When someone breaks the law, the
normal process is to enter the judicial system
of crime and punishment. This is necessary to
protect society, but in many cases, both the
victim and offender are better served by
participating in a mediation that offers them
a safe space to be heard, ask questions, and
have a say in how to repair the harm that was
It is a basic tenet of restorative justice that one poor choice should not be able to define a person's future. This is not a “soft on crime” approach. It simply involves the victim in resolving the conflict. A Victim/Offender mediation (VOM) leads all those involved through a process of open dialogue and collaborative problem solving, which reduces fear, promotes healing, and often reintegrates the offender into a place of good standing with those they have harmed, their family, and their community. Nothing will erase the harm, but VOMs create a safe space to process what has happened in an open and honest way that promotes closure.
In the court system, lawyers speak for the parties in order to protect them and secure their desired outcome. Offenders may not have the opportunity to offer a sincere apology, explain themselves, or to gain an understanding of the many ways their actions affected the person they harmed. Victims also have lawyers who speak for them. Their questions would be out of place in a court setting, but in a Victim/Offender mediation, Victims have the freedom to speak their minds, ask their questions, and have a conversation with the Offender. In a VOM all parties work together to decide what consequences are suitable to repair the harm for their particular situation. In court, the judge decides the punishment and is limited by statutes for that crime.
Mediation is a simple process. In a Victim/Offender mediation we meet with each party separately prior to the group mediation, beginning with the Offender (and their parents if they are under the age of 17). This is an essential step to make sure the Offender is genuinely ready to make amends. We listen to their account of the incident, ask relevant questions, explain what will take place in the group mediation, and ready them to face the Victim.
Next, we meet with the Victim (and their parents if they are under the age of 17). We explain the purpose and process of a VOM, hear the Victim's account of the incident, ask about any residual difficulties, and explore options for restitution.
If both parties agree to meet, we will schedule a group mediation. As part of our service, we do our best to chose a meeting place in the community where the participants live. We also try to schedule meetings and mediations at times that coordinate with work schedules. It is important to us to meet the needs of our clients so as not to add to the difficulty of the situation.
During the group mediation, each person will tell their story - what happened and how their lives have been affected by the incident since that time. The Offender has the opportunity to take responsibility for his/her actions and offer a sincere apology. The Victim has the opportunity to share personal feelings experienced due to the incident, and voice any concerns. Both parties would then discuss restitution possibilities and ways for the offender to repair the harm.
As mediators, we will guide you through this process with dignity and respect for all involved. We encourage honest from all participants and ask that you speak respectfully with one another.
Most of our cases are referrals from the Juvenile Office, but individuals, parents/guardians, school, law enforcement officers, or community representatives may also request a VOM. While mediations have been practiced for many years, this process is relatively new and unfamiliar to most. We hope to change that. As transformative mediators, we are doing all we can to help families, schools, and communities understand this valuable tool. Within a mediation, we remain neutral and guard the parameters of the process. We make sure everyone is treated with respect and that mediated agreements are fair, reasonable, and will satisfy juvenile court requirements.
On a personal note, we believe this transformative program can change many lives and strengthen families. We would be happy to talk with you and answer any questions you may have.
Advantages of Victim/Offender Mediations
All parties are heard and deal with their conflict in a private setting.
Fear of revictimization is significantly reduced.
Offenders have an opportunity to understand the consequences of their choices.
Statistics show that after a VOM most Offenders complete their agreements and are much less likely to repeat their crime.
Most restitution agreements are accomplished with 6-months. (This gives the Offender time to show their remorse, better understand the consequences of their actions, and rebuild trust with their families, friends, and the community.
Who Can Participate in a VOM?
Our Victim/Offender Mediations (VOMs) are divided into two categories based on the age of the Offender. We offer Youth VOMs for Jr. and Sr. High students and Adult VOMs for Offenders age 18 and older.