Violent criminals are far less likely to re-offend if they meet their victim, according to a report seen by BBC News.
Restorative justice forces offenders to face up to their crimes
The study, led by a Cambridge University academic, says schemes helping offenders face up to crimes affect adults more than children.
It also suggests a victim's desire for violent revenge is reduced and their recovery from distress is aided.
The take-up of restorative justice remains low due to a widespread perception that it is ineffective.
Police and courts already have the option to arrange face-to-face meetings but usually do not because of doubts that it helps to cut crime.
BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Danny Shaw said: "This report, an evaluation of schemes across the world, indicates that restorative justice can lead to substantial reductions in re-offending.
"The more serious the offence, the better the results."
Lucie Russell, director of SmartJustice, which promotes "community solutions" to crime, welcomed the report.
She said: "Restorative justice makes offenders face up to the impact of their offending. It also gives victims the chance to explain the effect of the crime on them."
"This scheme needs to be widened. It is much better than the current system, which leaves a great distance between the offenders and their victims."
The former chief constable of Thames Valley Police, Sir Charles Pollard worked on the report. He said the current system insulates offenders from the harm they cause, and he denied that restorative justice was an easy way out.
"It's not a soft option at all. It is the reverse, because offenders who go through this inevitably say this was far more challenging than going to court and going to prison."
David Davies, the Conservative MP for Monmouth, helped set up the charity SAFER, or Stop All Forms of Early Release. He said offenders would prefer to meet their victim than go to jail. "Having a cup of tea with a social worker and the person you have robbed is a far easier option than going to prison. That's the problem with this - it's another excuse to keep people out of courts and out of prison."
British Crime Survey
Last month, British Crime Survey findings revealed that the risk of becoming a victim of crime in England and Wales is rising for the first time since 1995.
The survey, regarded as a reliable measure of crime by the Home Office, said the risk had risen one percentage point to 24.3%.
And, in a separate measure, the number of crimes reported to police had fallen 3% in the third quarter of 2006 compared with the same period the previous year.
However, the risk of becoming a victim of crime in the UK is still lower than its peak of 40% in 1995.