Alternative to imprisonment

Mair and May

Sherman and Strang

Eberhardt

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Mair and May; Experiences of offenders on probatio

Background: Probation services have been under increasing pressure to demonstrate their effectiveness. One measure used has been reconviction (recidivism) rates. 

Aim: To investigate offender's experiences of probation orders.

Sample: 1213 (82% male, 18% female); 50% age range 16-24 white; 20% were employed/self employe. First time on probation for 50%. Recruited from 22/55 probabtion areas (England and Wales).

Method: Random sampling of Home Office Probation Index database. Of 3299 offenders, 40% not contactable (e.g. taken into custody; probation order terminated; moved), leaving 1986. With a 61% response rate (8% refusal rate) 1213 were interviewed for one hour, mainly at probation ofices (1994)/ Questions covered offender's background, offending history, drug/alcohol use in last 12 months and probation experience. Pilot study conducted before drafting questionnaire.

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Mair and May; Experiences of offenders on probatio

Results: 47% reported probation order was extremely useful. 62% reported that they thought the probation officer would help sort out problems. 45% reported that they thought being on a probation order was helping them keep out of trouble. 37% reported they thought the probation order would stop them re-offending. Self-reports of drug use: cannabis used by 57% of male (aged 16-29) in last 12 months (compared to 25% of this age group in general population). About 40% of offenders reported a convicted family member (33% mentioned a parent) and 75% reported having friends who had been in trouble with the law.

Evalaution: Sample is atypical/unrepresentative (many would not take part/ were not contactable/ didn't turn up for their appointment); care needed in generalising/applying findings. Socially desirable responses/lying possible (question validity). Effectiveness of probation order would be better assessed by matching participants for age, gender, crime type with offenders not on probation orders and comparing re-offending rates. Situational explanation of behaviour/ social determinism (of probation orders). Questionable given validity problems, the unrepresentative sample and no comparison group.

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Sherman and Strang; Restorative justice and re-off

Background: Restorative justice (RJ) is most usuallu victim-offender mediation ( conducted with a police officer trained in RJ programme). It can also involve restitution/reparation payments ordered by the courts. Two-fold purpose: to get offender to face up to consequences of their crime/take responsiblity; to allow victim the opportunity to confront the offender. 

Aim: To review RJ programmes and reach conclusions about effectiveness (particularly in relation to re-offending). 

Method: An international review/literature seach (limited to studies written in English) was conducted using online databases/library catalogues, existing published reviews on RJ effectiveness, publication bibliographies and referrals by experts in the field.

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Sherman and Strang; Restorative justice and re-off

Results: RJ reduced re-offending more than prison with adults and as well as prison with youths - from 6 rigorous field tests involving crime, 3 with randomised controlled trials. Effects also confirmed for adult males, West Yorkshire and West Midlands; violent families in Canada. Substantial reductions in re-offending found in Canadian study (138 offenders, compared to a matched sample who served their sentence in prison); RJ 2 year conviction rates were 11% comapred to 37%. RJ works better with crimes involving personal victims. Victim effects: benefits predominantly from victim-offender mediation; based on willing victims; short-term benefits are improved mental health. 2 London studies found that reduced PTS (long-term benefits could be reduced health risks). RJ provided both victims and offenders with more satisfaction (4 studies reported that V's prefer RJ compared to usual court justice). RJ reduced V's desire for violent revenge against their offenders (found in 4 studies).

Evaluation: Authors followed protocols for assessing evidence which eliminates researcher/interpretation bias and conclusions considered more reliable. Sample sizes were usually large, although they ranged from 14-465. Social determinism/situational explanation of behaviour (RJ programme). Limited by crime type/willingness of victim; however research would support the application of RJ programmes more widely.

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Eberhardt; Stereotypically black features and like

Background: Numerous research studies have found that murderers of white victims are more likely than murderers of black victims to be sentenced to death.

Aim: To investigate whether the probablity of receiving the death penalty is significantly influenced by the degree to which the D is perceived to habe a stereotypically Black appearance.

Database: 44 (of 600+) death eligible cases involving Black male defendants convicted of murdering White victims from 1979-1999.

Method: Standardised, black and white photos of defendants were presented (slide-show, randomised presentation order) to two groups of naive raters (who did not know the photos were of convicted murderers and 'blind' to purpose of study); photos rated on how stereotypically Black they appeared (11 point rating scale). Data analysed for effects of order and rater's race, but none found. Group 1 raters: 32 (26 White, 4 Asian, 2 other); Group 2 raters: 19 (6 white, 11 Asian, 2 other). Using same database/procedures described above, 308 cases identified involving Black male defendant convicted of murdering Black victims and 118 obtained by random sampling.

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Eberhardt; Stereotypically black features and like

Results: Statistical analysis involving low/high Black stereotypicality and six non-racial factors known to influence sentencing (e.g. severity of the murder; defendants attractiveness) found that the more stereotypicslly Black defendants were more likelky to receive a death sentence than those defendants whose appearence was perceived as less stereotypically Balck (5% significance). Death sentencing rate was 27% compared to 41% of cases involving White victim. Same statistical analyses foudn that perceived stereotypicality of Black defendants, convicted of murdering a Black vicitms did not predict death sentencing.

Evaluation: Controls/standardisation means we can have greater confidence in findings/ more reliable. Sample sizes of death eligible cases fairly (White victim) and very (Black vicitm) reliable. Social/biological determinism/nature (skin colour/race), also nurture (learned attitudes and beliefs). Very useful to eliminate bias in the judicial process which aims to be fiar, regardless of race (age etc.).

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