Tough on crime and punitive measures do not reduce crime. Programmatic measures, including ones involving restorative justice practices, have been shown to reduce repeat crime. Like other states, Hawai`i, embraced tough measures to deal with crime, leading to an increase of incarceration of 654% from 1978 to 2014.
One restorative justice practice in Hawai‘i, Huikahi reentry circles, asks imprisoned individuals to look toward their future by setting personal goals. These goals include employment, housing, physical and emotional health, maintaining a clean and sober lifestyle and positive relationships with loved ones and the community. The primary objective of the reentry circle is for the individual to take responsibility for their life, their choices, and healing for their loved ones and the community. Each goal is specific to the individual. The circles are solution-‐focused and the individual’s strengths are identified to help them achieve their goals while also making amends for past criminal behavior.
A recent independent evaluation of the reentry circles demonstrates that they effectively reduce recidivism. Re-‐arrest rates three years after prison release are significantly lower for circle participants compared to a control group who wanted, but did not receive, the restorative treatment (t=-‐1.660, p < .05; Figure 1). Importantly, circle participants also demonstrate lower recidivism rates than people released from state prison, using the same three-‐year follow-‐up protocol. 2). The research demonstrates the effectiveness of the reentry circles and the need to both continue and broaden these efforts. Support to continue this treatment is needed from within and outside of the system, which will translate into lower recidivism rates and overall greater public safety for the community.