The main limitation of using this approach to test the effectiveness of conferencing programs is the lack of a single standard definition of the components of a complete program. This means that the results drawn from this study are not generalizable. Again in a county with one of the highest number of re-offenders in the United States, a sample set of 50 juvenile delinquents is insignificant. This limits the scope of inference. However, the limited sample set is mainly attributable to financial constraints.
The first limitation; lack of a standard conference community sentencing program for all delinquents, can be solved by a highly integrated longitudinal prospective study approach in which the researchers will develop a unique program, enroll juvenile delinquents and study them over time. The second, limitation can simply be solved by allocating more financial resources and expanding the scope of the research, including the sample size. Sampling, Sample Size, and Population Characteristics
The study will employ a multistage sampling technique which relies on the strengths of simple, cluster, and stratified sampling to generate a representative sample. For this evaluation, 50 cases of juvenile delinquents will be drawn from Los Angeles County Court records. Using this information, the progress of the subjects will be mapped to determine their response to the treatment program and associated outcomes, especially re-offending and re-convictions.
Individual and community data will also be collected and collated to examine the nature of the different forms of community conferencing programs in application as well as their effectiveness in achieving changes in criminal behavior, integrating the ex-convict into the society, and other associated complimentary outcomes. Data on the effectiveness of these programs will be collected through interviewing restorative justice facilitators.
Through such interviews I will be able to assess the general nature of these programs as well as what makes them successful. Information on individual characteristics of the offenders will be collected through court records and intermediaries who have had a close association and interaction with both the offender and the victim, possibly in face to face meetings. The main limitation of using intermediaries to collect information about the overall progress of offenders in rehabilitation is the possibility of relying on sometimes biased assessments.
Again, this limitation implies that the results may not be applicable to all, or a significant proportion, of juvenile delinquents not included in the study. Variables and Data Collection Methods Data will be collected from archived case reports of juvenile records from Los Angeles County Court records. All cases must have been recorded between 2000 and 2010 and Census covering the 10 years duration. In total 50 offenders with juvenile cases who have been made to enroll in the restorative justice program will be chosen.
I will only choose those who were subjected to the community conferencing method of restorative justice. The offenders, victims, and their families will be contacted through a preliminary cordial letter stating my research objectives and requesting their consent to carry out the research. Those who will have consent will be contacted through telephone and data collection will basically be done through telephone interviews. Unless, explicitly allowed by the participants in the study, the telephone interview will not exceed thirty minutes.
In cases where the participants may not be available for interview for reasons beyond the control of the researcher, the information will be collected through a self administered questionnaire. The disadvantage of interviewing through telephoning includes hanging up before the completion of the interview or refusal to pick the phone, and high costs involved making highly intensive calls to a relatively large number of participants. Another challenge to this extensive evaluation design is also lack of adequate funding. Financial constraints will limit the number of interviews.
The independent variable is community conferencing which basically involves an examination of the influences of the variable (professional guidance, identification of the unique needs of the offender, direct engagement between the victim and the offender in negotiation of responsibility and negotiation, the success of rehabilitation, and assimilation back into the community). The dependent variable in the analysis is recidivism. The relationship between recidivism rates and the effectiveness of conferencing community sentencing program will show whether justice has been restored or not.
The variables will be assessed by simple quantitative analytical techniques such as frequency counts, standard deviations, percentages, and t-test statistics. Hypothesis 1 and Hypothesis 2 will be tested using Z-Score and chi-square tests at a significance level of p? 0. 05. Finally, the effectiveness of community sentencing programs is computed by simply subtracting the calculated rates of recidivism from 100%. The difference is the measurable success of the treatment program. Conclusion
As a social construct, the United States criminal justice system must constantly adapt and evolve with changing perceptions. Three key weaknesses driving its evolution include; the inability of severe punishment methods to achieve the objectives of deterrence, growing economic costs of incarceration and increasing recidivism rates, and the complete focus on the offenders and exclusion of the victims. To redress these weaknesses, conference community sentencing has risen to become a valuable alternative sentencing.
Addressing these weaknesses is in tandem with the desires of restorative justice. So far, restorative justice has gained positive results despite its limited application. Conference community sentencing creates a consensus in which the reactions of victimization such as psychological harm, physical harm, shame, anxiety, depression, stress, insecurity, and self blame can solved by tackling the underlying causes of the initial offense and strategies that can be employed in preventing reoffending (Sabir, 2007).
Directly engaging the offender and the victim links responsibility and reparation in a single framework where both the offender and victim draw on their strengths to heal the damage caused by the criminal act in mutual trust and respect. However, it is important to note that the effectiveness of conferencing community sentencing in lowering the rates of recidivism depends on a number of factors. First, individual and community characteristics are key determinants of the efficacy of the restorative justice program.
This implies that both the victims and offenders individual characteristics should be critically examined and incorporated in the peacemaking process. It is only after a complete understanding is established that the offender may not reoffend. Again, complete understanding and negotiation of the appropriate punishment and reparation methodology makes it easier for the offender to be incorporated back into the community at the end of the criminal justice process.
My evaluation will pinpoint specific conditions under which community conferencing programs can attain the objectives of reducing recidivism rates and administering restorative justice. In context, these programs must appreciate the potential influences of community traits, norms, and customs together with criminogenic and non-criminogenic risk factors which may hamper the integration of the offender into the peacemaking process and eventual incorporation into the society.
In a nutshell, the identification of factors which influence the success of community conferencing programs is important in developing strategies which can improve their effectiveness. It therefore follows that a reliable research and evaluation design approach must advance community justice by improving outcomes related to victims of crime, community members, and offenders (http://www. ojjdp. ncjrs. gov/). Tailoring research and evaluation design with all these factors in mind ensures that community conferencing programs advance the cause of restorative justice and reduce recidivism rates.