Archive for the ‘Top Stories’ Category

We’re Growing!

We’re Growing!

New Branch Office Opening in Papillion

Click To Download Press Release

We’re Growing!

We are delighted to announce the grand opening of a new office!

In addition to its current offices at 4225 North 90th Street in Omaha, Concord Mediation Center is opening an office in Papillion, to better serve those who live and work in Sarpy County.

The new office, located at 1223 Golden Gate Drive – northeast of Highway 370 and South Washington Street – is conveniently located near the Sarpy County Courthouse. It is on the upper level (east side) of the office building, next to Paragon Dental.

An official Grand Opening and Open House will occur on Wednesday, November 29, from 4 to 6 p.m. The local Chamber will conduct a ribbon cutting that day at 4:30 p.m.

Since 1999, Concord Mediation Center has served the people of Sarpy and Douglas Counties, providing alternative dispute resolution services including mediation and facilitation.

Now Hiring Executive Director

Now Hiring Executive Director

Join Our Team

The Executive Director of Concord Mediation Center leads Concord Mediation Center in fulfilling its mission, vision and values. Concord Mediation Center promotes a just and peaceful community by honoring all people, building their capacity, to act, and facilitating opportunities for them to engage in conflict constructively.

Education Required: Master’s Degree preferred. Bachelor’s Degree is acceptable with five years of experience in the field and advanced mediation training

Basic Mediation Training Required
Family Mediation Training Preferred
Other advanced mediation trainings such as Specialized Alternative Dispute Resolution, Victim Youth Conferencing and Child Welfare Facilitation are desirable.

Major Responsibilities and Duties:

Provides Strategic Direction for Concord Mediation Center

  • Aids the board in creating and implementing the strategic plan
  • Develops strategies to increase business and improve organizational outcomes
  • Ensures the agency has diversified funding streams in accordance with non-profit standards
  • Implements a development plan for the agency that includes but is not limited to developing relationships with local funders and foundations, grant writing and other fundraising activities.

Is accountable to the Board of Directors

  • Attends all board meetings and works with appropriate committees to prepare agenda items for board discussion. Typically, these committees are Executive Committee, Events Committee and Strategic Plan Implementation Committees.
  • Completes tasks as assigned by the Board of Directors
  • Regularly communicates with the Board of Directors particularly regarding financial information through reports, emails and phone conversations and keeps them informed of both internal and external issues
  • Assists the Board of Directors in meeting new board members and when approval comes, prepares the new board member for service to the Board of Directors
  • Provides leadership to the Board of Directors to cultivate board involvement in Concord Mediation Center and an atmosphere of productivity and commitment to Concord Mediation Center
    Aids the Board of Directors in fund and friend raising activities

Works with Director of Operations to ensure quality staff and programs are in place

  • Ensures quality staff are hired, supervised and evaluated
  • Ensures that adequate case management occurs so clients receive service which includes appropriate referral processes, scheduling, and case closure processes
  • Oversees and approves the coordination, training, selection and assignment of mediators both staff and affiliates
  • Ensures that staff and affiliate mediators have continuing educational opportunities to maintain and improve their proficiencies as mediators and facilitators
  • Ensures that all services offered at the Center have well trained mediators and facilitators to do the service
  • Creates new services and ensures program implementation
  • Provides leadership through staff meetings, and direct contact with staff and affiliate mediators

• Day-to-day operations of Concord Mediation Center

  • Attends to all matters incident to facilities management which includes but not limited to maintenance contracts, internet and phone systems, and furniture and equipment upkeep
  • Ensures that the office is run in accordance with procedures and policies approved by the Board of Directors

Manages all contracts of Concord Mediation Center

  • Ensures the agency is in compliance with those contracts
  • Ensures the contracts get updated and renewed as necessary

Ensures implementation of all board approved policies and procedures which include personnel, agency and financial policies

  • Works with the Board of Directors to ensure an annual financial audit and taxes are completed
  • Reviews and makes recommendations about new or necessary changes to all policies
  • Works closely with the agency contract accountant to ensure the annual budget is prepared, bills are paid, budget reports are prepared, and information is ready for the annual audit

Represents Concord Mediation Center in the community

  • Attends Office of Dispute Resolution required meetings and ensures Concord Mediation Center keeps its approved Center status for Douglas and Sarpy Counties
  • Maintains positive relationships with judges and the judicial system
  • Represents Concord Mediation Center at public functions and events
  • Maintains involvement in leadership groups, local, state-wide and national, that impact Concord Mediation Center
  • Serves as Concord Mediation Center’s spokesperson to the media

 

Send cover letter and resume to: contact@concord-center.com by October 31, 2017.

Celebrate Mediation

Celebrate Mediation

Mediation Week, Conflict Resolution Day Observed in October


Download a copy of the PRESS RELEASE: CONCORD MEDIATION CENTER OBSERVES MEDIATION WEEK AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION DAY

Let’s Celebrate Mediation!

A struggle or disagreement between people is known as a conflict, which comes from the Latin word conflingere. Conflingere means “to come together for a battle.” Conflicts can turn into multi-nation battles, but they can also occur in our home, at our office, in our school and in the community. Conflicts arise because there are needs, values or ideas that are seen to be different among people.

Since we human beings don’t always see eye to eye on things, conflict is a part of life. Yet, you can learn ways to manage conflict and diminish its harmful effects. Mediation is an alternative conflict resolution process, and it is being celebrated this month, during the American Bar Association’s (ABA) “Mediation Week,” October 15 through 21.

According to the ABA, over the last few decades the field of alternative dispute resolution has grown tremendously. The ABA recognizes that not all cases are well suited for the adversarial process and that there are multiple paths to justice, a thought that is increasingly shared by attorneys, judges and the public.

The ABA Mediation Week initiative, with the theme “Mediation, Civility and the Power of Understanding,” is a celebration of the strides undertaken to make mediation one of several appropriate dispute resolution processes.

Continuing this recognition of peaceful conflict resolution practices worldwide, the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) named Thursday, October 19, as “Conflict Resolution Day.” ACR designated the third Thursday of each October, starting in 2005, as an opportunity to:

  • Promote awareness of mediation, arbitration, conciliation and other creative, peaceful means of resolving conflict;
  • Promote the use of conflict resolution in schools, families, businesses, communities, governments and the legal system;
  • Recognize the significant contributions of peaceful conflict resolvers (including the trained staff and affiliates at Concord Mediation Center!); and
  • Obtain national synergy by having celebrations across the country and around the world on the same day.

This month, dedicated dispute resolution practitioners are helping to educate the public about mediation and other innovative conflict management processes. The ABA and ACR, as well as numerous other organizations, are working to raise awareness of the importance of mediation and conflict resolution.

How Can You Celebrate Mediation?

We encourage you to learn more about the processes of mediation, facilitation and conflict resolution education by visiting our website, www.concordmediationcenter.com. You are also invited to “friend” us on Facebook, for ongoing mediation insights as well as inspiring messages of peace.

Business Trainings Coming Soon!

We are planning a series of workshops for businesses, teaching managers and supervisors about conflict, how to deal with it effectively and learn more about how Concord Mediation Center can customize programs to help your business succeed! More details to come!

Announcement-ODR Approval-New Board Members

Announcement-ODR Approval-New Board Members

CONCORD MEDIATION CENTER RECEIVES ODR APPROVAL, ANNOUNCES NEW BOARD MEMBERS

September 22, 2017 – Omaha, Nebraska – Concord Mediation Center has received approval from the Office of Dispute Resolution and announced new members of its Board of Directors.

Nebraska’s Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR), part of Nebraska’s Judicial Branch, was created as part of the 1991 Dispute Resolution Act, which also created the six regional mediation centers. ODR gave approval to Concord Mediation Center, founded in 1999, to continue to serve as the approved mediation center for Douglas and Sarpy Counties during its annual ODR Advisory Committee meeting in Lincoln on August 18.

Mediation is available in all 93 counties of Nebraska and is a helpful problem solving process that empowers disputing parties to prioritize and express their wants and needs in order to arrive at a mutual agreement.

At Concord Mediation Center’s Board of Director’s annual meeting, new Board members were announced and officers were elected. New Board members are:

  • Greg London, Deputy Sheriff, Sarpy County Sheriff Department
  • Kristi Gibbs, Head of School, Brownell Talbot School
  • Mark Draper, Consultant to the Nebraska Department of Education

These new members join the existing Board members, including:

Board President – Pat Bourne, Vice President, AON
Vice President – Annie Bird, Community Leader/Volunteer
Secretary – Andy Rikli, Superintendent, Papillion LaVista Community Schools
Treasurer – Ron Volkmer, Professor of Law Emeritus, Creighton University
Cindy Ellis, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Elizebeth Murphy, President, Emspace Group
Tom Richards, Manager – Governmental Affairs and Community Relations, Omaha Public Power District

Concord Mediation Center, a non-profit organization, delivers exceptional service in mediation, facilitation and education/training in conflict resolution. The trained staff and mediators specialize in peaceful, forward-thinking, innovative methods to manage personal or professional disputes. Mediation is a voluntary, informal dispute settlement option that can be an alternative to litigation. Concord Mediation Center provides access to problem solving processes regardless of a client’s ability to pay.

“Conflict is a part of each of our personal and professional lives. Sadly, most people consider the only resolution to conflict is when one party is perceived as the ‘winner’ and the other as the ‘loser.’ Mediators work with the disputing parties to explore creative ways of approaching a problem to produce outcomes that satisfy both parties needs and interests. As a result, the parties are more likely to comply with the agreed upon resolution, as they both had ‘buy in’ to the creation of the plan,” says Concord Mediation Center Executive Director Cindy Tierney, M.Ed.

“The work we do at Concord Mediation Center is as relevant as ever. As part of our mediation, facilitation and education/training services, we continue to work with child welfare agencies, the courts and other service organizations to support children, families, businesses and communities. We are committed to finding new and creative ways to advance our outreach efforts, to bring peaceful conflict solving processes to the people in our service area,” notes Tierney.

“We are fortunate to have dedicated community and business leaders who serve on our Board. The Board’s main objective is to ensure our agency keeps its promises as described in our mission statement – ‘Concord Mediation Center creates pathways of constructive dialogue and conflict resolution through consensus building activities of mediation, facilitation and education’ – and that we are accountable for the way we do business. We are excited to have new Board members who bring enthusiasm and unique experiences to the table. The Board is focused on ensuring the organization provides effective and quality mediation services in a cost-effective manner to the people of Douglas and Sarpy Counties,” Tierney adds.

Members of the Board of Directors consist of leaders in the fields of education, business, law enforcement and marketing who volunteer their time and expertise on behalf of Concord Mediation Center.

Parents, School Come Together in Spec Ed Mediation

Parents, School Come Together in Spec Ed Mediation

Parents, School Come Together in Special Education Mediation

Special education mediation is a process in which a mediator helps families with a special needs child and school district personnel work together to create and implement a free, appropriate education.

The mediator is a third-party, neutral person who will help the participants come to a mutually satisfactory agreement. Mediators are trained not to offer opinions or solutions to the issues in dispute but rather to focus on assisting parties to hear one another’s concerns, identify common interests and seek out creative, mutually agreeable resolutions.

A mediated dialogue can take place at any point in the student’s education. This includes issues during the identification of a child in need of special education, to conflicts between parents and teachers or school principals, to questions regarding the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which is geared to a child’s learning needs and abilities. If the parents and educators are unable to work out the dispute themselves and a formal complaint is made, mediation is also a part of due process.

Why Should You Consider Special Education Mediation?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) created a law that promises every child with a disability a “free appropriate public education,” which means individualized special education and related services designed to meet a child’s unique needs.

However, each school district may have its own plans, tools and curriculum to meet those needs. And parents may disagree with the school’s plan.

Parents may have concerns they feel are not being addressed, and mediation is one option available to them and the school district. Parties may request mediation because they are committed to mending damaged relationships, but feel the need for a third party, such as a mediator, to help.

“Special education mediation has been promoted as a valuable process, in part, because of its promise for resolving such conflicts in a way that prevents the escalation of adversarial relationships and fosters norms of collaboration among parents and schools,” note Branda L. Nowell and Deborah A. Salem, in the professional publication “Remedial and Special Education.”

Jane R. Wettach, Clinical Professor of Law, Duke Law School and Director of Duke Children’s Law Clinic, wrote in “Preparing for Special Education Mediation and Resolution Sessions,” that successful mediation participants are:

  • Mentally ready, open to fresh thinking, willing to entertain new ideas and prepared to see others’ points of view;
  • Open to seeing people in a new light;
  • Optimistic about resolving the situation;
  • Willing to accept some level of compromise;
  • Willing to accept someone else’s proposal;
  • Respectful of the school district personnel’s time/money/need to take other children into account;
  • Able to assume that all parties are operating in good faith, want to see the child make progress and will carry out agreements.

Tips for success in mediation

“Everyone should be encouraged to go beyond conventional thinking, offer ideas to the other participants in the negotiations and be open to suggestions from them,” noted Wettach. “Everyone should work hard to avoid criticizing new ideas prematurely. The goal is to broaden rather than eliminate options. Everyone should strive for mutual gain. Certainly, everyone in the special education process benefits when the students and teachers are successful and behavior problems are reduced.”

Special Education Mediation service at no cost

Concord Mediation Center has a contract with Nebraska’s Department of Education to provide special education mediation at NO COST to the parties involved.

If you have questions regarding special education mediation, please call us at 402-345-1131 .

Encourage Civility

Encourage Civility

National Win With Civility Month

Encourage Civility at Work and in Your Community

“Civility” is more than just being polite to others. Civility is the way you conduct yourself when faced with rude, thoughtless or combatant people – especially when others have differing views or opinions than yours.

Civility has eroded in the last few years, reported 70 percent of respondents of a 2015 Customer Service Group study. It seems too many of us display a lack of cooperation or even simple common courtesy.

August is “National Win With Civility Month,” and this observance reminds us to treat customers, coworkers, family, neighbors and others with courtesy and respect.

The old phrase, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” may sound outdated, but the underlying notion still holds true. (Though, who wants to catch flies?) The idea is that you are more likely to get what you want with a genuinely pleasant, collaborative demeanor rather than with a harsh attitude.

Positive Mediation Outcomes

When you have a disagreement with another party that you are unable to resolve on your own, mediation is an option.

If you and/or the other party are utilizing ineffective communication tools when discussing possible resolutions, such as raised voices, inappropriate language, pointing fingers, interrupting, making faces, being sarcastic or shutting down completely, the opportunity to work with a professional mediator is a great avenue to consider.

When you enter into the mediation process, civility is an approach that can enhance your chances for a win-win outcome. This means coming to the table with the other party in a positive frame of mind. Acting in a civil manner means you will listen respectfully to the other party, you’ll state your relevant issues clearly and you’ll be open to negotiation.

Maintain Professionalism at Work with Civility

Civility can be just as important – and effective – at the workplace. “Healthy work relationships cannot live with distrust, nor without civility,” notes Ty Howard, former professional football player and motivational speaker.

Most people are more productive in a healthy work environment. This doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreements. In fact, disagreements can open the door to constructive discussions on ways to improve upon work processes. As Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, “It’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable.”

How can you help create a more respectful, civil and productive workplace?

  • Start small. Change your tone of voice or physical stance. You may not realize how you are coming across to others. Simple changes could make you seem more approachable, flexible and a good team player.
  • Listen. Focus on being a good listener and acknowledging what the other person is saying. (Instead of listening intently, most people spend time thinking about what they are going to say instead of actually hearing the other speaker.)
  • Be polite. Use kind words and behave by using your best manners.
  • Maintain calm. You may be tempted to get defensive when an associate is critical or rude. Remaining patient and staying calm will help you stay above the fray.
  • Find the “good” in others. It is unlikely you will get along with everyone at the office. But if you keep this positive trait in mind when interacting with a difficult person, you may be able expand your perspective of this person or at least maintain civility.
  • Serve as an example. When you don’t see eye-to-eye with an associate, remember to maintain civility. Don’t seek battles with co-workers just so you can be “right” about a topic. If others feel confident in voicing their opinions, everyone is more likely to work toward “the greater good,” knowing that the group effort will benefit everyone.

Contact Concord Mediation Center at 402-345-1131 when you need assistance in resolving issues with others, while maintaining civility.

Do You Know the Cost of Workplace Conflict?

Stay tuned for information about our upcoming “Lunch And Learns,” designed to help managers, supervisors and employees understand conflict and learn new skills to maintain office morale and productivity!

2017 Pathways Luncheon

2017 Pathways Luncheon

Service, Peace Are Inspirations for 5th Annual Pathways Luncheon

Cindy Tierney, Pat Bourne, Gene Klein, Annie Bird, Mark Draper, Elizebeth Murphy, Tom Richards, Kristi Gibbs, Andy Rikli, Grant Story, Greg London, Ron Volkmer

“We are fortunate to live in a community with so many talented, caring people! We were delighted to honor Gene Klein, Executive Director at Project Harmony, and Grant Story, mediator, minister and therapist, during our Annual Pathways Award Luncheon. This event allowed us to publicly recognize members in our community who share our values of peaceful conflict resolution, open communication and bringing communities together, as well as the opportunity to educate our event guests about Concord Mediation Center’s many beneficial programs and services,” said Concord Mediation Center Executive Director Cindy Tierney.

Another event highlight was the art display created by Blackburn Alternative Project Art Teacher Hilary George’s students. The students were tasked with reflecting upon what peace means to them, then bringing that vision to life.

Charitable sponsors and caring friends are an integral part of any successful event, and several local organizations, individuals and families demonstrated their support to help make this year’s Pathways Award Luncheon a success!

Luncheon sponsors included:

Additional support was provided by Schirber & Wagner, LLP; OPPD and emspace. Serese Cole, morning news anchor for WOWT Channel 6, served as the emcee.

Because of generous financial support, the awareness and money raised from this event will help us achieve our mission of “creating pathways of constructive dialogue and conflict resolution through consensus building activities of mediation, facilitation and education.” Most importantly, contributions will help offset our costs so all people in our community can access our services.

It’s not too late to show your support for Concord Mediation Center. Go to our secure online donation page today. Thank you in advance for your donation!

(All photos courtesy of Abe Jackson.)

 

Be a Good Neighbor

Be a Good Neighbor

Tips to Resolve Conflict

Be a Good Neighbor, Maintain Peace in Your Neighborhood

You come home after a long day at work, looking forward to a relaxing evening. You change clothes, grab the mail and a cold drink, then sit down outside at your patio table. Ahhhh…peace and quiet.

Instead, you hear the neighbor’s radio playing way too loud. You go back inside and you can still hear the pounding musical beats. It seems even your windows are rattling.

Before you stomp over to the neighbor’s house and demand that they turn it down, we offer a few tips to keep the peace in your neighborhood.

  1. Don’t react now, when you are angry, frustrated or impatient. Few people react well to emotionally charged ultimatums. And your problem isn’t likely to be solved. Or, you have created a tension between neighbors that reduces the quality of life for you and your neighbors.
  2. The next time you see the offending neighbor, take a moment to have a friendly conversation. Ask him about his garden, his kids, his work. You’ve created a setting that welcomes open dialogue.
  3. Once you’ve exchanged neighborly pleasantries, you can tell him how the loud music affects you. Don’t be defensive; rather, be direct and polite. Instead of angrily saying, “You must turn down that loud music,” we recommend you phrase your request in a way that builds camaraderie. “How can we work this out?” is a forward-thinking question that indicates you want to work with him to find a positive conclusion.
  4. If your neighbor indicates that he isn’t open to working things out, don’t call 911. This isn’t life-or-death, nor should you escalate the situation to this level. You have other options.
    • You may wish to contact your neighborhood association for their input, including acceptable noise levels.
    • Since it is unlikely either you or your neighbor are moving any time soon and you genuinely want to work things out, another option is mediation. When your usual problem solving skills aren’t working, consider the professional assistance of a neutral, highly trained mediator.

Mediation is more likely to help mend relationships, rather than end relationships.

Check out this article – also on our website – Why Mediation Works  to learn more. And feel free to contact us at 402-345-1131 for more information about how mediation can help.

Omaha Gives! 2017

We are excited to be a part of the metro area’s charitable holiday – Omaha Gives! on May 24! Check back for more details coming soon. Learn more at OmahaGives.org and get ready to prove how generous Omaha can be!

The Power of Listening

The Power of Listening

March is International Listening Awareness Month

The Power of Listening

One of the most critical skills a mediator or facilitator can bring to the table is the ability to be an “active” listener. When working with people engaged in a dispute, our trained mediators use their active listening skills to go beyond just hearing words; they note what people say and do. They listen for facts and emotions. They acknowledge what the parties in conflict are telling them by clarifying messages, then restating those messages so everyone in attendance understands.

Mediators and facilitators build trust and credibility when they utilize active listening skills. If participants share their side of the situation and realize that they being heard by an active listener, they sense that they are being validated, not judged. Mediators recognize that disputants are more willing to open their minds to creative solutions when they feel respected and what they have to say truly matters.

“People start to heal the moment they feel heard.”
~ American author Cheryl Richardson

All of us want to be heard. Unfortunately, most of us are passive listeners. We spend our time waiting to interject our own point of view, rather than being an active listener. Can you recall a time you felt you weren’t being heard? Chances are, rather than being open to perspectives that are different from yours, you dug your heels in deeper and shut down the conversation?
Recognizing that people “shut down” and refuse to find common ground when they feel judged for their comments, our facilitators and mediators are experts at active listening. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Concord Mediation Center’s facilitators arrange a Family Group Conference (or FGC) to bring together families involved in the child welfare system, as well as child welfare agency workers, professionals and community resources. The purpose of this meeting is to create a plan that ensures the child’s safety and meets the family’s needs. (See “A Mother’s Voice Heard During Family Group Conference” on this website for a detailed story of the process.) Facilitators demonstrate their active listening skills to empower the parties to speak up, to give a voice to parents and extended family members and to concentrate on resolving the problems faced by the families that could lead to reunification or permanent placement of the child in a healthy home.
  • During a mediation, our mediators assist those in conflict work toward having a conversation that permits both parties to openly express their hopes for resolution. Communication-based resolution processes like mediation tend to improve the relationship between the parties, which can prevent or minimize future conflicts.

By learning the active listening skills our mediators and facilitators utilize, you can experience the power of listening.

Active listeners:

  • Make a conscious effort to hear not only the words the other person is saying, but also try to understand the complete message being conveyed (including body language).
  • Pay close attention and don’t get distracted.
  • Acknowledge that you hear what is being said. You can nod, smile or encourage the person to continue with verbal comments such as “yes” or “uh huh.”
  • Provide feedback by reflecting back what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is” is an example of listening with respect, without judgement and asking for clarification.
  • Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions and don’t interrupt with counter arguments.

Author Alice Duer Miller notes, “People love to talk but hate to listen. Listening is not merely not talking, though even that is beyond most of our powers; it means taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us. You can listen like a blank wall or like a splendid auditorium where every sound comes back fuller and richer.”

You can start practicing active listening techniques and use them in conversations with family members, co-workers, neighbors and others in your community. You’ll find that you become a better communicator, improve productivity at work and develop better, fuller, richer relationships.

Omaha Gives! 2017

We are excited to be a part of the metro area’s charitable holiday – Omaha Gives! on May 24! Check back for more details coming soon. Learn more at OmahaGives.org and get ready to prove how generous Omaha can be!

Victim Offender Conferencing

Victim Offender Conferencing

Healing and Hopeful

Victim Offender Conferencing is effective form of Restorative Justice

Following a crime, a victim may feel vulnerable and powerless. Concord Mediation Center’s Victim Offender Conferencing (VOC) provides victims the opportunity to meet with the individual who committed the crime. The goal is to hold the offender accountable for his or her behavior, while providing assistance and making amends to the victims.

(The following is a fictional VOC case study.) The Jones are an elderly couple who have lived in the same house since they married more than 50 years ago. One day, the couple notices graffiti on the side of their detached garage. Curse words have been spray painted in large letters on the building. The couple contacts the police, and during the interview, Mr. Jones wonders aloud if he and his wife are the targets of a local gang. What’s next? Will the perpetrators take the next step and break into the couple’s home? The Jones feel they are at risk for more property damage, if not something worse.

Another neighbor contacts the police, noting that she saw a young man in the neighborhood the day before the graffiti vandalism was discovered. The police use this tip to arrest a teenager, who later admits to the crime.

A VOC can be requested by a number of referral resources who think the offender would benefit from the process, such as a county attorney, a defense attorney, a probation officer, a diversion officer, the offender’s parents or even the offender him/herself. In this case, a juvenile court judge ordered the offender to take part in Victim Offender Conferencing.

TOGETHER, THE VICTIMS AND THE OFFENDER  FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT

Concord Mediation Center’s mediators conduct preliminary individual meetings with the offender and the victim to assess the appropriateness of this case, including the willingness of the parties to participate fully and benefit from the process. For the sake of our story, the mediators were convinced of the readiness of the parties, and moved forward, arranging for the VOC.

The meeting begins with Mr. Jones describing the incident. Mrs. Jones shares how the incident impacted the couple’s lives, by living in fear, experiencing sleepless nights and wondering how, on their fixed incomes, they would be able to fix the damage to their property. They ask the young man why they were targeted for this crime and if he understood why they didn’t feel safe in their own home.

The young man is faced with the knowledge that his actions were more than a stupid prank. Together with the victims, he sees the real human costs of his actions. The victims and the offender then figure out how to make things right.

The mediators help facilitate the discussion between the Jones, the teenager and the young man’s parents to find the best way for the offender to repair the harm he caused. The young man will use the earnings from his after-school job to pay for the paint and will arrange a date with the Jones to come to their house to paint over the graffiti. The teenager agrees to participate in a community-based youth group, to identify more positive peer groups. The VOC session concludes with all participants signing an agreement that specifies their expectations and commitment.

While this story is fictional, the steps are a realistic depiction of how and why this evidence-based process is an advantageous alternative to the court system.

Many Benefits of a Victim Offender Conference

A VOC:

  • Provides the offender the opportunity to take direct, personal responsibility for the offense;
  • Gives the victim a voice in the process that can assist in closure and healing;
  • Saves the community the cost of incarcerating another offender, by providing an intervention that has a high success rate in reducing recidivism (reoffending).