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Family group conferences are an exciting development in the field of restorative justice. They open up new opportunities for crime victims to become directly involved in imposing sanctions on the offender. As with all innovations, however, potential pitfalls must be considered. Good ideas and programs may have unintended consequences. Particularly as a new program concept or model is being widely promoted, there is a danger of falling into a "one size fits all" perspective. Victim-offender dialogue, whether through victim-offender mediation or family group conferencing, has the potential for both benefits and risks. The intervention must be adapted to the specific context and needs of the individuals involved. Some cases might warrant family group conferencing rather than involve a much smaller group of people through victim-offender mediation. Other needs expressed by crime victims may suggest that victim-offender mediation is more appropriate. Some more serious cases may even require both: first the smaller mediation session and then, later, the larger conferencing session. It is hoped that those involved in victim advocacy, family group conferencing, and victim-offender mediation will continue the dialogue as new opportunities are sought for restorative justice in our communities and the available options and services for crime victims are expanded.

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Family Group Conferencing: Implications for Crime Victims April 2000
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