The remainder of this bulletin provides a brief summary of each of the documents that constitute The Restorative Justice and Mediation Collection. Information presented includes a brief discussion of each topic, the current research and findings on that topic, implications for the future, and how each restorative justice program improves victim services.
A national survey of VOM programs was conducted in 1996-1997 by the Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work in St. Paul. This survey was made possible by a grant from the Office for Victims of Crime.
A total of 289 victim-offender mediation programs were identified through this surveyboth large, well-established programs that had been in operation for many years and brand new programs that had yet to receive their first case referral. Of the total, 35 programs were new and had not yet developed enough of a "track record" to provide program data. Extensive phone surveys were conducted with 116 of the established programs. The following themes emerged from the survey findings.
The findings that emerged from this national survey of victim-offender mediation programs contributed to the development of guidelines for victim-sensitive mediation practices that are documented in the OVC publication Guidelines for Victim-Sensitive Victim-Offender Mediation within The Restorative Justice and Mediation Collection.
Based on the experiences of VOM practitioners in the field of restorative justice over the past 20 years and the results of the national survey of VOM programs, it is becoming increasingly clear that victim-offender mediation can humanize the criminal justice experience for both the victim and the offender. VOM holds offenders directly accountable to the people they have victimized, allows for more active involvement of crime victims and community members (as volunteer mediators and support persons) in the justice process, and may reduce further criminal behavior by offenders. Victim-offender mediation and dialogue is intended to provide a restorative conflict resolution process that actively involves victims and offenders in repairing (to the degree possible) the emotional and material harm caused by crime. This process also provides opportunities for both victims and offenders to discuss offenses and express their feelings, for victims to get answers to their questions, and for victims and offenders to develop mutually acceptable restitution plans that address the harm caused by crime.
This publication lists the underlying principles of VOM and provides fundamental guidelines to follow when conducting a mediation session between victim and offender and suggestions to strengthen victim-offender mediation programs. The following is a list of the guidelines designed to help the mediator ensure the success of a mediation session:
The above guidelines are grounded in a humanistic approach to mediation that places more emphasis on dialogue than a written settlement. The humanistic approach demands that the mediator create a safe place to foster dialogue between the parties about the emotional and material impact of the crime; written restitution agreements often occur but are secondary to the importance of dialogue between participants. Multisite studies over the years have consistently highlighted the prime importance of direct dialogue that focuses on peacemaking rather than problem solving and resolution. Humanistic mediation has been applied in many settings including community mediation, victim-offender mediation, workplace mediation, family mediation, and peer mediation in schools.
The Guidelines makes the following program development recommendations to strengthen VOM programs and encourage evaluation and collaboration:
The Guidelines also makes the following recommendations for mediation training to promote high standards for mediators:
Guidelines for Victim-Sensitive Victim-Offender Mediation is meant to provide a flexible outline that can be adjusted to fit the cultural context of each community and the specific needs of the participating victims, offenders, and support people. The ultimate goal of VOM is to offer a safe place for dialogue between victims and offenders that can offer an opportunity to resolve the impact of crime on their lives.
The key to progress toward adaptation of restorative justice frameworks is increased sensitivity to cross-cultural issues and dynamics that affect restorative justice programs and the administration of justice itself. Often the cultural backgrounds of victim, offender, and program staff member are different from one another, sometimes leading to miscommunication, feelings of being misunderstood, or even revictimization.
A great danger when speaking of cross-cultural issues is overgeneralization. There are as many differences within cultures as between cultures. For example, significant customs, communication styles, and shared values distinguish the rural Caucasian from the urban Caucasian, the upper-class African-American from the lower-class African-American, the Mexican Latino from the Puerto Rican Latino, the reservation American Indian from the non-reservation American Indian.
Differences between persons raised or living in unlike cultures are often reflected in communication styles. Those differences are typically as evident in the way points of view are communicated as they are in the message being relayed. Differences can be found in the proximity between conversantssome are more comfortable speaking with less distance between them and others. Body movements such as posture and restlessness can vary from culture to culture. Paralanguage, or vocal cues such as volume of voice, silence, and inflections, can cause miscommunication between persons of different cultural backgrounds. Variations in density of language, such as terse, direct language versus poetic, indirect language, can cause tension and misunderstandings. Victim-offender mediation is more successful when persons working with victims and offenders understand how differences in communication styles can lead to miscommunication, which defeats the restorative justice process.
Cultural differences also exist within larger cultures. Racial identity, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, rural or urban environment, and many other defining characteristics shape how individuals view the world and their place and chances in that world and affect individuals' propensity to blame the offender, the victim, or the community for crime. Cultural factors also help determine whether participants come to a restorative justice program seeking revenge or repair, desiring to act or to be acted upon, or expecting success or defeat.
Multicultural Implications of Restorative Justice also makes recommendations to prepare restorative justice practitioners to be more effective. Recommended steps include the following:
Multicultural Implications of Restorative Justice emphasizes increasing awareness of and sensitivity to other cultural values or communication styles as an integral part of achieving success in the restorative justice process. Recommendations are made not to change behaviors but to reduce the tension and potential conflict that might surface without under-standing the differences in world view among the participants.
Family group conferencing (FGC) provides an opportunity for the community of people most affected by a crimethe victim and the offender and the family, friends, and key supporters of bothto talk about the impact of the crime and decide how the offender should be held accountable for the harm he or she caused to the victim. The facilitator contacts the victim and offender to explain the process and invites them to the conference; the facilitator also asks them to identify key members of their support systems who will be invited to participate as well. Participation by all involved is voluntary. The offender must admit to the offense to participate. The parties are brought together by a trained facilitator to discuss how they and others have been harmed by the offense and how that harm might be repaired.
FGC originated in New Zealand as a way to address the failures of traditional juvenile justice and incorporate indigenous Maori values that emphasize the roles of family and community in addressing wrongdoing. Institutionalized into law in 1989, FGC is now the standard way to process juvenile cases in New Zealand. Australia subsequently adopted the concept and has implemented a number of FGC models in various communities. Representatives from both countries have lectured and provided training workshops throughout the United States and Canada. Audiences have ranged from VOM and other restorative justice practitioners to law enforcement officers, school officials, and a growing number of victim advocates.
One Pennsylvania-based organization, REAL JUSTICE, is vigorously promoting a specific police- and school-based model that originated in Wagga Wagga, Australia. REAL JUSTICE has trained hundreds of police officers and school personnel and is working to replicate the Australian model in a number of sites in the country. The Minnesota Legislature funded the development of FGC pilot projects using the REAL JUSTICE model in nine communities in Minnesota's First Judicial District.
FGC is clearly grounded in Australian criminologist Dr. John Braithwaite's theory of "reintegrative shaming" of offenders with its emphasis on changing offender behavior (Braithwaite, 1989). It is also influenced by Silvan Tomkins' affect theory (Tomkins, 1992). Practitioners in the field found that by themselves these theories were not sufficient to address the importance of engaging crime victims in the conferencing process. Restorative justice theory did not play a large part in the origin of FGC, but it was later used to help conceptualize and fine-tune the approach, resulting, for example, in a greater appreciation of the centrality of victims' roles. Now, New Zealand Judge F.W.M. McElrea calls the approach the first truly restorative system institutionalized within a Western legal system.
Similarities to and Differences From Victim-Offender Mediation
FGC seems to be a natural expansion of the dominant model of VOM currently used by most of the more than 300 programs in North America and more than 700 programs in Europe. Like VOM, FGC provides victims an opportunity to express the full impact of the crime upon their lives, receive answers to any lingering questions about the incident, and participate in holding offenders accountable for their actions. Offenders can tell their stories of why the crime occurred and how it has affected their lives.
They are given an opportunity to make things right with the victimsto the degree possiblethrough some form of compensation. FGC primarily works with juvenile offenders who have committed property crimes, but it has also been used with violent juvenile offenders and adult offenders. This is consistent with the development of VOM in North America over the past 20 years.
Differences between the two programs include who fills the facilitating role and the number of participants. FGC typically uses public officials (police officers, probation officers, school officials) rather than trained volunteers as facilitators. Although these public officials' roles include mediation, they are more broadly defined, combining mediation with other methods of interaction and allowing for more directed facilitation. The FGC process also casts a much wider circle of participants than VOM, although the national survey found that more than 90 percent of VOM programs frequently have parents or other support persons present at the mediation session. Family Group Conferencing lists the advantages and disadvantages of the VOM and FGC models and also provides guiding principles to ensure that intervention for victims, offenders, families, and communities truly reflects restorative justice values.
Family group conferencing provides victims and communities with another way to facilitate recovery from crime. Like any good idea or program, however, it may have unintended consequences. FGC may not be appropriate for every situation; in each case it must be adapted to the specific context and needs of the individuals involved. Some cases might warrant family group conferencing instead of the smaller group involved in victim-offender mediation or vice versa. More serious cases may even require both forms of mediation. Most important, though, is that research and development in the field of restorative justice continue to pursue new ways to provide crime victims with options that effectively serve their needs.
The Directory lists victim-offender mediation programs in the United States, alphabetized first by State, then by city, and finally by program name. If no programs are listed for a particular city or State, it means that the Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking, the organization that assembled the Directory, has no record of a victim-offender mediation program in that city or State. The Directory is continually updated by the Center. The most current Directory is available online at ssw.che.umn.edu/rjp. You also may order copies by phone at 612-624-4923 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
OVC Bulletin, July 2000
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