Theresa Berry

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Christina Sinding




Getting tough on crime through harsh prison sentences is often seen as the most effective way to reduce offences. Reviews of the effects of incarceration suggest that long, harsh sentences of imprisonment do not deter crime or rehabilitate offenders (Wright, 1991) and are not likely to achieve the desired ends of the public (Wilson, Picheca, & Prinzo, 2005). The values of restorative justice offer an alternative to the harsh punishment of incarceration. Despite the increased attention given to restorative justice, the concept still remains somewhat problematic to define as numerous responses to criminal behaviour may fall under the 'restorative umbrella' (Latimer, Dowden & Muise: 2001). Some programs and policies have taken the title 'restorative' when they actually do not reflect the principles, including repaying the harm done to the victim or community.

This interview study explored the experiences of offenders and community agency representatives in the Intermittent Community Work Program (ICWP), a program of the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. ICWP provides the opportunity for eligible intermittently sentenced provincial offenders to serve their sentence in the community as opposed to in jail. The research responds to a gap in our knowledge about what happens in the ICWP from the perspectives of those who actually participate in it. This research examined whether or not the ICWP met restorative justice criteria as determined by program participants and community agency representatives.

The ICWP was found to not meet the restorative justice criteria, but was still determined to be a better alternative than prison. Program participants defined benefits in terms of making connections in the community, and avoiding incarceration. Community agencies defined benefits in terms ofthe provision of community services that would not otherwise be provided. However, both also revealed problematic aspects of the program. This research supports the increased participation of the offender and community agency representatives in decision-making in the ICWP.

McMaster University Library

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