Findings from two Restorative Justice intervention sessions with men convicted of sexual offenses

A.R. Ackerman, J.S. Levenson

1 University of Washington, Tacoma – Tacoma, Washington, USA
2 Barry University – Miami, Florida, USA

*corresponding author:

Western criminal justice philosophy has long focused on punishing offenders for wrongdoing. Many individuals, including victims, perpetrators and the communities that surround them, often acknowledge that criminal justice systems do not meet their needs (Zehr, 2015). Scholars and practitioners have noted that typical criminal justice (CJ)  responses to crime do not reduce harm and that restorative justice frameworks used either in conjunction with or in lieu of CJ may aid in harm reduction for everyone involved. This is particularly noteworthy regarding sex crimes. In recent years there has been a call to offer restorative justice practices for survivors of sexual violence in lieu of or in conjunction with CJ sanctions. There is considerable debate regarding the use of restorative justice for sexually based offenses, primarily because there is a dearth of empirical research on the topic. While some argue that restorative justice can trivialize sexual violence against women and may put them in more danger (Cameron, 2006), others suggest that such practices give survivors a voice, control, and validation (McGlynn, Westmarland, & Godden, 2012). Contemporary CJ practice focuses almost exclusively on the offender and the limited available research to date on restorative justice practice and sexual violence tends to focus on how survivors experience the process. We will present initial findings from two focus groups involving group therapy sessions for clients in a treatment program for sexual offending, one treatment provider and one rape survivor.  This was originally conceived of as restorative justice intervention sessions intended to improve victim empathy in the offenders, but ended up being healing in unexpected ways for the survivor as well.


Alissa R. Ackerman is Associate Professor in the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program at the University of Washington, Tacoma. She received her doctorate in Criminal Justice from City University of New York/ John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2009. Her work on sex offender policy and practice appears in Criminal Justice and Behavior, Justice Quarterly, Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Journal of Criminal Justice, Crime and Delinquency, and The Journal of Offender Rehabilitation. She co-edited Sex Crimes: Transnational Problems and Global Perspectives (Columbia University Press). Her research interests include: sexual violence and sex offender management.


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