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Victim Participation in Restorative Processes

Articles on the impact on victims of their participation in restorative justice meetings.

Crime victim helps others cope in New Orleans
For Preston, the call informing her about the murder of her husband came in September 2003, while she was in South Africa. Her husband, James Saporito, 38, and his mother, Patrina Saporito, were killed in the elderly woman's Mid-City home. The house had been set on fire after the Saporitos were brutally attacked. Both were stabbed repeatedly, while James Saporito was also shot in the head.
Dan Van Ness: New Hampshire legislature adopts important new victim rights bills
The New Hampshire legislature has created a victim’s right to access to restorative justice programs, provided for compensation to victims of costs related to that participation, and ensured that these are not restricted to victims whose position on sentencing is the same as the prosecutors’.
Lisa Rea: Restorative Justice: Restoring Victims and Communities.
From the article by Lisa Rea and Theo Gavrielides: Victims-driven restorative justice is built on the premise that an offender needs to see the direct impact that his crime had on his victim and on the community, and should be given the opportunity to make amends and seek to provide a form of reparation to those he injured. Through the voluntary participation of both the victim and the offender engaged in an honest and constructive dialogue (i.e. mediation, family group conferencing, circles, etc.) facilitated by trained professionals, the participants benefit from the information exchange.
Restorative Justice: Victims' needs and rights; experience of building up mediation services in the UK
Punishment and revenge are also very old human practices, but it should not be assumed that they are either effective or justifiable, or that they meet the needs and wishes of victims. This paper will consider restorative justice, crime and responses to crime, especially from the point of view of the victim, with reference to recommendations of the council of Europe and the United Nations, with comments on the implementation of restorative measures in England and Wales.
Laflin, Maureen E. Remarks on Case-Management Criminal Mediation
In the United States, the use of mediation for criminal cases is becoming more frequent. It is no longer limited to juvenile cases, lesser adult criminal cases, and so-called victim offender programs. An increasing number of attorneys and judges are employing mediation to resolve felony cases of many types, including murder. At the same time, even modest growth in the frequency of criminal mediations sparks questions and controversy little found in the context of civil law and mediation. To help foster a careful consideration of the emerging reality of criminal mediation, Maureen Laflin in this article explores some of the central questions and concerns raised about criminal mediation. She first discusses the distinctiveness of criminal mediation under the following headings: the nature of mediation; restorative justice and victim offender mediation; and voluntary settlement conferencing, or case-management mediation. This leads to her examination of concerns about case-management mediation in the criminal context with respect to the following: stakeholders and participants in the mediation; the role of the victim; judges as mediators; the defendant and the defendant's counsel; prosecutor resistance; and the lack of effective privilege rule.
O'Connell, Terry. Restorative justice for serious crimes
Most commonly, restorative justice has been used for comparatively minor crimes. O’Connell, however, explores in this presentation the use of restorative conferences for serious crimes, crimes that often involve high levels of trauma for victims and their families. While acknowledging that there are deep and genuine concerns about bringing victims and offenders together in such scenarios, O’Connell highlights four case studies (firebombing, road death, home invasion, and murder) to argue that restorative conferences have been shown to reduce significantly the level of ongoing trauma experienced by victims and their families.
Liebmann, Marian. Developing a Ugandan Victim-Offender Mediation Model
Marian Liebmann has worked in the criminal justice field with victims and offenders for more than twenty years. Her experience includes involvement with restorative justice and mediation training in general, and with Mediation UK in particular. In this pamphlet she looks at the development of victim-offender mediation in Uganda. The project originated with Save the Children (UK) in Uganda. From working with children, members of this organization felt that awareness of victims and restorative justice was inadequate in Uganda. This led to an effort in August 2002 to train community leaders and Local Council (Village) courts in victim-offender mediation skills. Liebmann describes the legislative background in Uganda to the project, the structure of the training, and her participation as a trainer.
Kovener, Marty. Where victims and offenders meet: High risk victim/offender dialogue.
While victim offender dialogue has most commonly been used in cases of nonviolent offenses (e.g., property crimes), some in recent years have begun to experiment with this practice in cases involving violent crimes: homicide; sexual assault; and other crimes against persons. This use has been termed High-Risk Victim Offender Dialogue (HRVOD) by various practitioners. In this article, Marty Kovener, a victim services provider, defines the practice of HRVOD and the values upon which it should be based.
Stutzman Amstutz, Lorraine and Achilles, Mary. Victim Services and Victim-Offender Mediation Programs: Can They Work Together
Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz is the director of the Mennonite Central Committee’s Office on Crime and Justice. Mary Achilles is the governor-appointed victim advocate for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For years they have collaborated to offer workshops on bringing together victim service programs and victim-offender mediation programs. From their own experiences and perspectives, as well as those of others, Amstutz and Achilles know that victim advocacy and victim-offender mediation often do not easily coexist, much less work together. Yet Amstutz and Achilles both believe that, for justice to be truly restorative, victim service programs and victim-offender mediation programs must work together. In this article then they share their hard-won insights on misperceptions people in each sphere have of the other sphere, and they offer strategies for bringing together victim service programs and victim-offender mediation programs.
Strang, Heather and Sherman, Lawrence W. Repairing the Harm: Victims and Restorative Justice
A chief argument for restorative justice, write Heather Strand and Lawrence Sherman, is that "the jurisprudence of retribution" has ignored victims' interests. In contrast, restorative justice would include victims in ways that victims and the public prefer, and would focus on repairing and preventing the harm of crime rather than exacting a just measure of pain from offenders. With this in mind, Strang and Sherman examine key claims about what victims want and what the public thinks they should have in relation to the disposition of offenders. In this regard, they present evidence from randomized field tests comparing restorative justice to conventional justice. Their overall aim is to explore whether a new jurisprudence should be developed around a model of justice that treats victims more fairly without harming offender rights or public safety.
Cyr, Katie and Wemmers, Jo-Anne. Victims' Perspectives on Restorative Justice: How Much Involvement Are Victims Looking For?
As Wemmers and Cyr point out, there is considerable debate about whether restorative justice offers victims a better deal than the current criminal justice system. Many restorative justice advocates argue that restorative justice certainly serves victims better; many victims’ advocates are wary or critical of the impact of restorative justice on the needs of crime victims. In view of this debate, Wemmers and Cyr ask, “Who is right? Do victims want to participate in the criminal justice process, and if so, how?â€? To answer, they present data from a study with victims of crime who were invited to participate in victim-offender mediation. As part of this, Wemmers and Cyr discuss the issues in the debate, procedural justice theory, and recommendations for a victim-oriented approach to criminal justice.
Umbreit, Mark S and Coates, Robert B and Vos, Betty. The Impact of Victim-Offender Mediation: Two Decades of Research.
Innovation and reform in criminal justice often suggest more than they deliver. Sometimes an innovation is new more in name than in underlying program values and content, and sometimes a reform is embraced with enthusiasm but without scrutiny. As one of the oldest and most widely used expressions of restorative justice around the world, victim-offender mediation (VOM) has exhibited both of these traits at times and in places. Nevertheless, VOM is, the authors assert, one of the most empirically grounded of emerging justice interventions. Against this background, the authors offer an overview of thirty eight empirical studies designed to assess the growth, implementation, and impact of VOM programs. Umbreit, Coates, and Vos summarize and comment upon the research results with particular attention to client satisfaction, fairness, restitution, diversion, recidivism, cost, and VOM and violent crimes.
Gustafson, Dave. Exploring Treatment and Trauma Recovery Implications of Facilitating Victim Offender Encounters in Crimes of Severe Violence: Lessons from the Canadian Experience.
This chapter first describes research undertaken in 1989 with victims/survivors and inmates that led to the development of the program. A case study that involves an adult male survivor of child sexual abuse illustrates the process and the healing outcomes for this survivor, for the members of his family, and for the offender. Some of the issues raised by the case are explored, notably the nature of trauma and how guided communication between victims, offenders, and other involved parties can assist recovery. The presentation of the case study is followed by a review of the history of the program. There is growing evidence of the therapeutic impact of victim-offender mediation upon the participants. Victims often report that the mediation experience has helped in their recovery from trauma, including a diminishing of severe symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Participating offenders have also described the mediation process as healing. Therapists and prison program facilitators have reported observing significant increases in victim empathy and a commitment to relapse prevention in offenders who have participated. Other jurisdictions are implementing similar programs with technical assistance from FRCJIA staff. The first 15 years of the program have continued to show the value of mediation in helping to heal the harms caused by violent offenses. Well-conceived victim-offender dialog models, especially when informed by trauma recovery and offender treatment research, are apparently effective in bringing positive outcomes even for cases of violent crimes. Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
Szmania, Susan Jennifer. Victim Offender Mediation Media Coverage Has Both Potential and Pitfalls
Restorative justice initiatives such victim offender mediation (VOM) programs are currently enjoying increased national media attention. In the past year, several magazines and television and radio talk shows have devoted space to restorative justice programs. The journalist Jan Goodwin, for example, has published articles on victim offender mediation in the April 2004 issue of O Magazine and in the May 2004 issue of Marie Claire magazine. On television, coverage has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in November 2004 and on The Larry King Show in January 2005. Online discussions have also been held, such as one on Oprah’s discussion board ( For advocates of restorative justice, this national media attention is exciting. It not only raises public awareness about restorative justice, but it also opens doors for sources of much-needed funding for new and existing programs. However, this increased media attention requires more scrutiny of how VOM is presented because of the misconceptions that may be inadvertently promoted through the media spotlight. To illustrate the potentials and pitfalls of media involvement in VOM, this article looks at three recent VOM television and online presentations. These sources include The Oprah Winfrey Show entitled. “Coming Face to Face with Your Attackerâ€? from October 25, 2004 on the topic of restorative justice, the Oprah After the Show program that subsequently aired the question and answer session following the main program on a cable television channel, and the discussion board in response to the television show. (excerpt)
Cyr, Katie and Wemmers, Jo-Anne. Victims' Perspectives on Restorative Justice: How Much Involvement are Victims Looking For?
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, the crime victim is relegated to the role of witness to a crime against the state. Due to concerns over the possible threat to the rights of the accused, victim vindictiveness and sentencing severity, victim participation in the criminal justice system has been met with resistance. In relation to restorative justice, while victims are clearly considered to be parties with a stake in the offense, victim satisfaction is not always a goal of restorative justice. This leads to the possibility of restorative justice programs being insensitive to the needs of crime victims, thereby placing an additional burden on the victim. This paper presents data from a study of 56 victims of crime who participated in a victim-offender mediation program in Montreal, Canada and presents an understanding of the role that victims prefer to play in the criminal justice process. The data suggest that the majority of victims are well aware of the risk of introducing arbitrariness into sentencing if victims are granted decisionmaking power. Most victims are clear that while they want input, they are content to leave decision control in the hands of authorities. Victims seem to want recognition. They want to have a voice in the criminal justice process. Victims want a voice that will be heard, but where they won’t bear the burden of decisionmaking power. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
Szmania, Susan Jennifer. Beginning difficult conversations: An analysis of opening statements in Victim Offender Mediation/Dialogue
In this dissertation, I provide a discourse analysis of mediators, victims, and offenders’ opening statements in the Victim Offender Mediation/Dialogue (VOMD) program in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. VOMD is available to willing victims of violent crime who would like to meet with their convicted offenders with the aid of a mediator. Previous research indicates that participants are satisfied with the process and outcome of this newly emerging type of mediation, but little research has addressed the communication in these difficult conversations. A general practical question motivates this discourse-centered analysis: how do participants begin the Mediation/Dialogue sessions? Drawing from grounded practical theory, the analysis addresses two levels. First, at the technical level, I use action-implicative discourse analysis to transcribe participants’ opening statements in five cases. Second, at the problem level, I investigate the tensions that are inherent in initial moments of the dialogue, both at an institutional level and at an interpersonal level. The technical level finds that the participants in five cases display prosocial communicative practices in their opening statements. Mediators employ both procedural and orientational features that orient the participants to the ideology and process of the mediation session. Victims acknowledge the offender, equalize their position with the offender, discuss their spirituality, and may also express forgiveness to the offender in their opening statements. Offenders begin by talking about the difficulty of engaging in the mediation session, discussing their identity in relation to their crime, offering an apology, and responding to the victims’ forgiveness when forgiveness is granted. Author's abstract.
Umbreit, Mark S. The impact of victim offender mediation: A case study
abstract unavailable
Umbreit, Mark S and Coates, Robert B and Roberts, A. Impact of victim offender mediation in Canada, England and the United States
abstract unavailable
Buntix, Kristel. Mediation in Homicide Cases: Opportunities and Risks.
This brief article provides a brief overview of victim offender mediation in Belgium from early pilots in youth justice to the implementation of restorative justice programmes in Belgian prisons.
Sider, Nancy Good. Peacebuilders Healing Trauma: The Journey from Victim to Survivor to Provider.
Using grounded theory methodology (Glaser’s building theory from a data base), this research examines how peacebuilders heal violent trauma they have personally endured, with the aim of identifying common themes in their journeys from victim to survivor to provider. Using an appreciative interview format (Cooperrider and Whitney) designed to acknowledge traumatic experiences with the equally important need to identify the source of resilience; the interviews with selected peacebuilders show how, beyond surviving the trauma, they transcend it, choosing a vocation of peacebuilding in violent conflicts while risking secondary traumatization and compassion fatigue. The eight peacebuilders in this study suffered and transcended catastrophic traumas such as kidnapping, terrorism, bombing, war and physical assault. They work in trauma healing centers, restorative justice, international mediation, and relief and development work around the globe, including El Salvador, Ghana, Northern Ireland, Kenya, Bosnia-Herzegovina, New Zealand, United States and India. (author’s abstract).

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