National Archive of Criminal Justice Data

This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Bethlehem [Pennsylvania] Police Family Group Conferencing Project, 1993-1997 (ICPSR 2679) RSS

Principal Investigator(s):

Summary:

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the implementation of conferencing as a restorative policing practice. Family group conferencing is considered an important new development in restorative justice practice as a means of dealing more effectively with young first-time offenders by diverting them from court and involving their extended families and victims in conferences to address their wrongdoing. Cases deemed eligible for the study were property crimes including retail and other thefts, criminal mischief and trespass, and violent crimes including threats, harassment, disorderly conduct, and simple assaults. A total of 140 property crime cases and 75 violent crime cases were selected for the experiment, with two-thirds of each type randomly assigned to a diversionary conference (treatment group) and one-third of each type assigned to formal adjudication (control group). Participation in the conference was voluntary. If either party declined or if the offender did not admit responsibility for the offense, the case was processed through normal criminal justice channels. Those cases constituted a second treatment group (decline group). The Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Police Department and the Community Service Foundation conducted a two-year study on the effectiveness of police-based family group conferencing. Beginning on November 1, 1995, 64 conferences were conducted for the study. Approximately two weeks after their cases were disposed, victims, offenders, and offenders' parents in the three experimental groups (control, conference, decline) were surveyed by mail, in-person interviews, or telephone interviews. Those who participated in conferences (Parts 4, 6, and 8) received a different questionnaire than those whose cases went through formal adjudication (Parts 5, 7, and 9), with similar questions to allow for comparison and some questions particular to the type of processing used on their case. Disposition data on cases were collected from five district magistrates in Bethlehem from January 1, 1993, to September 12, 1997. Data on recidivism and outcomes of the control and decline group cases were obtained from (1) the Bethlehem Police Department arrest database (Part 1) and (2) a database of records from the five district magistrates serving Bethlehem, drawn from a statewide magistrate court database compiled by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (Part 2). An attitudinal and work environment survey was administered to the Bethlehem Police Department on two occasions, just before the conferencing program commenced (pre-test) and eighteen months later (post-test) (Part 3). Part 1 variables include offender age, year of offense, charge code, amounts of fine and payments, crime type, offender crime category, and disposition. Part 2 collected disposition data on cases in the study and officers' observations on the conferences. Demographic variables include offender's age at current arrest, ethnicity, and gender. Other variables include type of charge, arrest, disposition, sentence, and recidivism, reason not conferenced, current recorded charge class, amounts of total fines, hours of community service, and conditions of sentence. Part 3 collected information on police attitudes and work environment before and after the conferencing program. Variables on organizational issues include ratings on communication, morale, co-workers, supervision, administration, amenities, equipment, and promotions. Variables on operational issues include ratings on danger, victims, frustration, external activities, complaints, workload, and driving. In Parts 4 to 9, researchers asked offenders, parents of offenders, and victims about their perceptions of how their cases were handled by the justice system and the fairness of the process, their attitudes and beliefs about the justice system, and their attitudes toward the victim and offender. Variables include whether the respondent was satisfied with the way the justice system handled the case, if the offender was held accountable for the offense, if meeting with the victim was helpful, if the respondent was surprised by anything in the conference, if the respondent told the victim/offender how he/she felt, if there was an opportunity to reach an agreement acceptable to all, if the offender/parents apologized, if the victim/parents had a better opinion of the offender after the conference, what the respondent's attitude toward the conference was, if the respondent would recommend a conference to others, if the offender was pressured to do all the talking, if the offender was treated with respect, if victim participation was insincere, if the respondent had a better understanding of how the victim was affected, if the victim only wanted to be paid back, and if conferences were responsive to needs.

Access Notes

  • These data are freely available.

Dataset(s)

DS0:  Study-Level Files
Documentation:
DS1:  Disposition Data on Cases From Five District Magistrates - Download All Files (0.8 MB)
Data:
DS2:  Disposition Data on Cases in the Study - Download All Files (2.2 MB)
DS3:  Police Survey Data - Download All Files (1.2 MB)
Data:
DS4:  Offender Conference Data - Download All Files (0.7 MB)
DS5:  Offender Court Data - Download All Files (0.6 MB)
DS6:  Parent Conference Data - Download All Files (0.7 MB)
DS7:  Parent Court Data - Download All Files (0.6 MB)
DS8:  Victim Conference Data - Download All Files (0.7 MB)
DS9:  Victim Court Data - Download All Files (0.6 MB)

Study Description

Citation

McCold, Paul, and Benjamin Wachtel. Bethlehem [Pennsylvania] Police Family Group Conferencing Project, 1993-1997. ICPSR02679-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2000. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR02679.v1

Persistent URL:

Export Citation:

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Funding

This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (95-IJ-CX-0042)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   assault, case processing, disorderly conduct, disposition (legal), family counseling, harassment, petty theft, pretrial intervention, pretrial procedures, program evaluation, property crime, restorative justice

Geographic Coverage:   Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, United States

Time Period:  

  • 1993--1997

Date of Collection:  

  • 1995--1997

Unit of Observation:   Individuals.

Universe:   Offenders, parents of offenders, and victims from cases eligible for the study in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, between November 1995 and 1997.

Data Types:   administrative records data, survey data

Methodology

Study Purpose:   Family group conferencing is considered an important new development in restorative justice practice as a means of dealing more effectively with young first-time offenders by diverting them from court and involving their extended families and victims in conferences to address their wrongdoing. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the implementation of conferencing as a restorative policing practice. This project was designed to answer six programmatic questions about police-based conferencing as it was being applied in the United States: (1) Can typical American police officers conduct conferences consistent with due process and restorative justice principles? (2) Does involvement in conferencing transform police attitudes, organizational culture, and role perceptions? (3) Does conferencing produce conflict-reducing outcomes by helping to solve ongoing problems and reduce recidivism? (4) Will victims, offenders, and the community accept a police-based restorative justice response? (5) Does the introduction of diversionary conferencing alter the case processing of juvenile offenders (e.g., net-widening)? (6) How does police-based conferencing compare to the existing system and to other restorative justice practices?

Study Design:   The Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Police Department and the Community Service Foundation conducted a two-year study on the effectiveness of police-based family group conferencing. Beginning on November 1, 1995, 64 conferences were conducted for the study. Twenty Bethlehem police officers were trained in facilitating family group conferences, which involved following a scripted protocol, except when participants digressed from the focus of the conference. The script began with a preamble that explained the purpose of the conference and informed the offenders of their due process rights. The process then proceeded with the facilitator asking a series of open-ended questions of the offender, the victim, the victim's supporters, the offender's supporters, and the arresting officer, if present. In the agreement phase, all of the participants, beginning with victims, talked about what they would like to see done to address the harm. Solutions were not imposed by the police facilitator but resulted from the dynamic interaction of participants. When an agreement was reached, with offenders concurring, the conference was over. Then the facilitator provided refreshments and allowed some time for informal socializing while writing up the agreement for the participants to sign. Victims, offenders, and the offenders' parents in the three experimental groups (control, conference, decline) were surveyed by mail, in-person interviews, or telephone interviews approximately two weeks after their cases were disposed. Those who participated in conferences (Parts 4, 6, and 8) received a different questionnaire than those whose cases went through formal adjudication (Parts 5, 7, and 9), with similar questions to allow for comparison and some questions particular to the type of processing used on their case. Data on recidivism and outcomes of control and decline group cases were obtained from (1) the Bethlehem Police Department arrest database (Part 1) and (2) a database of records from the five district magistrates serving Bethlehem, drawn from a statewide magistrate court database compiled by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (Part 2). An attitudinal and work environment survey was administered to the Bethlehem Police Department on two occasions, just before the conferencing program commenced (pre-test) and eighteen months later (post-test) (Part 3).

Sample:   Random sampling.

Data Source:

Parts 1 and 2: Administrative records. Parts 3 to 9: Personal and telephone interviews and mail-back questionnaires.

Description of Variables:   Disposition data on cases were collected from five district magistrates in Bethlehem from January 1, 1993, to September 12, 1997. Data on recidivism and outcomes of the control and decline group cases were obtained from (1) the Bethlehem Police Department arrest database (Part 1) and (2) a database of records from the five district magistrates serving Bethlehem, drawn from a statewide magistrate court database compiled by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (Part 2). An attitudinal and work environment survey was administered to the Bethlehem Police Department on two occasions, just before the conferencing program commenced (pre-test) and eighteen months later (post-test) (Part 3). Part 1 variables include offender age, year of offense, charge code, amounts of fine and payments, crime type, offender crime category, and disposition. Part 2 collected disposition data on cases in the study and officers' observations on the conferences. Demographic variables include offender's age at current arrest, ethnicity, and gender. Other variables include type of charge, arrest, disposition, sentence, and recidivism, reason not conferenced, current recorded charge class, amounts of total fines, hours of community service, and conditions of sentence. Part 3 collected information on police attitudes and work environment before and after the conferencing program. Variables on organizational issues include ratings on communication, morale, co-workers, supervision, administration, amenities, equipment, and promotions. Variables on operational issues include ratings on danger, victims, frustration, external activities, complaints, workload, and driving. In Parts 4 to 9, researchers asked offenders, parents of offenders, and victims about their perceptions of how their cases were handled by the justice system and the fairness of the process, their attitudes and beliefs about the justice system, and their attitudes toward the victim and offender. Variables include whether the respondent was satisfied with the way the justice system handled the case, if the offender was held accountable for the offense, if meeting with the victim was helpful, if the respondent was surprised by anything in the conference, if the respondent told the victim/offender how he/she felt, if there was an opportunity to reach an agreement acceptable to all, if the offender/parents apologized, if the victim/parents had a better opinion of the offender after the conference, what the respondent's attitude toward the conference was, if the respondent would recommend a conference to others, if the offender was pressured to do all the talking, if the offender was treated with respect, if victim participation was insincere, if the respondent had a better understanding of how the victim was affected, if the victim only wanted to be paid back, and if conferences were responsive to needs.

Response Rates:   Not applicable

Presence of Common Scales:   Several Likert-type scales were used.

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Version(s)

Original ICPSR Release:  

Version History:

  • 2006-03-30 File CB2679.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
  • 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.

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