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Taking Victims and Their Advocates Seriously: A Listening Project.

The Listening Project sought to include the voices of victim advocates in the development of restorative justice practice. The article below is an excerpt from the report of the project with a link to the full-text. The report was written by y: Harry Mica, Mary Achilles, Ellen Halbert, Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, and Howard Zehr. It is reprinted here by permission.
bThis report details the activities and outcomes of the Listening Project, a collaboration of professionals active in the victim community and the field of restorative justice. Funding for this project came from a grant provided by the Open Society Institute’s Criminal Justice Initiative. The project was housed in the Institute for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University from 1999-2002.

The Listening Project was specifically designed to confront the significant deficiencies of restorative justice practice pertaining to victim participation and impacts for victims, their advocates and victim services generally. A core project objective was to collaboratively propose an action plan to create more responsive restorative justice programs and beneficial outcomes for victims. A number of strategies for gathering the input of victims and their advocates, and for facilitating dialogue between victims, victim services and restorative justice personnel were undertaken. These strategies were divided into two phases.

Phase I of the Listening Project sought to enhance and amplify the voices of victims, victim advocates and victim services. Teams representing victim and restorative justice advocates traveled to seven states during 1999-2000 (Vermont, Ohio, Washington, Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin and Florida) to listen and record the ideas and concerns of victims, victim service workers, and victim advocates regarding victim needs, the victim experience of justice, and impressions of restorative justice in general.

One hundred twenty individuals were involved in these listening sessions across the seven states. The detailed transcripts of these meetings are the basis of significant portions of this report, and selected quotations of participants are featured in the margins.

Where Phase I of the Listening Project emphasized listening and documentation, Phase II was a structured dialogue between representatives of the listening sites, victims, their advocates, victim services personnel, and restorative justice practitioners. Held over two days in early 2001, the palaver critiqued and amplified preliminary findings of the study, with the twin objectives of identifying major areas of agreement and concern regarding restorative justice, and specifying an agenda for enhancing the victim role and benefits from restorative justice initiatives.


April 2003

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