Saturday, October 24, 2015

Effective Recidivism Reduction: Punitive, Procedural, or Restorative Justice

Today’s American Punitive Justice methods use fear of sanction and/or incarceration to control criminal behavior. Consequently the punitive model dictate policies that mandate long incarceration sentences, especially for repeat offenders. The four primary objectives of these long incarcerations include limiting criminal behavior, preventing reoffending, as well as providing rehabilitation to the offender and retribution for the victim (Tyler, 2006). The hope is that people will learn from the experience of long prisons sentences and refrain from engaging in future criminal activities. In this regard, new longer “tough on crime” prison sentences aim to use fear of punishment to help people develop “self-regulating” measures for their “future conduct” (Tyler, 2006). Regrettably research on the efficiency of punitive models do not support their effectiveness at reducing recidivism. Rather than reducing crime and recidivism as intended these longer “tough on crime” punishments have only grown our prison populations exponentially (Tyler, 2006). The current research indicates that these longer costly “tough on crime” sentences often end with inadequate post release supervision practices that leave inmates unprepared for reentry into the community and at a higher risk for reincarnation (Forman & Larivee, 2013). Meanwhile the recidivism rates here in Massachusetts have remained fixed for the last 15 years (Greineder, 2011). In fact, the Department of Correction’s Research and Planning Division revealed that 48% of those released were convicted of, though not necessarily re-incarcerated for, a new crime within three years of release (Massachusetts Department of Corrections, 2015).
Procedural Justice
The use of punitive justice methods to maintain social control symbolizes “use of force” to the public at large and affects both the legitimacy and efficiency of the law and law personnel (Perry, 2015). Current research on newer models, such as the Procedural Justice and Restorative Justice, indicate that other types of social control beyond punitive measures are possible and may actually be more effective (Tyler, 2006). In fact, surveys on Procedural Justice indicates when people experience procedural justice in both the “quality of decision-making procedures” and “the quality of treatment that people receive from others” they are more likely to accept social rules and voluntarily engage in self-regulatory behavior (Tyler, 2006). This voluntarily change is conceptualized as a byproduct of the fair procedural interaction that restored the individual’s conceptualization of legitimacy in law and it’s entitlement to be obeyed (Tyler, 2006).
It is theorized the success of Procedural Justice is through activation of shared social values with authorities who use fair practices, which then motivate future responsibility and a “voluntary” obligation to said authorities and/or institutions (Tyler, 2006). The research on the effectiveness of procedural justice supports the use of procedural justice because “fair procedures encourage an immediate deference, lessen the likelihood of spirals of conflict, and increase the legitimacy of the police and courts” (Tyler, 2006). Because procedural justice is concerned with the fairness of law and interactions with law personnel- it applicability applies to all crimes and criminals entering the criminal justice field. Even more promising--Cross cultural research indicates that Procedural Justice methods are as equally accepted and regarded with positive reactions among both white and minorities (Tyler, 2006). This is true even in groups typically regarded as difficult by authorities, such as the disenfranchised, or the young, minority, males who are over an overrepresented population in American prison populations as a rule (Tyler, 2006).
Restorative Justice
Although Restorative Justice also places emphasis on the nature interactions between law and offender as well as the facilitation of fair practice to later reduce recidivism --it is not directly concerned with building up the legitimacy law and obligations or procedural fairness (Tyler, 2006). The focus of Restorative Justice is on helping the individual establishing a sense of self and develop bonds with others that will in turn cause him or her shame if those persons are upset (Tyler, 2006). The underlying principles recognize the individual, his or her needs, and aim to restore broken social bonds and/or values that may have been displaced (Tyler, 2006). This perspective theorizes that the establishment of these values and bonds helps one sustain ongoing internal motivation to behave in socially appropriate ways to gain the approval of others and thereby improve their self-image (Tyler, 2006). Reportedly the process of restoring connectedness with family and community discourages future recidivism through the establishment of shared social bonds and values that when violated will affect one’s self-image and entice feelings of shame (Tyler, 2006).
Although type of justice is considered most effective in less serious crimes involving victimizations, such as theft or assault, it has further potential in application (Ministry of Justice, 2015). But since the potential effect of restorative justice on recidivism is only as great as one’s commitment to the rules of morality, the development of guilt for failure to conform to moral behavior, as well as their individual ability to conceptualize the other associated feelings utilized with these methods--one should use caution in the application of restorative justice methods with our more dangerous criminals who might undermine its intended purpose (Perry, 2006). For example: consider the sociopath and the psychopath- who seemingly possess a core deficiency in the development of shared values and bonds as well as feelings concerning guilt, such as remorse or shame. Essentially they are called psychopaths or sociopaths to indicate that “they cannot see beyond their own interests" (Schmalleger, 2011). Furthermore, it’s theorized that these people have an under developed “ethical component of personality” –i.e the part that would normally provide the “moral standards” by which the ego “should” operate within (Schmalleger, 2011). Accordingly they will guiltlessly lie, steal, cheat, sometimes even murder to obtain their own hedonistic objectives. It is plausible that because both the psychopath and sociopath intrinsically lack the ability to feel remorse that restorative justice will not be as efficient at reducing recidivism in this cohort of criminals as it does in the majority. That is not to say that the psychopath or sociopaths won’t benefit from the process of restorative justice-just that it may not reduce recidivism as effectively. Perhaps, future research on the topic of restorative justice and psychopathy is needed. 
Compare and Contrast
Essentially Punitive, Restorative, and Procedural justice models all share a common aspiration of increasing motivation to behave in socially acceptable ways through the activation of internalized self-regulatory motivations (Tyler, 2006). Despite this common underlying principle each procedure differs in many noticeable ways including the application and focus of punishment, the self-regulatory motivation activated (fear, obligation, or guilt), and perhaps most notably in applicability and efficiency. Punitive justice intends to incite fear to encourage self-regulatory behavior which will discourage undesired behavior and increase socially desirable behavior (Tyler, 2006 & Perry, 2015). In contrast, newer models intend to establish a feeling of shared values and/or bonds which in turn motivates self-regulation through internalized concepts like responsibility, obligation, or guilt and shame. The primary differences being that punitive justice centralizes around the punishment of wrongdoing and is overall not effective at reducing recidivism, while these newer methods focus on maintaining people who are motivated by their own internal values and social bonds to self-regulate and show potential to reduce recidivism (Tyler, 2006 & Perry, 2015). It’s theorized that the activation of internal values, as done in both procedural and restorative justice, helps self-regulate behavior and character by encouraging one to bring their behavior in line with their internal values (Tyler, 2006). But the influence of these values on behavior is completely dependent on ones internalization of responsibility and obligation to their own morality (Tyler, 2006).
Establish Efficiency
Although these various theories suggest that alternative forms of social control may be possible or even better than one another-it is important to recognize that it may not be a matter of which is more universally more effective, but rather a matter of which is a more applicable and effective solution to the individual situation at hand. Because Procedural Justice is well received by the breadth of our population, including both whites and minorities, as well as provides some measure of long and short term effectiveness it is very versatile and universally applicable step to reducing recidivism in America. Yet, fair procedure and treatment after a crime has been committed will not affect the circumstances that lead a criminal to a life of crime or prevent recidivism. Restorative Justice takes it that one step further—and aims to restore social bonds and values that encourage the offender to have feelings of responsibility and connectedness to community that provide motivation to follow moral principles, or a sensation of greater obligation “to defer to societal authorities and institutions” (Tyler, 2006). Based on theories of “inclusive of behavioral, societal and interpersonal psychology”, we could infer that the most influential to reducing recidivism would be restorative justice because the primary mode of change is through the activation of internal values that are both “relevant and personal to the offender” (Perry, 2015).
Forman, B. & Larivee, J. (2013). Crime, Cost, and Consequences: Is It Time to Get Smart on Crime? MassInc. Retrieved from
Greineder, D. K. (2011). Mass Incarceration: How Justified and How much Public Saftey Does it Buy? Lifers Group. etrieved from
Mass Department of Corrections. (2015). Program Description Booklet. Retrieved from Http://Www.Mass.Gov/Eopss/Docs/Doc/Program-Booklet.Pdf
Ministry of Justice. (2015). Restorative Justice.  Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. Victim Services & Crime Prevention. Retrieved from
Perry, C. (2015). Procedural, Moral, Restorative Justice- Shift from Punitive. HubPages. from
Schmalleger, Frank J. (2011) Criminology A Brief Introduction: Chapter 6 Social Process and Social Development: It’s What We Learn. Retrieved from
Tyler, T. R. (2006). Restorative justice and procedural justice: Dealing with rule breaking. Journal of Social Issues, 62(2), 307–326. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.2006.00452.x (EBSCO AN 20779250) Retrieved from