenders choice to participate than the effects of the conferencing, per se. Violent offenders participating in conferences had lower rearrest rates than violent offenders declining to participate, but this was not true for property offenders.
Restorative Policing Experiment: The Bethlehem Pennsylvania Police Family Group Conferencing Project