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Victim Impact Panels and Awareness Programmes

Descriptions and assessments of victim impact panels and other victim awareness programmes for offenders and victims.

Seeking justice, from victims’ perspectives
from the commentary by Kimberly Rosa in the Santa Maria Times: Her son was shot dead in a parking lot in Santa Maria. Another woman’s son was hit straight-on by a distracted driver and killed while riding his bike. An adult victim of physical beatings as a child shared how he reacted by living violently, and ultimately spent 38 years of his life in prison. Those were some of the people who came to share their stories with 10 young people at a restorative justice program, “Help Increase the Peace; Victim Impact Panel Project,” or HIP/VIP. The young people were there because they had been involved in incidents and offenses where law enforcement was called. Empathy and accountability are the objectives the Conflict Solutions Center’s staff is offering via restorative justice.
Radical change
by Sandi Hawnt, a Sycamore Tree Project® facilitator writing in Inside Out, the newsletter of Prison Fellowship New Zealand: When I shook his hand it was cold and sweaty. He was clearly nervous to meet me - much more than I was to meet him. I was impressed that he had waited for me. The others had all gone out for their allocated 'yard time'. Just one hour a day in Maxi - quite a lot to give up on the off chance that he might be included in the programme. Interviewing him was difficult - he was so desperate to be on the programme that he was almost paralysed with nerves. Every now and then he forgot what we were talking about and I became concerned that he might be unstable. As a new facilitator I did not want to have a safety risk on my hands, so I said no to him. However, this decision didn't sit right with me. I felt uneasy, sad... wrong.
Lisa Rea: Speaking at a California prison during victims awareness week (part 2)
I had a few more thoughts on my speech at a California prison during victims’ rights week. As is often the case conversations with the inmates are the most telling. Often these exchanges are so very quick not to be meaningful but sometimes they are more.
Allen, Jennifer Marie. The construction and transformation of the victim identity in victim impact panels
This study was designed to address the questions of (1) why victims participate in victim/offender rehabilitative programs, in particular victim impact panels, and (2) what issues victims attempt to address after their victimizations and whether victim impact panels serve as a means of addressing these issues. Qualitative research methods in the form of one-on-one interviews with victims of crime involved with victim impact panels were used to gather the information needed to answer the research questions. The subjects were recruited from four victim impact panel programs in the states of Illinois and Missouri. A total of 18 subjects were interviewed. The findings revealed that victims participated in victim impact panel programs because of restorative justice, psychological effects, stigma, religion, and for personal gratification. The victims also reported that they felt stigmatized by the criminal justice system and by significant others. Many of them faced self-blame, guilt, and embarrassment at their role in causing the criminal act. The data also revealed that victims had an increased fear of crime and feelings of dissatisfaction in the justice provided by the criminal justice system after the criminal incident. Lastly, evidence revealed that victims of crime used victim impact panels to abate the issues they faced with regard to stigma and fear of revictimization. Unfortunately, the findings did not demonstrate that victims were able to lessen the issue of inadequate justice by participating in the victim impact panel program. (author's abstract)
Bender, Valerie R. Victim/Community Awarness: An Orientation for Juveniles
The curriculum is designed for a group with a maximum of 15 offenders, and the 3 sessions of the curriculum encompass 3 to 4 hours. The first session is an introductory session that involves welcoming participants and group introduction, the administering of a pretest, the presentation of a group contract for behavior within the group, and an overview of balanced and restorative justice. The second session focuses on the impact of crime. In this session, group participants engage in role-playing as a crime victim or someone in the community who must deal with the aftermath of a crime described by the group facilitator. Each group member is assigned a role to play that involves thought about the kinds of feelings the character might have. The third session builds upon the second session by having each group member describe in detail the offense he/she committed, followed by a description of how his/her offense affected the victim and community. Group members may ask questions and provide feedback regarding the impact of each member's offense. Part of this session is having group members compose an apology letter to their victims and to the community. Materials for each session are provided, along with guidance for the facilitator. A section on information and resources includes a victim/community awareness completion report, a victim impact statement, guidelines for assessing offender accountability, suggested readings, and descriptions of victim-awareness video clips. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
Kenyatta, Sonji Imani. Increasing Incarcerated Females Empathy for Victims: A qualitative Study of Victim Impact Classes
The purpose of this dissertation was to evaluate the effects of Victim Impact Classes on eight female offenders' feelings of empathy for victims. The research questions asked female inmates to reflect on change in empathy, change in locus of control, the overall impact of the class, and to recommend strategies and interventions for their continued rehabilitation, through individual interviews and participation in a focus group. This qualitative, feminist grounded study utilized several additional data sources: class observations, field notes and a pre-test and post-test empathy assessment. The data was analyzed for any expression or changes in feelings of empathy for victims. (Excerpt)
Nicastro, Eric W.. "Confronting the Neighbors: Community Impact Panels in the Realm of Restorative Justice and Punishment Theory"
Community impact panels are one of the latest innovations in community justice. As with any nascent phenomenon, the panels raise many unanswered questions. Their attempt to effectuate certain theories of punishment in low-level, quality-of-life crimes is facilitated by the notion that the community as a whole is the victim in crimes such as public urination, prostitution, vandalism, and violation of open container laws. Typically, these are crimes that are generally misunderstood to be victimless crimes. (excerpt)
Clayton, Susan L. Bringing Victims'Experiences to Offenders.
In this article, Susan Clayton profiles the work of Laura Scheffert James, a community treatment coordinator in the Iowa Department of Corrections. James is responsible for coordinating programs for offenders in a number of correctional facilities. Programs cover such topics as victim impact, anger management, victim-offender intervention services, and various life skills. Of particular focus in the article is the 12-week victim impact program implemented by James. Through this program, James works with offenders to bring them to an understanding of the impact their criminal activity has on victims and the community.
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.
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.

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