Victim-Offender Mediation Program
The purpose of victim-offender mediation is to provide the opportunity for offenders and victims to meet. Trained community volunteer mediators arrange the meetings and facilitate a process that includes asking and answering questions, sharing feelings, discussing restitution and resolving conflicts.
Victim-offender mediation is built upon a response to wrongdoing called Restorative Justice. Restorative Justice shifts the assumptions that we operate under in addressing harmful behavior:
It recognizes that:
- Crime is both a violation of the law and an offense against individual people and the community.
- Justice requires the active participation of victims, offenders and the community.
- Victims of crime have the right to identify their needs and have them included in any plan of repair that is developed for a given crime.
- Offenders should be held accountable in ways that create potential for their reintegration into the community.
- The community should be actively involved in the design and implementation of justice so that local needs are met.
The litmus test of any true restorative justice program is whether it positively addresses the needs of all three of those impacted by the crime: victim, offender, and community. Not every action of the program must involve all three, but the program itself must stand upon this principle, otherwise it will be like sitting on a three-legged stool with one or two legs missing.
Victim-offender mediation fits the Restorative Justice criteria. In the mediation process community mediators seek ways for victims and offenders to recognize their mutual humanity and to empower them to find solutions that are satisfying and just in their own terms. Mediation allows offenders to accept responsibility and be held directly accountable to the person they harmed by participating in the process and drafting up restitution agreements that they helped to create. It takes victims out of the victim role by providing the opportunity to express feelings, ask questions of the offender, and then to participate in solutions that seem right to them. And, it provides community members a chance to be actively involved as mediators in the process.
The Mediation Process
Mediation services are provided by Neighbor-to-Neighbor, Inc. Juvenile counselors, attorneys, and judges in Benton County refer appropriate cases to mediation. Well-trained volunteer community mediators meet separately with victims and offenders to explain the mediation process. If both are willing to participate, a meeting time and place are arranged.
In these meetings, facts are reviewed, feelings expressed, and restitution discussed. The mediator facilitates this process. If an agreement is reached, it is written down, signed and returned to the referral source. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case is simply returned to the referral source.
Neighbor-to-Neighbor staff monitors the restitution process until the terms of the agreement are completed. Staff also tracks offenders for a full year to determine whether further offenses have been committed during that period.
In the mediation two unique things happen. First, the emotional issues of crime victims are addressed through asking questions and sharing feelings with the offenders. Second, the offenders are able to take direct responsibility for their actions by learning the personal consequences of their crimes and through coming up with a mutually agreeable restitution agreement with the victims. Neither of these results is furthered by any other service agency. This philosophy asserts that this process allows for the possibility of reconciliation and breaks the offender's patterns of anti-social behavior.
Research performed by Dr. Mark Umbreit provides statistical confirmation of the practical benefits of mediation between offenders and their victims. While 83% of victims who participated in mediation felt that they had experienced fairness, only 53% of victims who didn't mediate felt that they had been treated fairly by the criminal justice system. Over 90% of both the victims and offenders who participated in this research reported that discussing their restitution agreement was extremely important to them. Furthermore, Umbreit's research revealed that, "Victims are significantly more likely to receive restitution if they participate in mediation with the offender."
Restorative Justice Sites
- Center for Restorative Justice Peacemaking, University of Minnesota (Mark Umbreit)
- Restorative Justice Online
Victim Offender Mediation Sites
- Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program Information Resource Center
- Fresno Victim Offender Reconciliation Program
Victim Services Sites
- National Victim Center
- National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA)
- Office for Victims of Crime
Offender Services Sites
Mediation Dispute Resolution Sites
Other Sites of Interest
Victim-Offender Mediation Program
Benton County Juvenile Department
4077 SW Research Way
P O Box 3020
Corvallis, OR 97339