The United Kingdom's first coherent attempt to introduce Restorative Justice has been the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998 (1998, c. 37 (Eng.)—hereinafter the 'Act'). Earlier attempts at similar reforms were not successful (Marshall and Merry, 1990). In the White Paper that led to the Act, the Government (1997) emphasized the need to reshape the criminal justice system 'to produce more constructive outcomes with young offenders' (para. 9.21). The proposed reforms were built upon the following three principles:
• Restoration: young offenders apologizing to their victims and making amends for harm done;
• Reintegration: young offenders paying their debt to society, putting their crimes behind them, and rejoining the law-abiding community; and
• Responsibility: young offenders (and their parents) facing the consequences of offending behavior, and taking responsibility for the prevention of further offending. (Government, 1997, para. 9.21)
Utilizing what have become known at the '3Rs', this approach is designed to involve young people more effectively in decisions taken about them. Youthful offenders will be encouraged to admit their guilt, and to face up to the consequences of their behavior. Victims will also participate more directly in these proceedings, if they consent to do so.
In marked contrast to the exclusionary approach, typifiedby the 'bootcamp' and 'short sharp shock' techniques, once so popular with politicians, the Act (1998) maintains that it is the 'principal aim of the youth justice system to prevent offending by children and young persons', elevating this notion to the level of a statutory duty (s. 37). As recently reported by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, locking up young offenders actually increases the risk of youth crime, as prison time 'stops young people growing out of crime, with three quarters of 18- to 24-year-olds going on to re-offend' (The Observer, 2001, p. 6).
The potential effectiveness of the Act cannot be seen in isolation, as it is part of a more comprehensive legislative and societal approach. One complementary measure involves a 'welfare-to-work initiative', guaranteeing work and/or training opportunities to young persons who have been unemployed for at least six months. Youthful offenders leaving custody have direct access to this program. The Government's social exclusion unit has a wide remit in this regard, including educational opportunities, the promotion of health and social housing, and the fostering of local initiatives to create local employment (Scanlan, 1998).
Despite such broad initiatives, the main obstacles to an integrated Restorative Justice approach remain structural. Recent constitutional developments, such as the establishment of a National Assembly for Wales, have resulted in a fragmentation of ultimate strategic responsibility for various components of reform, which may be driven by different—and potentially conflicting—political agendas. Following are examples of innovations that have enhanced the potential for Restorative Justice on a system-wide basis, despite the presence of structural barriers.
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