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).