Amendments to the Resolution in Support of Victim-Offender Mediation

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Summary

Victim-Offender Dialogue is a face-to-face meeting, in the presence of a trained facilitator, between the victim of a crime and the person who committed that crime. When used in cases of low-level property offenses and first-time offenders, this method may allow the victim and the offender to settle their case out of court, thus saving taxpayers’ money on court costs. In other cases, victim-offender dialogue may provide greater closure and restitution for the victim and reduce recidivism by instilling in the offender a strong sense of the actual harm they caused to another individual. This Resolution encourages states to establish victim-offender dialogue policies or to promote the availability and utilization of such an option if it already exists. SEE AMENDMENTS IN PDF

Amendments to the Resolution in Support of Victim-Offender Mediation

NEW TITLE: RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF VICTIM-OFFENDER DIALOGUE

WHEREAS, victim-offender dialogue must be voluntarily chosen by both the victim and the offender. Dialogue may be pursued as an alternative or in parallel to the traditional process.

WHEREAS, a written agreement is reached that typically requires restitution, community service, no further offenses, and counseling. Failure to comply may lead to traditional prosecution, which can result in any of the penalties available for that offense up to and including incarceration; and

WHEREAS, victim-offender dialogue is different from mediating a civil dispute because one party has admittedly criminally wronged the other.  The purpose in a victim-offender dialogue is not to negotiate but to create a dialogue that allows the victim to discuss the impact of the crime, specify what is needed to make them whole, and obtain closure; and

WHEREAS, victim-offender dialogue is most commonly used for low level property offenses such as graffiti, shoplifting, and criminal mischief and in cases involving first-time offenders; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Department of Justice and the American Bar Association have recommended victim-offender dialogue since the 1990s and have published guidelines for its successful implementation; and

WHEREAS, there are over 300 victim-offender dialogue programs in North America and over 1,300 worldwide. In the U.S., at least 35 states have statutes that expressly provide for victim-offender dialogue. Most programs are for juvenile offenders, but a significant number are for adults;

WHEREAS, many victims want to engage in dialogue with their offender. In a British Crime Survey, 60 percent of property offense victims expressed interest in a facilitated face-to-face meeting; and

WHEREAS, victim-offender dialogue offers victims an expedited means of obtaining justice in contrast to protracted pretrial proceedings, jury selection, and the prospect of seemingly endless appeals; and

WHEREAS, research consistently finds that victims report higher levels of satisfaction with facilitated victim-offender dialogue than from the traditional prosecution process. Victim-offender dialogue may also have psychological benefits including reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

WHEREAS, a meta-analysis of 10 randomized studies examining victim-offender dialogue programs found modest, but cost-effective reductions in reoffending among offenders who participated in facilitated dialogues.

WHEREAS, researchers believe victim-offender dialogue works because an offender often realizes that their conduct did not merely violate the words of a government statute, but also inflicted real harm on an individual victim. In many offenders, this heightens their sense of empathy, instills accountability for their actions, and makes it more difficult for them to try to rationalize their conduct; and

WHEREAS, the  facilitated dialogue also allows the victim to get closure and ask questions often sought for closure that only the offender can answer, such as why the offender did it and why they were the chosen victim; and

WHEREAS, in many dialogues, offenders have the incentive of not having a conviction on their record if they do everything that is required by the agreement to the satisfaction of the victim, prosecutor, and judge. Without a conviction, the offender is much more likely to be employable; and

WHEREAS, when pursued as an alternative to traditional prosecution, victim-offender dialogue saves taxpayers’ money on court and prosecutorial costs and avoids the significant taxpayer expense of court-appointed counsel for indigent defendants. Many programs use volunteers as facilitators while others pay facilitators at considerably lower cost than trial court proceedings and appeals which can cost many thousands of dollars in the allocated time of prosecutors, judges, and lawyers; and

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the state of ______ supports giving victims the option to choose mediation dialogue in appropriate cases and urges state lawmakers and agency officials to implement policies that create the mediation option, or if it already exists, promote its availability and utilization.