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Appendix C. Profiles of Programs

The following seven programs were selected as representative of established programs, large and small, operating in a variety of settings. In addition to basic program information, the descriptions include special program features. Additional information was drawn from responses to the following telephone interview questions: "In what ways do you think your program is currently sensitive to the needs of victims?" and "What are your ideas of things that could be done to make your program more sensitive to the needs of victims?"

Fresno, California

Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) of the Central Valley, Inc.
Ron Claassen, Program Director
1717 South Chestnut Avenue
Fresno, CA 93702
209-251-1549

Overview

The Fresno program conducted its first victim-offender meeting in 1983. Mediations are conducted at several points in the justice process—diversion, post-adjudication but predisposition, and post-disposition—as part of the informal probation diversion and at post-adjudication as part of disposition. The New Community Justice Conference Process replaces arraignment, adjudication, and disposition (except for acceptance of agreement as a restorative justice sentence). Of the cases referred in 1996, 55 percent were mediated, and agreements were written in 95 percent of those cases.

Type of Agency: A church-based 501C-3 with board members representing a wide range of communities and churches.
Primary Sources of Funding:
Churches, businesses, and individual contributions.
Staff: 6.
Volunteers: 250.
Current Annual Budget: $100,000.
Juvenile Cases Referred in 1996: 598.
Adult Cases Referred in 1996: 30.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Felonies: 25.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Misdemeanors: 75.
Primary Source of Referrals: Probation officers.
Most Common Offenses Referred: Vandalism, theft, battery.
Serious Offenses Mediated: Assault with a deadly weapon, assault with bodily injury, involuntary manslaughter, rape.

Special Features

  • Continuing education training of mediators includes victim service providers and crime victims who have participated in mediations as guest speakers.

  • Experienced volunteer mediators are used in training to coach role-play groups and to assist them in debriefing after the process.

  • Mediators work with juvenile offenders to help them understand the mediation experience, supporting them through a process that they typically find much more difficult than treatment or incarceration. Offenders comment, "I get it now—it made me think about the victim. [Previously] I didn't think about the victim's wants—I just thought about me."

  • When possible, the program helps offenders find jobs to earn money to pay restitution.

  • The mediation session includes recognizing the injustice (victims and offenders are invited to restate or summarize what the other party has said); restoring equity (restitution of many forms); and clarifying future intentions (preferably including family members who can encourage the offender and hold him or her accountable).

  • Additional participants may be present during the mediation session, such as representatives of the school system, the community, and the faith community.

  • The VORP community justice conference includes the offender; the offender's immediate and extended family, teacher, and faith community representative; the victim; the victim's support persons and faith community representative; the probation officer; the police officer; and the VORP mediator as leader.

Practices To Heighten Sensitivity

  • Devote time as needed to listening to the victims.

  • On the first visit with victims, let them know that they are being heard and understood and validate their experience.

  • Ensure that the entire mediation process allows the victims to be heard and validated.

  • Consult first with victims regarding the site for mediation.

  • Conduct followup meetings as needed to complete the agreement.

Orange, California

Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program
Institute for Conflict Management
Scott Mather, Director
2525 North Grand, Suite N
Santa Ana, CA 92705

Overview

The Orange County Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program began in 1989. Mediations are conducted at several points in the judicial process: prefiling from local law enforcement, diversion, and post-adjudication but pre-disposition. In 1996, approximately 50 percent of the referred cases were mediated. Of those cases mediated, 60 percent resulted in written agreements, and 95 percent of the agreements were completed successfully.

Type of Agency: Private community-based.
Primary Source of Funding:
Local government.
Staff:
9.
Volunteers: 150.
Current Annual Budget:
$265,000.
Juvenile Cases Referred in 1996: 900.
Adult Cases Referred in 1996:
100.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Felonies:
0.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Misdemeanors:
100.
Primary Sources of Referrals:
Probation officers, police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, victim advocates, community members.
Most Common Offenses Referred: Assault and battery, vandalism, petty theft.

Special Features

  • Mediators receive 25 hours of classroom training, after which they observe two cases facilitated by an advanced mediator. They then are observed by an advanced mediator while comediating cases.

  • Actual case experiences are presented during the training of mediators.

  • Occasionally volunteer mediators use their own professional offices as sites for the mediation sessions.

  • Intake staff contact the victim first to confirm basic data before the mediator calls.

  • Plans are being made for volunteers to conduct face-to-face followup interviews with participants 4 to 6 weeks after the mediation.

  • Staff members work closely with a lobbyist to secure legislation that supports victim-offender mediation.

Practices To Heighten Sensitivity to Victims

  • Meet the offender first, before contacting victims.

  • Provide victims with some degree of control over the process.

  • Offer victims the opportunity to speak first in the mediation session and to ask questions.

  • Make sure the process addresses victims' needs.

Elkhart, Indiana

Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program
Center for Community Justice
Trysha Miller, Coordinator
Jolene VonGunten, Coordinator
121 South Third Street
Elkhart, IN 46516
219-295-6149

Overview

The Elkhart Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program was established in 1978 as the first U.S. replication of a model developed in Kitchener, Ontario, in 1974. Mediations are conducted at the following stages in the justice process: diversion, post-adjudication but predisposition, and post-disposition. Of the cases referred in 1996, 26 percent were mediated. Written agreements were reached in 100 percent of those cases, and 95 percent of the agreements were successfully completed.

Type of Agency: Private community-based.
Primary Sources of Funding: Local government, foundations.
Staff: 2.
Volunteers: 15.
Current Annual Budget:
$110,000.
Juvenile Cases Referred in 1996:
330.
Adult Cases Referred in 1996:
50.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Felonies:
70.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Misdemeanors:
30.
Primary Sources of Referrals:
Probation officers, judges, prosecutors.
Most Common Offenses Referred:
Theft, burglary, auto theft.
Serious Offenses Mediated:
Assault with a deadly weapon, assault with bodily injury.

Special Features

  • The victim assistance Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program makes initial contact with the victim before mediation is explored as an option.

  • Guest speakers for training sessions include judges, probation officers, and representatives of the program.

  • Assumptions about victims are discussed during training; stereotypes of vindictiveness of victims are challenged by sharing actual victim stories.

  • In the training of mediators, emphasis is placed on the ways that victim-offender mediation differs from classical forms of mediation.

  • Mediations are typically held in the program office to ensure safety, privacy, and confidentiality.

Practices To Heighten Sensitivity to Victims

  • Take time with each victim.

  • Discuss various options with the victim.

  • Inform the victim of his or her rights.

  • Assist the victim in getting questions answered.

  • Encourage offenders to consider what they might say to the victim—if they were the victim, what might they want to hear?

Des Moines, Iowa

Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program
Restorative Justice Center
Polk County Attorney
Teri Gillenwater, Program Coordinator
206 Sixth Avenue, Suite E
Des Moines, IA 50309
515-286-3737

Overview

The Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program of Polk County has been in operation since 1992. Mediations are conducted at diversion, post-adjudication but pre-disposition, and post-disposition stages in the justice process.

Type of Agency: Prosecuting attorney.
Primary Source of Funding:
Local government.
Staff:
5.
Volunteers: 9.
Current Annual Budget:
$356,649 (includes community mediation program).
Juvenile Cases Referred in 1996: 20.
Adult Cases Referred in 1996: 1,300.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Felonies:
20.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Misdemeanors:
80.
Primary Sources of Referrals:
Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys.
Most Common Offenses Referred:
Theft, assault, drunk driving, criminal mischief.
Serious Offenses Mediated: Assault with a deadly weapon, assault with bodily injury, negligent homicide.

Special Features

  • Mediators, known as "facilitators," are trained in victim sensitivity by Polk County Victim Services personnel and by crime victims who make up a victim impact panel. Trainees occasionally visit a local prison.

  • Training consists of 30 hours of basic mediation training, followed by 10 hours specific to victim-offender mediation. Mediators then observe cases for 2 to 3 months before they are prepared to conduct the sessions themselves.

  • Before mediators are considered for victim-offender mediation training, they must have 6 to 12 months of intensive experience conducting community mediations.

  • All mediators are paid a modest stipend.

  • If intake staff become aware of additional issues or needs of participants, they may offer to contact victim services, probation, or other agencies to obtain immediate assistance for the parties.

  • During the final evaluations, probation officers ask offenders what they believe will most help them avoid reoffending. Offenders who have experienced mediation often respond, "The one thing that helped me see what crime really does, was meeting the victim; I had no idea I hurt an individual."

Practices To Heighten Sensitivity to Victims

  • Provide victims of all crimes with an advocate who offers support through the victim-offender mediation process and is present at the mediation session.

  • Prepare victims thoroughly for the victim-offender mediation process.

  • Work closely with victim services.

  • Provide the safest place possible for the mediation, making sure it is secure.

  • Additional ideas to enhance victim sensitivity: spend ample time with victims before the mediation; develop educational videotapes to describe the program; provide community education using victim impact panels; spend time with judges and county attorneys and have them observe a mediation.

Caledonia, Minnesota

Houston County Mediation and Victim Services
Houston County Courthouse
Julie Thompson, Director
Houston County Courthouse, Room 210
304 South Marshall Street
Caledonia, MN 55921
507-724-5831

Overview

The victim-offender mediation program in Houston County has been in operation since 1994. In this program, mediations are done as diversions, at pre-disposition, and at post-disposition. Approximately 45 percent of the cases referred in 1996 were mediated. Of those mediated, 95 percent resulted in a written agreement, and 100 percent of those agreements were successfully completed.

Type of Agency: Victim services.
Primary Source of Funding: State government.
Staff:
3.
Volunteers: 10.
Current Annual Budget:
$30,000.
Juvenile and Adult Cases Referred in 1996:
122.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Felonies:
1.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Misdemeanors: 99.
Primary Source of Referrals:
Prosecutors.
Most Common Offenses Referred: Criminal damage to property, theft, tampering with a motor vehicle.

Special Features

  • Mediators receive 40 hours of classroom training followed by observation and
    then comediate at least five sessions.

  • Victim advocates and crime victims are invited to speak during the training sessions for mediators.

  • Because the program is used by the county court system, parties are occasionally sent directly from the courthouse and mediation is done at that time.

  • The program has added a family group conferencing component that is used when a case involves a significant impact on a neighborhood and on the community.

Practices To Heighten Sensitivity to Victims

  • Explore victims' questions.

  • Never try to talk a victim into participating in mediation.

  • When it is helpful, reframe what the victim is saying.

  • Learn by listening.

  • Encourage victims to be empowered. "As victim advocates, we have learned through this process that having someone in your corner (who takes over for the victim) is not always the best for the victim. How do victims heal? By taking their power back, by claiming some control. Victims face their fear and tremendous sense of loss. If you can put a face to it and can process it, this helps victims come to terms with the fear, so that it doesn't own them" (Program Director).

Stillwater, Minnesota

Victim-Offender Conferencing Program
Community Justice Program
Washington County Court Services
Carolyn McLeod, Coordinator
14900 61st Street, Fifth Floor
P.O. Box 6
Stillwater, MN 55082-0006
612-430-6948

Overview

The Washington County Community Justice Program is a relatively new program, begun in 1995. The Victim-Offender Conferencing Program conducts conferences at both diversion and post-disposition stages in the justice process. Approximately 70 percent of the cases referred in 1996 were mediated. Of those mediated, 99 percent resulted in written agreements, and 99 percent of the agreements were successfully completed.

Type of Agency: Probation.
Primary Source of Funding:
Local government.
Staff:
1.
Volunteers: 52 (43 community volunteers, 9 probation officers).
Current Annual Budget: $66,000.
Juvenile Cases Referred in 1996: 175.
Adult Cases Referred in 1996: 25.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Felonies:
60.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Misdemeanors:
40.
Primary Sources of Referrals:
Probation officers, judges, prosecutors, victim advocates.
Most Common Offenses Referred:
Burglary/theft, assault, harassment, damage to property.
Serious Offenses Mediated:
Assault with bodily injury, negligent homicide, vehicular homicide.

Special Features

  • Mediators are given 24-30 hours of classroom training, which includes drills and role plays, followed by apprenticeship on as many as three cases. During training, participants are given a folder with information on a mock case that they use in role playing. Mediators are also trained to facilitate small group and large group conferences.

  • Training of mediators includes guest speakers from the Victim-Witness Advocate Program, Probation Department, and the Youth Services Bureau. In addition, criminal justice and law enforcement professionals participate in a play depicting the experiences of victims and offenders in the current justice system.

  • Additional ongoing training is provided for mediators on communication skills, community resources, diversity training, and victim sensitivity.

  • Probation officers team with community volunteers to comediate cases beyond their caseloads. Juvenile probation officers mediate adult cases, and officers working with adult probation mediate in juvenile cases. Probation officers do not mediate cases in their own communities.

  • In addition to victim-offender conferencing between individual parties, small group conferences are also conducted. These conferences may include siblings, interested parties, and primary and secondary victims as participants. Large group conferences offer a restorative process to large numbers of participants-even entire communities. Self-selected panels represent the entire group, and attendees have the opportunity to provide written input.

  • The Community Justice Program sponsors community forums on restorative justice and other issues of concern to specific neighborhoods and facilitates dialogue within schools to deal with issues such as racial and ethnic tensions.

Practices To Heighten Sensitivity to Victims

  • Meet with victims at their request and convenience.

  • Listen.

  • Provide structure and a safe environment.

  • Assist with referrals for other kinds of help participants may want.

  • Follow up on agreements and notify victims of their completion.

  • Provide training and ongoing education on victim sensitivity.

  • Additional ideas that would enhance victim sensitivity: make 1-week and 2-month followup telephone contacts with victims.

Eugene, Oregon

Lane County Restorative Justice Program
Community Mediation Services
Beverly Moore, Program Manager
44 West Broadway, Suite 202
Eugene, OR 97401
541-344-5366

Overview

The Lane County Restorative Justice Program has been in operation since 1994, but dispute resolution services have been provided by the center since 1981. Victim-offender mediations are done as a diversion from the justice process. Of the cases referred to the program in 1996, 74 percent were mediated. Of those mediated, 100 percent resulted in written agreements that were successfully completed in 80 percent of the cases.

Type of Agency: Nonprofit community.
Primary Source of Funding:
County government.
Staff: 2.
Volunteers: 15.
Current Annual Budget:
$26,000.
Juvenile Cases Referred in 1996:
146.
Adult Cases Referred in 1996:
0.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Felonies:
25-40.
Percentage of Referrals That Are Misdemeanors:
60-75.
Primary Source of Referrals:
Juvenile intake counselors.
Most Common Offenses Referred:
Burglary I, criminal mischief, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Special Features

  • Training of mediators involves 30 hours of basic mediation training and 15 hours in the Restorative Justice Program. Following classroom work, trainees complete two observations with a supervisor/mediator, after which they comediate sessions if the supervisor assesses they are ready.

  • Guest speakers during training include juvenile counselors from the Department of Youth Services and victims and offenders who have participated in the program.

  • Classroom training of mediators includes a component on communicating with victims—what to say and what not to say.

  • In cases when the victim does not wish to mediate, the program explores the possibility that the offender could meet with a victim panel instead. In addition, mediators may work with the offender to construct a plan ("offender-only restitution agreement") or conduct shuttle negotiations between the parties.

  • Evaluations are conducted by volunteers from the Department of Youth Services.

Practices To Heighten Sensitivity to Victims

  • Listen to victims.

  • Provide input into the criminal justice process.

  • Encourage victims to tell their story first, if they so choose.

  • Offer the opportunity to process victims' experiences with staff to desensitize or debrief the victim on what has happened.

  • Additional ideas to enhance victim sensitivity: training on victimology.
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Guidelines for Victim-Sensitive Victim-Offender Mediation:
Restorative Justice Through Dialogue
April 2000
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