This collection of six documents covers a number of important issues related to restorative justice. Four of the documents focus on victim-offender mediation, which is a major programmatic intervention that fully embraces the concepts of restorative justice. The first of these documents is the Guidelines for Victim-Sensitive Victim-Offender Mediation: Restorative Justice Through Dialogue, which assists administrators in developing or enhancing their restorative justice programs. It provides practical guidance for mediators to facilitate balanced and fair mediation, which will ensure the safety and integrity of all the participants. The National Survey of Victim-Offender Mediation Programs in the United States contains information about the characteristics of the various victim-offender mediation programs operating nationwide and the major issues facing them in their day-to-day operations. The Survey describes the actual functioning of the programs, while the Guidelines sets standards for the practice of victim-offender mediation. Next, the Directory of Victim-Offender Mediation Programs in the United States lists all identified victim-offender mediation programs in the country and provides their addresses, phone numbers, and contact and other basic information. The purpose of the Directory is to provide easy access for persons who would like to contact a given program. The Family Group Conferencing: Implications for Crime Victims document discusses a related form of restorative justice dialogue that originated in New Zealand and Australia and has been replicated in some communities in the United States. The Multicultural Implications of Restorative Justice: Potential Pitfalls and Dangers document informs practitioners about concerns regarding the implementation of such frameworks when working with persons of cross-cultural perspectives. The sixth document, entitled Victim-Offender Mediation and Dialogue in Crimes of Severe Violence, will be added to the collection late FY 2000. It will provide case study evidence suggesting that many of the principles of restorative justice can be applied to crimes of severe violence, including murder. In addition, this document includes a discussion about the need for advanced training for persons working with victims of severe violence.
The Office for Victims of Crime does not insist that every victim participate in victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, or other restorative justice intervention. Such participation is a personal decision that each victim must make for herself or himself. We strongly advocate, however, that all restorative justice programs be extremely sensitive to the needs and concerns of the victims who would like to meet with their offenders. No pressure should be placed on victims to participate, for participation must be strictly voluntary. Victims should be granted a choice in the location, timing, and structure of the session and a right to end their participation at any stage in the process. These protections for victims do not mean that offenders can be treated insensitively. Both victim and offender must be dealt with respectfully.
We sincerely hope that restorative justice programs already in operation in probation or parole agencies, judicial agencies, religious groups, victim service organizations, community-based organizations, or elsewhere study these documents and embrace the victim-sensitive guidelines that are relevant to their particular type of intervention. Restorative justice programs can only be strengthened by operating with heightened awareness of the needs of crime victims.
Kathryn M. Turman