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An alternative crime control program that emphasizes more on prevention rather than criminal prosecution is the most appropriate in current times. The high costs associated with seeking court justice are among the leading reasons for embracing this strategy at the 21st century.
The youth are among the leading law offenders of recent times. Unless the youthful population is prevented against committing crime, youth offenders are bound to be at all times high. Thus restorative justice should target this population for effective management of crime. To effectively manage this situation, the Australian government applies youth justice conferencing and youth conduct orders to prevent and regulate youth crimes.
The study seeks to explore effectiveness of the restorative justice system as an alternative to court process. The study seeks to study criminal records data of 2009 to 2010 period and establish whether restorative justice programs are effective. The weaknesses of each program will be outlined and a better scheme between the two will be identified.
Youth conduct orders differ greatly in both implementation process and structure. Even though they both seek to limit the number of young people in jail, the approach of accomplishing this target is distinct for each scheme. The table below gives a summary of the major distinguishing factors between the two schemes.
The young person must be 14 years old or older, but less than 18 years old; at the time the offence was committed
The young person must be 10 years old but less than 18 years old.
Nature off crimes dealt with
Offences covered by the Young Offenders Act 1997 (YOA)
offence covered by the young offenders act 1997(NSW)
Who has the authority of referring a young person to each scheme?
The police or the court.
- The Director of Public Prosecutions
-Specialist Youth of NSW Police
Applicable only in Campbell town, Mount Druitt or New England Local Area
Applicable throughout NSW
The young offender must accept to participate or must be found guilty or plead guilty of the offence
The young offender must accept the offence and agree to participate.
State of proceedings
Any court proceeding are held until revocation or expiry of the YCO
Can be held at any level of court proceedings
Persons responsible for preparation and administration procedures
Prepared and administered by a coordination Group. These group includes NSW Police Force, Juvenile Justice, DOCS,
Education and Training and Health.
-Specialist Youth Officers from NSW Police
-Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Justice Conferencing is a restorative way of delivering justice. In this process, a young offender is given a chance to be heard at the community level. In conferences, the young offender together with his or her family, the offended party, the victimâ€™s support team and the conference convener, meet for a more friendly discussion. The offenderâ€™s mistake is then put to discussion to the level of making him or her to appreciate the offence and thus accept to take responsibility (Luke, 2002). The punishment decisions at such like sittings include apology, compensation and a rehabilitation program that integrates the offender to the community.
Youth conduct orders (YCOs) on the other hand seeks to limit anti-social traits exhibited by young people who have been charged with a crime. With the coordinated participation of justice agencies, the scheme addresses certain behaviors early enough to guide the youths to learn acceptable ways of the society (Luke, 2002). This helps to mould the youth to become responsible members of the society.
Youth conduct orders were found to be preferred to youth conferences under the following circumstances:
When the offence a young offender is accused of is not yet confirmed.
When the young offender has committed the same crime more than once. This strategy seeks to prevent further crime of the same nature.
Implementing the youth conduct order program some concerns have arisen. This is despite the fact that the program is on a pilot program in Campbell town, Mount Druitt and New England regions. The concerns include:
The night-time curfews, bans from seeing friends and forced attendance school is making youths to become extremely rebellious and hence resort to committing even more serious offences in protest.
Any breach of a youth conduct order results in criminal proceedings against the young person. This may in turn lead to eventual imprisonment, which was being avoided at fast. Hence it does not really carry out fully the mandate of restorative justice.
According to Crawford (2003) study justice conferences are effective in the following ways:
They give a chance to the offender to reconcile with the offended party and thus help to foster unity and peace among members in the society.
The offender gets a chance to asses the damage caused by his actions
Since the case is held at the family level the young offender has the freedom to express his or he feelings which in turn help the family members to help in identifying methods to help in curbing future offences,
The method gives an offender a chance to be listened to and hence puts him or her at a better chance of accepting responsibility for the offence.
The data below shows youth crime levels and subsequent actions taken for the year 2009-2010 in NSW.
Youth conferences program data for 2009-2010.
Referring authority Number
Number of referrals resulting in holding a youth justice conference 1907
Youth conferences successfully held 1698
The data below shows the youth crime level in NSW. It shows the daily averages of youth offenders in custody.
Total daily average of young offenders in custody 434
Daily average number of female offenders 30
Average daily number of indigenous offenders 204
Daily average number serving custodial sentences 226
Daily average number remanded 208
Comparing this data with the previous data it was noted that youth conferences increased by 14%. This indicates the growing confidence in using youth conferences as the preferred method for implementing restorative justice among the youthful population.
It can also be noted that court proceedings are still applied in several occasions when dealing with youths.
The number of female offenders is relatively low compared to their male counterparts. This calls for a shift of focus for the relevant authorities to initiate programs which are more oriented to male rehabilitation.
Restorative justice can succeed in dealing with youth offenders if the right methods are used. From the study the data shows that youth conferences are more successful in dealing with youth crime. Youth conduct orders are more punishing than rehabilitating. Youth conferences provide an opportunity for a youth offender to regret his actions which in many cases may have caused noticeable harm.