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Canberra Reintegrative Shaming Experiments

Ages 5-35

Rating: Level 3


The Reintegrative Shaming Experiment (RISE) in Canberra, Australia, is a restorative justice project that incorporates the Wagga Wagga conference model as a diversion from court prosecution. The Wagga Wagga model uses police officers to facilitate family conferences. A conference usually takes around 90 minutes, compared with about 10 minutes for court processing time. The purpose of the conference is to provide a forum for the police to bring together the crime victim and his or her family with the juvenile offender and his or her supports. The RISE project receives 200 to 250 police referrals per year. The cases are sent to RISE from officers throughout the Australian Federal Police in the Australian Capital Territory region. This includes uniformed patrol officers from each of the four Canberra police stations, from its special “City Beat” office in the center of the city, and from the Traffic Division and the Crime Branch. Almost every constable and sergeant in the region has undergone a daylong information and training session with RISE staff and has received guidance on case eligibility and the procedure for referring matters into RISE.

The offenses that were eligible for the RISE experiment were divided into four types: drunk driving (adults), juvenile property crime (personal), juvenile property crime (organizational), and juvenile violent crime. The aim of the project was to include “middle range” offenses, neither so trivial that they would normally be dealt with by a simple caution or warning, nor so serious that police would be reluctant to bypass the court system in favor of an experimental alternative. The eligibility requirements for drunk-driving cases were a) the offender’s blood–alcohol content (BAC) exceeded .08 percent at the time of the incident, b) the offense didn’t involve an accident, c) the offender was not a police officer, and d) the offender was eligible for VATAC (Voluntary Agreement to Attend Court). Eligible offenders for juvenile personal property and juvenile property security offenses had to be under 18, and violent crime offenders had to be under 30.


The RISE evaluation used a randomized experimental design. RISE compared the effects of standard court processing with the effects of a conferencing for four kinds of cases: drunk driving (over .08 percent blood–alcohol content) at any age (n=900), juvenile property offending with personal victims (n=238), juvenile shoplifting offenses detected by store security officers (n=135), and youth violent crimes under age 30 (n=110). The randomization procedure consisted of a 10-question screening process administered by researchers to determine eligibility. When a case was eligible for RISE, police officers would select an envelope containing the word “court” or “conference” to determine if the case would fall into the treatment group or the control group. Victim data was limited to the juvenile personal property and youth violence experiments. No drunk-driving offenses included direct victims, thus there was no drunk-driving data on victims. Data was collected from reports by police officers, data from observations by trained RISE research staff of court and conference treatments to which offenders had been randomly assigned, and data from interviews with offenders by trained RISE interview staff after the court or conference proceedings. Using official criminal justice data, the researchers compared the number of offenders in each group who reoffended within 1 year of being assigned with the treatment or control group.


RISE produced notably different results across the four offense categories. In the youth violence experiment, those offenders who were assigned to conference subsequently offended at substantially lower levels (38 fewer offenses per year per 100 offenders) than did the offenders assigned to court. This was not true for any of the other experiments. For drunk-driving offenders, a slight increase in reoffending was found for the conference offenders relative to court (about 4 offenses per offender per year per 100 offenders). There were no differences in reoffending rates between court and conference groups for juvenile property offenders. The substantive conclusion of RISE evaluation is that conferencing can reduce crime of violent offenders, but there is no guarantee that it will work for all offense types.


Daly, Kathleen, and Hennessey Hayes. 2001. “Restorative Justice and Conferencing in Australia.” Australian Institute of Criminology. 186:1–6.

Sherman, Lawrence W., Heather Strang, and Daniel J. Woods. 2000. Recidivism Patterns in Canberra Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (RISE). Canberra, Australia: Australian National University, Research School of Social Sciences, Centre for Restorative Justice.

Strang, Heather, Geoffrey C. Barnes, John Braithwaite, and Lawrence W. Sherman. 1999. Experiments in Restorative Policing: A Progress Report on the Canberra Reintegrative Shaming Experiment (RISE). Canberra, Australia: Australian National University, Research School of Social Sciences, Institute of Advanced Studies.


Dr. Heather Strang, Director
Centre for Restorative Justice
Australia National University
Research School of Social Sciences
Canberra, Australia 0200