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The number of VOM programs is increasing in communities throughout the country, and the principles and guidelines in The Restorative Justice and Mediation Collection will contribute to the development of the highest quality victim-sensitive mediation services possible. Considerable room, however, remains for continued experimentation in this emerging field.

At least three significant trends have developed in the field. First, the number of victim-offender mediation programs working with property crime and minor assaults has steadily increased and is likely to expand further in the coming years. At the time of the national survey, more than 1,200 programs had been identified worldwide, with 300 programs in the United States and the balance developing in Europe and other parts of the world.

Second, other forms of victim-offender dialogue such as family group conferencing and peacemaking circles are emerging in various locations. Increasingly, a growing number of established VOM programs are employing a multimethod approach that offers a range of victim-offender communication options, from small one-on-one mediation sessions to large group conferences or circles involving many family members and other involved community members. In fact, one of the most illuminating findings of the national survey was that the vast majority of current victim-offender mediation programs routinely involve parents in the process, and sometimes other support persons as well. The original one-on-one mediation model that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s appears to be used less and less.

Finally, it is clear that an increasing number of VOM programs are receiving referrals for cases of severely violent offenses. At least six States are developing statewide programs that offer mediation and dialogue to those victims and survivors of severe violence who have expressed a need to meet their offenders. These new initiatives are often developed through the victim services office of a State's department of corrections. The programs in Ohio and Texas are particularly well developed and are the subject of a new multiyear evaluation being conducted to assess the impact of victim-offender mediation and dialogue in such crimes as sexual assault, attempted homicide, and first-degree murder. All of these trends bode well for more extensive engagement of crime victims in the process of restorative justice.

These trends also raise a number of difficult issues and highlight numerous unanswered questions, such as the following:

  • Will the pressure to develop new programs and to handle an increasing number of cases compromise the underlying principles of victim-sensitive mediation?

  • In their haste to manage increasing caseloads, will programs eliminate the separate in-person premediation preparation meetings that are so integral to creating safe conditions for dialogue?

  • As more family and community members participate in newer forms of victim-offender communication, will the primary interests and needs of crime victims be diminished?

  • As new programs develop, will they gravitate toward the dominant settlement-driven type of mediation, rather than the dialogue-driven approach of humanistic mediation that has been found to be highly victim-sensitive?

  • As more community volunteers serve as mediators, will they receive adequate training in victim-sensitive mediation practices?

  • Will programs and individual mediators work with severely violent offenses without the necessary advanced training and therefore increase the probability of revictimizing the victim or victimizing the offender?

  • As programs expand to work with severely violent crime cases, will mediators in such cases engage the parties in multiple in-person preparation meetings over many months or will they yield to the inevitable pressure to process cases quickly?

  • How is the labor-intensive cost of providing victim-sensitive mediation in crimes of severe violence to be covered?

  • Should the cost of VOM in crimes of severe violence be covered by State victim compensation laws for those victims and survivors of severely violent crime who request a meeting with their offenders?

  • Are correctional officials likely to allow a meeting between a victim of severe violence and the offender (who is usually incarcerated) to occur in the prison?

Preliminary data indicate exceptionally high levels of client satisfaction with the process and outcome of VOM and dialogue in crimes of severe violence. The process is designed to hold offenders truly accountable, help victims manage the loss resulting from the crime, and help all parties move on with their lives in a positive way. The constructive potential that victim-offender mediation holds warrants continued support for additional studies.

OVC plans to publish two documents as additions to the collection in the future.

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OVC Bulletin, July 2000
The Restorative Justice and Mediation Collection:
Executive Summary
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