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Victim Awareness and Empathy Programmes

Articles concerning the use of victim panels, meetings with surrogate victims and victim awareness classes to lead prisoners to consider the effects of their behaviour on their victims.

Criminal Justice Joint Inspection. Facing up to offending: Use the restorative justice in the criminal justice system.
The aim of this review was to identify the benefits of restorative justice practices across the criminal justice system. It was a joint inspection, carried out by Her Majesty‟s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), Her Majesty‟s Inspectorate of Probation (HMI Probation), Her Majesty‟s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) and Her Majesty‟s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP). Fieldwork comprised an inspection of police forces, probation trusts and youth offending teams (YOTs) in six criminal justice areas: Sussex, Norfolk, Merseyside, West Midlands, Greater Manchester and North Wales. In each area we interviewed staff, victims and offenders, held focus groups with the public, and examined a sample of case records. We also inspected three custodial establishments: one adult male prison (HMP Gloucester), one young offender institution (YOI) holding 18 to 25-year-old males (HMYOI Thorn Cross), and one children and young people‟s establishment holding 15 to 18-year-old males (HMYOI Hindley). A complete methodology is at Annex B. (excerpt)
Williams, Brian. European Perspectives on the Evaluation of Restorative Justice: Empathy, Offending and Attitudes, A Promising New Avenue for Research?
A distinction needs to be made between perspective-taking and empathy; it is suggested that there is a continuum between intellectualising about other's feelings, responding compassionately to them and actively communicating with them. It is concluded that practitioner involvement in the design of future research on this topic should help avoid further confusion.
Negrea, Vidia. Restorative practices in Hungary: An ex-prisoner is reintegrated into the community.
As the representative of Community Service Foundation of Hungary, the Hungarian affiliate of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), I participated in a group session of the Hungarian Crime Prevention and Prison Mission Foundation in summer 2009 (Sycamore Tree Project — — or Zacchaeus Program in Hungary). There I met the governor of Balassagyarmat prison, where inmates were working in groups on issues related to their crimes and exploring ways to repair relationships they had damaged. Some inmates began accepting responsibility for what they had done and were motivated to make things right and earn forgiveness of victims and their families. Prisoners made symbolic reparation in the form of community service within the prison, but there was still a lot to do to create opportunities for offenders to make contact with victims and shed the stigma of their offense by means of direct reparation. Also, prison management believed it important to support processes,acceptable to victimized families and communities, to help prisoners regain control of their lives and prevent reoffending.(excerpt)
Mason, Anne. Meeting the people behind the statistics: Victim awareness is carving out impressive results for Sycamore Tree’s women offenders.
Women offenders are working together with the victims of crime in a major drive toward restorative justice. Since October 2000, almost 800 women have participated in Prison Fellowship’s victim awareness programme, Sycamore Tree. (excerpt)
Aldington, Clair and Wallis, Peter and Liebmann, Marian. "What have I done?" A victim empathy programme for young people.
What have I done? is a programme to encourage empathy in young people who have committed a specific crime or hurt others through their actions. It challenges the young person to face the harm they have caused and consider what they can do to help put things right. The resource is flexible and interactive, can be used on a one-to-one basis with small groups, and is suitable for those working with young people from different ages and levels of literacy. The exercises are challenging and engaging, employing creative arts, film, role play and discussion. Clear guidance is provided for the facilitator, including timetables, a list of equipment required for each exercise and instructions on how to work through each activity. The resource is accompanied by photocopiable handouts and a DVD featuring interviews with young people who have hurt others, as well as people who have been hurt by crime, to help stimulate discussion and understanding. (publisher's description)
Stern, Vivien. Restorative Practices in Prison - A Review of the Literature
Stern notes that the literature on restorative justice is wide ranging, but that certain common principles emerge. These include the focus on the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, satisfaction for the victim within a framework of reconciliation and forgiveness, and accountability and restoration for the offender. Also, restorative justice is increasingly being brought to bear on imprisonment itself. The application of restorative justice principles in prison is seen as having several elements: offender awareness of the impact on the victim; restorative activities in prison; restorative principles and processes for conflict resolution in prison; and community relationships for reintegration of released offenders. In this paper, Stern summarizes and analyzes literature on restorative efforts in prisons concerning victims and the impact crime has on them.
Sprang, Ginny. Victim Impact Panels: An Examination of the Effectiveness of This Program on Lowering Recidivism and Changing Offenders' Attitudes About Drinking and Driving
This study examines 103 Victim Impact Panel attendees and 75 comparison group respondents who had been convicted of drunk driving offenses. A pre- and post-test measure developed by the author was administered to both groups to determine offender attitudes about drinking and driving. Results indicate a lower recidivism rate in VIP participants as opposed to comparison group subjects and those receiving other sanctions as cited in the literature. 2-Way ANOVA and paired T-test analysis revealed significant changes in attitudes regarding the VIP attendees intention to continue drinking and driving, the consideration of consequences and whether or not DUI/DWI should be considered a crime and recidivism. These results did not hold true for the comparison group. There were no demonstrated significant differences in attitudes toward the fairness of DUI/DWI laws, the accidental nature of drunk driving offenses or the advisability of DWI education as an alternative sanction in either group.
Rojek, Dean G and Fors, Stuart W. The Effect of Victim Impact Panels on DUI/DWI Rearrest Rates: A Twelve-Month Follow-Up
Objective: Various interventions have been implemented as components of sentencing for driving under the influence of alcohol. This study assessed the effectiveness of the Victim Impact Panel (VIP) in reducing the probability of an offender being rearrested for drinking and driving. Method: The study was conducted in an urban/suburban county in the Southeastern United States. Rearrest rates of DUI offenders who attended a VIP presentation as part of their sentencing (n = 404) were compared with an equivalent comparison group (n = 431) who did not have the VIP presentation. Arrest records of offenders were searched and rearrest rates (%) were calculated for the periods 0-6 months, 7-12 months, and 0-12 months after the arrest. Results: Chi-square cross-tabulations indicate that rearrest rates were lower for the VIP group than the comparison group in all categories. Three categories where the differences were significant and of the greatest magnitude were white men, ages 26-35 years, and one prior DUI arrest. Additionally, logistic regression was used to compare the importance of specific independent variables on rearrest. Whether or not a subject was in the VIP group was the most powerful contributor to the results. Conclusions: After considering alternative explanations for the results, we conclude that the VIPs can be a cost-effective way of reducing the probability of rearrest in DUI offenders. When costs of DUI in human misery and dollars are considered, the potential benefits of large-scale implementation of VIP programs appear to be well worth the effort.
Walker, Peter. Saying sorry, acting sorry: The Sycamore Tree Project, a model for restorative justice in prison
Peter Walker examines a project that assists offenders in not only saying they are sorry for their offense, but in doing something to demonstrate their remorse: restitution. The Sycamore Tree Project, developed by Prison Fellowship International, is a program for inmates to assist them in taking responsibility for their actions, from remorse to restitution. Using as an example the pilot at a prison in the United Kingdom, Walker explains the content and operation of the Sycamore Tree Project. A summary of the program’s outcomes is included in the article.
Muniz, Fernando and Donna Villareal. "Gang Intervention Victim Impact Panel Program."
The Gang Intervention Victim Panel Program in Texas operates as a community supervision program to address the behavior of gang members on probation. It seeks to personalize for these offenders the trauma caused by their crimes. The authors outline some of the topics covered by the program, the selection of offenders, the selection of victims to be panel members, the phases of the program, and responses of both offenders and victims to the program.
Mackenzie, Jean. Facilitators'/facilitator assistants' experience of a restorative justice programme.
This phenomenological study examined the lived experience of six facilitators and facilitator assistants participating in a Restorative Justice (RJ) program in Western Australia. The aim was to establish an extended and informed understanding of the group dynamics, processes, outcomes and impacts on the participants in the program. Part of this exploration involved looking into commonalities and differences between the particular program under investigation and other RJ programs. Of particular interest were the development of victim empathy, victim and offender support, prevention of revictimisation, and the overall healing process of victims of crime, offenders and the wider community. Also under scrutiny were the facilitation of groups with highly negative emotional content, and the question of whether expectations and outcomes experienced by victims of crime and offenders in a model in which the offender has contact with the primary victim, were also evidenced when surrogate victims participated. The findings in this study suggested that the model under review appeared to have a number of benefits for victims and offenders, when compared to RJ programs which brought victims into direct contact with their offender. These included such elements as increased safety, protection from re‐victimisation, and the opportunity for some level of healing in situations when the actual victim or the offender was not available. There was no evidence that re‐victimisation was an issue but rather that the model provided a positive benefit by offering a less threatening alternative to direct contact between actual victims and offenders. Victims could access some closure and healing by telling their stories to a ‘one step removed’ offender. Offenders too received some benefits. They had the opportunity to be heard, to achieve some understanding of the impact of their behaviour, and some insight into how their victims might have felt. They were then able, working from within a community of acceptance to make some plans for reparation and for moving on. There was strong evidence of positive changes in both victims and offenders. (author's abstract)
Jackson, Arrick L.. The Impact of Restorative Justice on the Development of Guilt, Shame, and Empathy Among Participants in a Victim Impact Training Program.
The present study is a panel-design study with the primary goal of examining the effect of a restorative justice program (Victim Impact Training [VIT]) on the development of guilt, shame, and empathy among offenders. The MANCOVA results show no overall significant differences between offenders who participated in the VIT program on their development of guilt, shame, and empathy over time. However, ANCOVA results indicate significant relationships among gender, program type, guilt, shame, and empathy. These findings and their implications are discussed. (author's abstract)
Sedelmaier, Christopher M and Gaboury, Mario T and Monahan, Lynn Hunt. Preliminary evaluation of behavioural outcomes in a corrections-based victim awareness program for offenders.
This article follows up on an earlier study that found significant improvements in three of four knowledge and sensitivity factors measured in offenders who participated in an impact of crime on victims “victim awareness” program. The current study investigated behavioral outcomes in a similar study population, namely disciplinary infractions that occurred while participants continued their incarceration. Findings indicated that African-American adult males in the treatment group exhibited significantly fewer A-level (most serious) disciplinary problems than did their comparison group counterparts, while all other subgroup comparisons did not yield such significant differences. This result, although limited to one subgroup, remains both interesting and useful given that African-American males are typically overrepresented in correctional populations and given the seriousness of the offenses at issue here. Reducing the frequency of serious infractions, and therefore these additional victimizations, is critical to the safety of both inmates and correctional officers. (abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation.. Victim impact: Listen and learn.
This 32-hour program shows offenders the impact of their crimes on their victims. Units comprising this course are: getting started; introduction to victim impact; property crime; assault; robbery; hate and bias; gang crime; sexual assault; child abuse and neglect; domestic violence; drunk and impaired driving; homicide; and making amends. (Abstract courtesy of the National Institute of Corrections
. Victim awareness Re-examining a probation fundamental
‘Ensuring offenders' awareness of the effects of crime on the victims of crime and the public’ is one of five stated aims of the National Probation Service of England and Wales and specifically undertaking victim awareness work is an expectation of the service’s work. The nature and putative value of such work appears to be rarely questioned however. It is argued that ‘victim awareness’ is a confused concept in terms of its rationale, definition, and empirical basis as a criminogenic need. These issues are evaluated and the practice implications discussed. A possible model of victim awareness work is described. (excerpt)
Glos, Bernard. The restorative justice guide, 2nd edition.
This guide is designed to help juveniles think about issues related to restorative justice, crime, victimisation, and making things right.
Crystal Taub and Jenny Aguliar and Liliane Cambraia Windsor and Marilyn Peterson Armour. A Pilot Study of a Faith-Based Restorative Justice Intervention for Christian and Non-Christian Offenders
As prison populations continue to rise, faith-based and restorative justice programs show promise in influencing offenders' internal motivations and external behaviors. Using a one-group, pretest-posttest design, this pilot study found significant change in offenders' (n=102) moral motivations (empathy, perspective taking, forgiveness, proneness to forgive, daily spiritual experiences, and relationships with others) after their self-selected participation in a 14-week faith-based program that draws from the principles of restorative justice. Hierarchical regression models were used to examine the impact of reported subscription to Christianity on pretests and score changes. At pre-test, Christian participants (n = 66) were more likely to forgive than non-Christian participants (n = 33) who conversely were more likely to see the perspectives of others, Christian offenders had significantly higher change scores on perspective taking and empathic concern than non-Christian participants. Findings have implications for the use of faithbased programs and victim-centered curriculums to change offenders' moral motivations and for matching faith-based Christian programs with Christian participants.
Bridges to Life: A Promising In-Prison Restorative Justice Intervention
Bridges to Life is an in-prison restorative justice programme that facilitates meetings between offenders and unrelated victims. This article is drawn from a paper by Marilyn Armour, assistant professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. The complete article is attached.
McElrea, FWM. Restorative Corrections?
Paper prepared for the 4th Annual Conference of the International Corrections and Prisons Association. 19-23 October 2002 Noodwijkerhout Netherlands.
Transforming Attitudes Towards Offending
The Sycamore Tree Project® is an in-prison programme bringing unrelated victims and offenders together for conversations about crime. The programme allows them to reflect together on the consequences of crime and the steps needed to address the harm that has resulted.

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