This module is a resource for lecturers
Topic three - How cost effective is restorative justice?
In terms of cost effectiveness, evidence from research suggests the potential of restorative justice to significantly reduce the costs relating to criminal justice (Sherman and Strang, 2007; Shapland et al., 2008).
Based on a study conducted by Shapland et al. (2008), it was concluded that there is an 8 to 1 cost benefit ratio, i.e., for every £1 spent on restorative justice conferencing, the criminal justice system will save £8 from reduced costs of reconviction.
Research by Sherman and Strang (2007) found that if only one out of every 50 restorative justice conferences prevented someone serving one year in custody, then that alone would cover the costs of all 50 conferences.
Based on reviews of high quality international and New Zealand research, the New Zealand Ministry of Justice (2016a) concluded that restorative justice can be cost effective, particularly when replacing conventional court processes.
Another way of measuring cost effectiveness could be to look at costs to the health and social welfare systems. If victim recovery is helped or expedited by restorative justice, there will be fewer demands on general practitioners, social workers, counsellors, mental health services and welfare systems. It may be almost impossible to measure this statistically, but the long-term fiscal savings that would accrue from more systematic, widespread and tailored use of restorative practices would doubtless be substantial (Angel et al., 2014; Sherman and Strang, 2007).
As the House of Commons Justice Committee (United Kingdom) stated in a report in 2016, "there is clear evidence that restorative justice can provide value for money by both reducing reoffending rates and providing tangible benefits to victims".