Chapter 4

Victim-Offender Programs


In the United States, the concept of victim-offender programs is relatively new, spanning just two decades of development and growth. While these programs share many goals, there is usually one important underlying principle: to provide forums that promote greater understanding of the impact that crime has on victims and their families, offenders' families, neighborhoods, and communities and to promote offender accountability and a positive learning experience for all involved participants. Many victim-offender programs incorporate principles of restorative justice, which are discussed below.

Why would victims, who have been harmed by criminal or delinquent activities, want to again be face-to-face with the person who hurt them? For many victims, burning questions in the aftermath of a crime need to be answered:

n Why did you choose to victimize me instead of somebody else?

n Does my offender(s) realize the emotional, physical, and financial losses that I have endured as a result of his/her action?

n Does my offender(s) feel any remorse?

n Can my offender(s), through words or actions, be directly accountable to me so I can reconstruct my life in the aftermath of the crime?

For adult and juvenile offenders, victim-offender programs can offer substantial value, including an understanding of the impact their crimes have on their victims and communities. Victim-offender programs also offer offenders incentives for personal accountability in the forms of apologies, financial restitution, and community service, as well as facilitate a positive learning experience and competency development that can provide positive alternatives to criminal and delinquent activities.

Communities as a whole also stand to benefit from the implementation of victim-offender programs. Crime and delinquency have both direct and indirect victims. The "domino effect" of any crime - regardless of its severity - increases communities' fears and feelings of vulnerability. In many victim-offender programs, the active involvement of community representatives sends a strong message that crime will not be tolerated, and that investment in individual and public safety is a community priority. Victim-offender programs often provide cost-effective alternatives to more retributive forms of justice. When victims are provided with positive tools to reconstruct their lives, they are able to function better as contributing members
of a community, which provides universal benefits that cannot be overlooked.

Depending upon the program format, victim-offender programs can be utilized in a number of forums for adult and juvenile offenders, including presentence, diversion, probation, law enforcement incarceration and detention, and parole. Educational programs that incorporate victim-offender principles also are being utilized in curricula for elementary, middle, and high school students that focus on prevention and early intervention.

By the conclusion of this chapter, readers will understand the following:

n The concept of restorative justice and some practical applications of restorative justice within probation and parole agencies.

n The purpose for victim-offender mediation and several policy and program implications for victim-offender mediation.

n The "impact of crime on victims" programs.

n The merits of, and resources for, the development of victim impact panels.

Key Elements for Victim-Offender Programs

Victim-offender programs and services are not for all victims or all offenders. Such programs should not operate in a vacuum, but rather be an integral component of system- and community-based services for both victims and offenders.

Recommended guidelines for the implementation of victim-offender programs include, but are not limited to, the following:

n A clearly stated mission statement, with supporting goals and objectives, to guide program development, focusing on outcomes and possible benefits relevant to victims, offenders and the community.

n Leadership from a "change champion" - either an individual or entity - who can provide vision and guidance in program implementation.

n Structure that clarifies the role of the program within the criminal or juvenile justice system, as well as its role related to community-based activities.

n Comprehensive knowledge of research and theory related to victimization, crime, juvenile and criminal justice, and offenders to provide a basis for program development.

n Intensive training and cross-training to establish and clarify program expectations, and increase knowledge of professionals and volunteers involved with program planning, development, and evaluation.

n Written policies, procedures, and protocols to guide planning and implementation.

n Policies and procedures to screen victims to ensure that participation is appropriate for them.

n Policies and procedures to ensure that the victim's safety is of paramount importance at all times.

n Measures to ensure that victim participation is strictly voluntary, with no perception of coercion and that victims may end their participation at any time.

n A thorough, sensitive intake procedure to provide adequate screening and preparation.

n Understanding of existing victim-offender programs to facilitate knowledge exchange, and to avoid "reinventing the wheel" or repeating mistakes.

n Written documentation of key program activities (planning, implementation, and evaluation) to facilitate knowledge expansion and exchange among victim-offender program practitioners, allied professionals, and the community.

Restorative Justice

Many victim-offender programs are based upon the principles of restorative justice, which evokes a substantial shift from America's traditionally retributive approach to justice. Initially offered as a philosophy for justice and fairness, restorative justice has taken on many important practical applications in the past decade - for victims, offenders and communities.

As described by Dr. Gordon Bazemore, Director of the Balanced and Restorative Justice Project at Florida Atlantic University in Fort Lauderdale, the conceptual framework of this approach to justice can best be described as a combined emphasis on three programming priorities (NOTE: Bazemore's model was developed specifically for juvenile offenders):

n Accountability: Restitution, community service, and victim-offender mediation create an awareness in offenders of the harmful consequences of their actions for victims, require offenders to take action to make amends to victims and the community and, whenever possible, involve victims directly in the justice process.

n Community protection: Intermediate, community-based surveillance and sanctioning systems channel the offender's time and energy into productive activities. A continuum of surveillance and sanctions provides a progression of consequences for noncompliance with supervision requirements and incentives that reinforce the offender's progress in meeting competency development and accountability objectives.

n Competency development: Work experience, active learning, and community service provide opportunities for offenders to develop skills, interact positively with conventional adults, earn money, and demonstrate publicly that they are capable of productive, competent behavior.

According to Kay Pranis, Restorative Justice Planner at the Minnesota Department of Corrections, restorative justice asks these questions: n How can we increase opportunity for victim involvement in defining harm and potential repair?

n How can we increase offender awareness of injury to the victim?

n How can we encourage offender acknowledgment of wrongness of behavior?

n How can we involve the offender in repairing the harm?

n How can we acknowledge victim harm and confirm that the victim is not responsible for what happened?

n How can the community send messages of disapproval while not banishing offenders?

n How can the community provide opportunities for the offender to repair harm?

n How can the community be involved in the process of holding offenders accountable?

The shift from retributive to restorative justice has many implications for victims of crime. Key to these changes are active involvement in the justice process, as well as a defined role in achieving offender accountability. This shift is depicted in Figure 4-1, which includes definitions of "retributive" and "restorative" justice developed by noted author Howard Zehr (as cited by Bazemore and Umbreit, 1994), and "implications for victims" developed by public safety consultant Anne Seymour.
  Figure 4-1: Retributive and Restorative Justice Assumptions and Implications for Victims of Crime Retributive Justice                 Restorative Justice                 Implications for Victims

Crime is an act against               Crime is an act against                 The victim is individualized
the State, a violation of a            another person and the                as central to the crime and the
law, an abstract idea.                 community.                                 criminal justice system process,
                                                                                                    with the community duly noted
                                                                                                    as also affected by crimes.

The criminal justice                     Crime control lies primarily           The community - including
system controls crime.                 in the community.                         victims and their allies -
                                                                                                      participates in and directly
                                                                                                      benefits from crime deterrence.

Offender accountability                 Accountability defined as             Offenders are held directly
defined as taking                           assuming responsibility and           accountable to victims.
punishment.                                   taking action to repair harm.

Crime is an individual                     Crime has both individual             Prevention, intervention, and
act with individual                           and social dimensions                 breaking the cycle of violence
responsibility.                                 of responsibility.                         are important considerations.

Punishment is effective.                     Punishment alone is not             Punishment is augmented by
a. Threat of punishment                    effective in changing                 direct accountability to the
deters crime.                                    behavior and is disruptive         victim and to the community,
b. Punishment changes                      to community harmony             with victims having a strong,
behavior.                                          and good relationships.             consistent voice.

Victims are peripheral                     Victims are central to the             Restorative justice principles
to the process.                                process of resolving a crime.       are "victim-centered."

The offender is defined                     The offender is defined by         Reparation to the victim and
by deficits.                                       his or her capacity to make        to the community is a priority.

Focus on establishing                       Focus is on problem                 A central goal is to deter future
blame, on guilt, on past                    solving, on liabilities/                 criminal action through conflict
(did he/she do it?).                           obligations, and on the             resolution, problem solving,
                                                       future (what should                  and fulfilling obligations to the
                                                       be done?).                               victim and to the community.

Emphasis on                                   Emphasis is on dialogue             Victims are active participants
adversarial relationship.                   and negotiation.                         in determining appropriate

Imposition of pain to                     Restitution is a means of                 Restitution holds the offender
punish and deter/prevent.              restoring both parties;                     goal accountable and is meaningful
                                                    of conciliation/restoration.               to both him/her and the victim.

Community is on the                     Community as facilitator                 Just as the community is
sideline, represented                     in restorative process.                    negatively affected by crime,
abstractly by the State.                                                                       it is positively affected by
                                                                                                         restorative justice processes.

Response is focused                     Response focused on                     Crime deterrence in the future
on the offender's                          harmful consequences of                 focuses on victim and public
past behavior.                              the offender's behavior;                  safety.
                                                   emphasis is on the future.

Dependence on                            Direct involvement                         Victims and their allies
proxy professionals.                     by participants.                               are directly involved in the criminal justice
                                                                                                         and restorative justice processes.

Source: Adapted from Bazemore and Umbreit, 1994

As the justice community continually seeks new, innovative approaches to fulfill its mission and goals, the concept of restorative justice has emerged as an approach that incorporates crime prevention, violence reduction, offender accountability, victim assistance, and public safety.

In the restorative model, offenders, crime victims, and the community are all considered clients of justice processes, including corrections. As such, the involvement and interests of these three client populations become core to the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of justice-related programs and services.

At a national teleconference on restorative justice sponsored by the National Institute for Corrections in December 1996, a panel of experts identified seven core values of restorative justice:

n Crime is an offense against human relationships.

n Victims and the community are central to the justice process.

n The first priority of justice processes is to assist victims.

n The second priority of justice processes is to restore the community, to the degree possible.

n The offender has personal responsibility to victims and to the community for crimes committed.

n The offender will develop improved competency and understanding as a result of the restorative justice experience.

n Stakeholders share responsibilities for restorative justice through partnerships for action.

One of the best practical definitions of restorative justice is offered by Kay Pranis (1996, pp. 15-16), Restorative Justice Planner for the Minnesota Department of Corrections: Restorative justice provides a framework for responding to crime that strengthens the community while holding offenders accountable. Based upon a rethinking of crime as an injury to the victim and the community rather than as an affront to the power of the State, the restorative model seeks to repair the harm resulting from crime. To define harm and how to repair it, victims must be involved. Surrogates or advocates may present the victim perspective when a victim does not wish to participate. Offenders are held accountable by taking responsibility for their behavior and acting to repair the harm they've caused.

The restorative justice model requires the offender to earn his or her way back into the community by making amends to the victim and the community with the assistance of the community, and calls upon the community to reach out and support the victim.

Restorative thinking can be applied to any crime. Victims should always be allowed to define the harm of the crime and what might help them. . . . Offenders should always be encouraged to take responsibility for their behavior and make amends if possible. However, no single restorative program is appropriate for all crime. While opportunities to repair harm are generally greater when the offender is kept in the community, violent offenders should be kept in secure facilities. Since part of the harm of crime is damage to the social fabric caused by fear of violent predators, they must be separated from the community. While in custody, offenders can participate in community service and victim empathy groups, and victim panels can help violent offenders understand the impact of their behavior (Pranis, 1996).

Practical Applications of Restorative Justice

How can probation and parole agencies develop practical applications, i.e., programs, policies, and services, that embody the principles of restorative justice?

There are a number of promising practices that should be considered for replication by probation and parole agencies in their jurisdictions.

Reparative Probation Boards1

In Vermont, communities are not bystanders in the State's approach to restorative justice; rather, they are central to its implementation. The establishment of reparative probation boards, consisting of community members nominated by community leaders and appointed by the Commissioner of Corrections, promotes the concept that communities have much to gain, and nothing to lose, by assuming a role in offender accountability.

[1 Partially derived from Fulton, B.A. (1996).  Restoring Hope Through Community Partnerships:  The Real Deal in Crime Control.  Lexington, KY:  American Probation and Parole Association.]

The Reparative Probation Program provides Vermont's courts with a sentencing option for offenders to make reparation to victims and the community. According to Michael J. Dooley, former Vermont Department of Corrections Program Director, "the emphasis of programs and services, which are traditionally targeted at the offender, are now focused on the community. Here, the emphasis is on the offender accepting responsibility, with the central focus on making victims and communities whole again."

Reparative activities included in offenders' sentences meted out by reparative probation boards include the following:

n Victim restitution.

n Community work service.

n Victim-offender mediation.

n Cognitive skills development sessions.

n Victim empathy programs.

n Decisionmaking programs.

n Driver improvement courses.

As described in an excerpt on Reparative Probation Boards (see Appendix D), four offender activity areas comprise the foundation for community reparative probation boards: 1. Restore and make whole the victims of crime. The offender will be expected to make restitution if ordered by the court, and participate in victim-offender mediation if requested by the victim.

2. Make amends to the community.
The offender will complete community work service, preferably a work service activity related to the criminal conduct.

3. Learn about the impact of crime on victims and the community. The offender will appear before a Victim Empathy Panel composed of community members who know the impact of crime on their community. Members may be victims of crime, members of groups like Students Against Drunk Driving or Mothers Against Drunk Driving, merchants familiar with crimes such as shoplifting, or they may be former offenders.

4. Learn ways to avoid re-offense in the future. Offenders will complete short educational programs designed to give them knowledge, skills, and techniques to help them avoid reoffending in the future.

Vermont's approach takes into consideration the three-pronged approach of restorative justice: offender accountability, offender competency development, and safety and involvement of both victims and the public. This innovative program enjoys overwhelming support from Vermonters, who "want to be actively involved and want punishment to focus on opportunities and means for offenders to repair injuries and damages they caused (Fulton, 1996).

Family Group Conferencing

Family group conferencing is currently utilized in several States, including Minnesota, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. It is often a diversion program for youthful offenders, or can be implemented as a condition of probation and parole. As described in Restorative Justice, A Discussion Paper published by the Ministry of Justice in New Zealand (1996):

A family group conference involves the victim (or his/her representative), the offender and members of the offender's family. It is attended by the police and facilitated by a youth justice coordinator who is employed by the Department of Social Welfare. Others, such as a social worker and a legal advocate for the young offender, may attend the conference at the request of the coordinator. In a review of juvenile justice practices, the process of family group conferences follows a typical pattern: n Introduction.

n An explanation of the procedure by the coordinator.

n An opportunity for the offender to comment on the accuracy of the police statement.

n An opportunity for the victim (or representative) to present his/her view if the offender admits the offense.

n A general discussion of possible outcomes.

n A discussion of options among the offender's family.

n The formulation of a plan, response, or outcome by the offender's family.

n General negotiation.

n Agreement from the enforcement agency, the victim, and the offender.

n Recording of the agreed plan and closure of the meeting (Maxwell and Morris, 1995).

In family group conferences, all participants have to mutually agree to a plan, or cases are referred back to court.

Early research on family group conferences found considerable dissatisfaction with the process by both crime victims and those who serve them. Some considerations in developing this approach that may increase victim satisfaction include the following:

n Requiring all program coordinators and facilitators to receive intensive training in victimology theory and principles.

n Establishing a program advisory board, comprised of victims and service providers, to provide input and guidance on program policies, goals and objectives, and overall structure.

n Ensuring that a balance consistently exists between the opinions and concerns of the victim and those of the offender and his/her family. This intervention should not be used in cases involving family violence (with very few exceptions) because of the imbalance of power between the parties and the use by the offender against the victim of fear and intimidation.

n Conferring with victims first, prior to scheduling conferences, in order to facilitate their participation in a nonintrusive manner.

n Developing policies that mandate return of cases to court proceedings when the victim cannot or does not agree to the proposed plan.

Circle Sentencing

Circle sentencing is a community-directed process conducted in partnership with the criminal justice system to develop consensus on an appropriate sentencing plan that addresses the concerns of all interested parties. Sentencing circles, sometimes called peacemaking circles, use traditional circle ritual and structure to involve the victim, victim supporters, the offender, offender supporters, judge and court personnel, prosecutor, defense counsel, police, and all interested community members. Within the circle, people can speak from the heart in a shared search for understanding of the event, and together identify the steps necessary to assist in healing all affected parties and prevent future crimes.

Circles typically involve a multistep procedure that includes: (1) application by the offender to participate in the circle process; (2) a healing circle for the victim; (3) a healing circle for the offender; (4) a sentencing circle to develop consensus on the elements of a sentencing plan; and (5) followup circles to monitor the progress of the offender. The sentencing plan may incorporate commitments by the system, community, and family members as well as by the offender. Sentencing circles are used for adult and juvenile offenders with a variety of offenses and have been used in both rural and urban settings. Specifics of the circle process vary from community to community and are designed locally to fit community needs and culture.

Circles have been developed most extensively in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Yukon, and occasionally in other communities. Their use spread to the United States in 1996 when a pilot project was initiated in Minnesota.

Offender Apologies

In many jurisdictions, judges require a formal apology - either written or verbal - from the offender to the victim, which is then made part of the official court record (or the offender's apology can simply be placed in his/her file). Caution should be taken, however, to ensure first that the victim wants an apology, to avoid hollow apologies that are meaningless to the one who has been harmed, and to ensure that the offender prepares sincere and blame-free apologies. A third party, such as the probation or parole officer, should review the apology and return incomplete or inappropriate apologies to the offender for rewriting. Apology guidelines can be established to guide the offender in formulating his/her apology letter.

Community Service

Two innovative approaches to community service should be considered by probation and parole authorities as a promising practice:

n Letting the victim offer the court recommendations for the offender's community service. For example, a victim may live near a local park in which his/her children play that could use 6 months of weekly cleanup; or graffiti along the roads that the victim takes to work might need to be painted over.

n Ordering first-time, nonviolent offenders who have a special skill, such as accounting, landscaping, or computer skills, to perform community service for a victims' rights organization (i.e., rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter). Of course, such agencies must be willing to accept these services prior to initiating this approach.

Both approaches offer victims important input into the offender's sentence, and can be included as part of their victim impact statements for presentence investigations or for allocution in court.

Another approach to community service being taken in Dakota County, Minnesota is through the deployment of Crime Repair Crews. The Dakota County Community Corrections Department has organized these crews, which are comprised of offenders and supervised by department staff, to repair damage to victim's homes or businesses caused by crime. The Crime Repair Crews are set up to perform this service for victims within a short-time period after the commission of the crime. The crew does not provide services for any of the members' actual victims, but for other victims.

Staff Victimization and Restorative Justice

In 1996, the American Correctional Association Victims Committee (1996, p. 4) developed a position paper about utilizing a restorative justice approach to deal with staff victimization and critical incidents. Its suggestions are worth reviewing for development into promising practices for staff safety:

A correctional institution and living units are microcosms of the community-at-large. People live together, work together, come and go and, similar to society-at-large, they hurt each other. They suffer the consequences of victimization together. And together,
they have to protect each other.

When an assault or critical incident hurts a member of the corrections community, the balanced and restorative justice principles should apply.

How is the offender handled following a critical incident? How is, or is, the victim and his or her family helped? How is the sense of community reestablished? How is the victim reintegrated back into the corrections workforce?

How the department of corrections treats victims and offenders within its own community is mirrored by the criminal justice system. Victims often have few or no rights and services available; they are often blamed for their victimization and can't get information about what happens to their offender. They have no voice.

Offenders are often placed back in the unit and treated lightly. Yet, they are responsible for disrupting their entire community of corrections. Should the offender be isolated or removed, or should they be held accountable for
their behavior?

Corrections can effect the principles of balanced and restorative justice by doing the following:

. Providing staff victims with basic rights, such as notification of the status of their cases, the opportunity to have a voice in proceedings, protection, and restitution from the offender.

. Offering staff victims and their families supportive services, such as appropriate and sensitive crisis response, counseling, support groups (within the corrections community and externally), information about victim compensation, and meaningful restitution from the offender.

. Treating staff victimization offenses as crimes. Responses from both the corrections agency, as well as the criminal justice system, should be swift and incorporate the victim throughout the process. The offender should be held accountable to his or her victim through restitution, community service, and fulfilling the requirements of the sentence. The corrections community within the institution should also be restored through actions by the offender that holds him or her accountable for disrupting the institutional community (American Correctional Association Victims Committee, 1996).

Victim-Offender Mediation

Modern day victim-offender mediation, also called "dialogue," was first utilized in Ontario, Canada in 1974, and found its way to the United States in 1978 in Elkhart, Indiana in a program that dealt exclusively with juvenile property crimes. Today in the U.S., over 300 programs offer victim-offender mediation, the majority in juvenile cases, most of which involve minor property offenses. As described in program materials from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), "mediation can be a viable means by which justice is facilitated. What can be accomplished, however, is qualified by the victims' and offenders' personal experience, expectations, perceptions, background, age, level of maturity, sensitivity, honesty, openness, level and nature of support, nature, extent and frequency of the offense, relationship to the offender, and means by which the victims and/or offenders mediate, or deny their past and present circumstances and feelings."

A very few programs facilitate victim-offender mediation in more serious crimes. The TDCJ program manages mediations - all initiated by the victim/survivor - in cases involving death row inmates. At the TDCJ, the purpose of mediation is "to provide victims of violent crime with the opportunity to have a structured, face-to-face meeting with their offender(s) in a secure, safe environment, in order to facilitate a healing recovery process."

The TDCJ has established five goals that guide the implementation of its victim-offender mediation program, which may be found in Figure 4-2.

Figure 4-2: Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Goals for Implementation of Victim-Offender Mediation Goal 1: To provide victims with the opportunity for closure to unresolved trauma associated with violent crime. n To directly and constructively express to offenders current and repressed feelings, such as fear, anxiety, anger, loss, pain, and grief.

n To ask questions and receive answers and insights which only offenders can provide.

n To experience a sense of empowerment through a direct voice and participation in this process of justice by helping to determine appropriate acts of restitution and accountability for the offender, and constructive acts of healing for the victim.

Goal 2: To provide offenders with an opportunity to face the full human impact of their crime upon the victim. n To hear firsthand the depth of trauma experienced by the victim.

n To express remorse related to their offense and resulting impact.

n To answer questions for the purpose of personal assistance for the victim rather than legal defense of the offender.

n To reach greater accountability by determining the means whereby offenders become obligated beyond themselves to their victims and communities, and to restore what has been "wronged" within the victims' physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and social dimensions of their everyday life to whatever extent possible - for example, determining actual and symbolic restitution through an affirmation agreement.

Goal 3: To provide victims and offenders the opportunity for clearer understanding and personalization of the crimes' impact upon their lives.

Goal 4: To provide victims and offenders participating in victim offender mediation/dialogue with a process for developing mutual agreements, insights, or projects that could serve to benefit other victims and offenders in similar circumstances, such as mutual commitment to crime prevention, assurance of personal safety, victim advocacy, service to/within the community, criminal justice reform, victim impact panels.

Goal 5: To provide the community and society-at-large an opportunity to receive healing and restoration.

Research on Victim-Offender Mediation

To understand the implementation and implications of victim-offender mediation, an examination of key research in this growing field is crucial. In the first large cross-site evaluation of victim-offender mediation programs in the United States, four program sites that worked closely with juvenile courts were examined carefully by a research team from the Citizens Council Mediation Services in Minneapolis, MN and the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota: Albuquerque, NM, Austin, TX, Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, and the East Bay area of California.

The findings of this significant research, outlined in Umbreit and Coates (1992, pp. 2-4) Victim-offender Mediation: An Analysis of Programs in Four States of the U.S.: Executive Summary Report, can help guide promising practices in the planning and implementation of victim-offender programs:

A substantial amount of quantitative and qualitative data has been collected from a total of 1,153 interviews with crime victims and juvenile offenders in four States, review of program and court records, interviews with court officials and program staff, and observation of 28 mediation sessions. The conclusions that emerged from analysis of these many data sources are first identified below. While these conclusions cannot be generalized to represent all victim-offender mediation programs, they do provide important insight into this growing international field of justice reform.

1. Victim-offender mediation results in very high levels of client satisfaction (victims, 79%; offenders, 87%) and perceptions of fairness (victims, 83%; offenders, 89%) with the mediation process for both victims and offenders. This is consistent with a number of previous studies (Coates & Gehm, 1989; Digman, 1990; Marshall & Merry, 1990; Umbreit, 1991, 1990, 1988).

2. The importance among victims and offenders of meeting each other and interacting through the mediation process is documented quantitatively in this study, whereas prior research (Coates & Gehm, 1989) provided qualitative data related to this issue.

3. Participants experience mediation as having a strong effect in humanizing the justice system response to crime, both for victims and juvenile offenders. This is consistent with the findings of prior studies (Coates & Gehm, 1989; Marshall & Merry, 1990; Umbreit, 1991).

4. The process of victim-offender mediation has a more significant positive effect upon crime victims (when examining comparison groups), even though both victims and offenders indicate very high levels of satisfaction and perceptions of fairness with mediation.

5. Victim-offender mediation makes a significant contribution to reducing fear and anxiety among crime victims. Prior to mediation, nearly 25% of victims were afraid of being victimized again by the same offender. After mediation, only 10% were afraid of being revictimized.

6. Juvenile offenders do not perceive victim-offender mediation to be a significantly less demanding response to their criminal behavior than other options available to the court. The use of mediation is consistent with the concern to hold young offenders accountable for their criminal behavior.

7. Victim-offender mediation can be effective in working with juvenile offenders with prior convictions, rather than simply with "first time" offenders.

8. The mediation process can be effective in working with more serious crimes such as burglary, robbery,
and assault.

9. The specific location and sponsorship of the program had no major impact upon the high degree of client satisfaction with the outcome of mediation, or their perception of fairness with the mediation process, for either victims or offenders.

10. Victim-offender mediation has strong support from court officials, both judges and probation staff, and is increasingly becoming institutionalized into the juvenile court system.

11. The vast majority of offenders indicate they voluntarily chose to participate in victim-offender mediation. Programs in this study appear to have done a better job of presenting victim-offender mediation as a voluntary choice to the offender (81% of offenders) than indicated in prior research (Coates & Gehm, 1989).

12. Mediation is perceived to be voluntary by the vast majority of victims who participated in it. Although 91 percent of victims felt they voluntarily chose to participate in mediation, a small number of victims (9%) felt that they were coerced into participating in the victim-offender mediation program. Whether this perception of coercion was a function of the program staff, mediators, court-related officials, or even parents (of juvenile victims) is unclear.

13. Considerably fewer and less serious additional crimes were committed within a one-year period by juvenile offenders in victim-offender mediation programs, when compared to similar offenders who did not participate in mediation. Consistent with two recent English studies (Marshal & Merry, 1990; Digman, 1990), this finding, however, is not statistically significant.

14. Victim-offender mediation has a significant impact on the likelihood of offenders successfully completing their restitution obligation (81%) to the victim, when compared to
similar offenders who completed their restitution (58%) in a court-administered program without mediation.

15. There is some basis for concern that the mediation process can become so routine as to suggest an impersonal atmosphere, potentially leading to a dehumanizing experience for participants. The spontaneity, vitality and creativity of the mediation process must be preserved by training and monitoring.

16. As the field of victim-offender mediation expands and becomes more institutionalized, a danger exists that mediation will alter its model to accommodate the dominant system of retributive justice, rather than influencing the present system to alter its model to incorporate a more restorative vision of justice upon which victim-offender mediation is based.


A number of implications for both justice policy and direct practices are offered, based upon the conclusions that emerged from this extensive 2.5 year multisite study of victim-offender mediation in the United States.

Policy Implications

n Wider public policy consideration should be given to increasing the availability of victim-offender mediation services, perhaps even as a basic right for those victims of crime who would find it helpful, assuming the offender agrees to such a meeting and a credible victim-offender mediation program is available to both parties.

n Victim-offender mediation should be more consistently integrated into the large national network of court-sponsored restitution programs. There is strong evidence that victims of crime are more likely to actually be compensated if the restitution plan is negotiated by the offender and victim.

n Mediating conflict between interested crime victims and their offenders should receive far more attention from the large network of victim advocacy groups throughout the United States. There is strong evidence that a victim's sense of vulnerability and anxiety can be reduced following a direct mediation session with his or her offender.

n More research is needed to assess the impact of victim-offender mediation, particularly with adult offenders and in crimes of violence.

Program Implications n Training of mediators should be enhanced to ensure that an appropriate nondirective style of mediation is used. This style includes the ability to make use of silence during mediation sessions and to avoid missing opportunities to encourage either victim or offender to address issues that are important to them. Emphasis should be placed on demonstrated skill competency rather than simply completing a set number of hours of mediation training.

n New and written video training resources should be developed to highlight the importance of a nondirective style of mediation. Specific examples of how to avoid "missing opportunities" for greater emotional closure for the victim and offender should be provided.

n Additional attention should be given to ensuring that participation in mediation is voluntary for both parties. This should include training of case developers and mediators to inform both parties of all available options prior to their choice of mediation.

n Programs should routinely have victims and offenders sign a "consent to participate in mediation" form, prior to the actual mediation session, which clearly explains mediation, states the voluntary nature of mediation, and identifies other options that are available to both parties. Even after signing such a consent, victims should be free to end the session at any time.

n The appropriate role of parents in the mediation process involving juvenile offenders needs additional clarification. Rather than either a policy of including or not including parents in the actual mediation session, programs should develop policies that identify for whom and under what specific circumstances parents should be allowed in the entire mediation session.

n New written and video training resources should be developed to provide program staff and mediators with assistance in identifying which cases and under what circumstances parental involvement in the mediation is desirable. The manner in which parents are allowed to be in the mediation session, including additional ground rules, should be incorporated into mediation training.

n Case referral criteria in victim-offender mediation programs should include both offenders with prior convictions and cases involving more serious offenses, such as residential burglary, robbery, aggravated assaults, and negligent homicide.

n Programs should develop an ongoing system for collecting client satisfaction and other related data that are helpful for maintaining high quality control. This should include collecting data related to the participants' perception of voluntary participation and the role and effectiveness of the mediator. A program evaluation kit made available through this study could be helpful with such an effort (Umbreit and Coates, 1992).

"Impact of Crime on Victims" Programs

"Impact of Crime on Victims" (IOC) classes were initiated by the California Youth Authority (CYA) in 1985, the nation's largest agency that detains juvenile offenders. Classes are now in all CYA institutions, and have since been replicated in 17 other States and at the Federal level. Applications for the IOC program include forums for adult and juvenile offenders, both nonviolent and violent, in diversion, probation, incarceration, detention, and parole settings.

In a program abstract written by IOC founder Sharon English, Assistant Director of the CYA and Martie Crawford, Program Director of the Riverside County (CA) Victim/Witness Program (1989), guidelines for developing an educational IOC model were offered.

In CYA, no new funds were allocated for the classes, but resources were redirected; that is, redirected so that budgeted education funds were reassigned to conduct this class instead of another course. This course, however, includes a number of the other educational activities such as analyzing problems, spelling, writing, and reading. The difference is the subject matter.

The following sections describe course requirements, instructor/facilitator selection, and availability of resources to develop the program:

Course Description

The students of the IOC course must meet the following objectives:

n Explore how they view the rights of other people.

n Raise their awareness of the long-term impact of their action.

n Recognize their own possible victimization as children and how that abuse might influence them today.

n Provide opportunities to help them become non-abusive parents and good spouses/partners.

n Discuss their tendency to depersonalize the people they injure.

n Consider how they are accountable for the crimes they committed.

Subjects taught in a victim awareness class should span a range of topics, including property offenses, domestic violence, sexual assault, homicide, robbery, child abuse and victims' rights. In these classes, offenders should not be separated by offense type, since the goal is for all offenders to learn about the far-reaching effects of crime.

The course must be experiential with a variety of activities that include the use of visual aids such as videotapes with study guides, television newscasts or programs; guest speakers; notebooks with articles; scenarios and exercises; and role-playing opportunities. Of these activities, visits by actual victims provide the most important experience. Nothing can replace or substitute hearing from a parent whose child was killed or a burglary victim who is still afraid to be in his/her own home.

The only substitute for an actual victim could be a victim services advocate who has worked with many victims, and who can relate the stories of the people he or she has helped. Most people do not fully appreciate the tragedies of crime or the related financial and emotional costs. Consider this example: The fiancee of a bride-to-be is stabbed to death just weeks before their marriage, and all deposits for the wedding and celebration are non-refundable. Besides that, the young woman has no rights as a victim, since she is not the "next of kin."

This type of real-life story can make more of an impact on a delinquent youth than the horrible, sensational stories which even habitual offenders find repulsive. For that reason, instructors in this course should use everyday news stories on television and in the newspapers to present material involving ordinary people.

Other good exercises are to have the offender assess and write about what he or she thinks is owed to the victim, or what he or she feel would be owed if either of them were the victim of this offense. Another approach used by the Texas Youth Commission at the Giddings Correctional Facility involves having the young offenders role play their violent offenses as both the victim and the perpetrator.

Instructor/Facilitator Selection

The instructor/facilitator must be able to do the following:

n Confront delinquent youth regarding their attitudes and beliefs in an assertive manner that encourages maximum self-examination and minimizes defensiveness.

n Understand the conflicting attitudes of both offenders and victims.

n Use experiential (student participation) teaching techniques to facilitate offender learning in the classroom.

In order to facilitate an "Impact of Crime on Victims" course, the instructor must know how to be successful. The instructor cannot attempt to teach this course without advanced preparation, and so must be trained by victim service advocates. The instructor must stay on target with victim of crime issues. This is not a course on the general causes of delinquency, nor is it a course on other offender needs such as housing, employment, or gangs. It is often too easy for offenders or staff to focus on the many other societal problems and neglect the personal responsibility of each individual for his or her situation. This is not a course on philosophy (i.e., are fish victims?) and is not a course on the holocaust or natural disasters (i.e., victims of hurricanes).

Resources to Develop the "Impact of Crime on Victims" Program

A comprehensive teachers' manual and students' curriculum has been developed by CYA. In addition, the Office for Victims of Crime provided support for a "training for trainers" session in IOC and victim impact panels in 1996, from which many resources and trained course facilitators emerged. Additional information about how to plan and implement an IOC class in probation or parole settings is available from the California Youth Authority, Office of Prevention and Victim Services, 4241 Williamsbourgh Drive, Suite 214, Sacramento, CA 95823.

Victim Impact Panels

Victim impact panels (VIPs) have been utilized in conjunction with the criminal and juvenile justice systems since 1980. Initially developed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID) to educate DUI offenders about the tragic effects their actions have on victims, VIPs have expanded to also include persons convicted of offenses such as burglary, robbery, auto theft, and property crimes. VIPs can be utilized in a variety of venues involving adult and juvenile offenders, including diversion, probation, parole, detention, or incarceration. In addition, VIPs have proved effective as a preventive approach for youth through school forums. They are also extremely beneficial when included as components of any training for justice and allied professionals, including probation and parole.

Benefits for Offenders and Victims

For offenders, VIPs offer an opportunity to hear firsthand about the short- and long-term pain and suffering their crimes cause to victims. For victims who choose to participate, VIPs can be a valuable component in their attempts to reconstruct their lives in the aftermath of a crime. Many victims believe that by speaking directly to offenders, they may help prevent future delinquent or criminal behaviors.

Program Coordination

VIPs must include a truly collaborative approach that crosses the justice system and the community. Stakeholders in program planning, development, and implementation include the following:

n System-based and community-based victim service organizations.

n Crime victims.

n Adult and juvenile courts.

n Judiciary.

n Prosecutors.

n Adult and juvenile probation/diversion.

n Adult and juvenile corrections.

n Adult parole and juvenile aftercare.

Resources for VIP Program Development

Excellent resources for program development, including a planning guide and videotape, are available from the National Office of MADD, P.O. Box 541688, Dallas, TX 75354-1688, or by calling 1-800-GET-MADD. Recommended guidelines for organizing a VIP program, as developed by Lord (1990), address the following issues:

n Criminal justice system support.

n Research on victim impact panels.

n Steering committee.

n Other victim impact panel options.

n Site selection.

n Procedures/forms.

n Sample forms.

n Funding.

n Selection of victim speakers.

n Guidelines for victim speakers.

n Preparation tips for victims.

n The panel presentation.

n Evaluation.

n Sample evaluation forms.


This chapter gives an overview of the value of victim-offender programs and offers concrete examples of victim-offender programs that have been implemented in probation and parole settings. When implemented correctly, victim-offender programs can provide substantial benefits to victims, offenders, and the community.