October 27, 2011

Victim-Offender Dialogue for Serious Violence: A Case Study

Victim-Offender Dialogue (VOD) maintains a rich history and continues to be a substantial area of growth within the restorative justice field. This practice, informed by historic wisdom, refined by reflective practitioners, and supported by a growing cannon of research, facilitates unimaginably difficult conversations in the pursuits of restoration, understanding, and growth for all involved. It is a practice undertaken by some of our field's most skilled and empathic colleagues.

On the leading edge of this field are those applying victim-offender dialogue for crimes of serious violence (VOD-SV), including rape, incest, spousal abuse, and homicide. Now, thanks to the generosity of some of these practitioners, we can glimpse into this emotion- and tension-filled practice by way of a recent Conflict Resolution Quarterly article. 

Co-authored by Lynn S. Urban, Jeananne Markway, and Kay Crockett, "Evaluating Victim-Offender Dialogue for Serious Cases Using Umbreit's 2001 Handbook: A Case Study," is a wonderfully reflective piece glimpsing into the VOD-SV room and recommending opportunities for continued field growth.

Drawing on their article, the characteristics, benefits, and stages of VOD-SVs are outlined below. More substantive sections revealing the Missouri Department of Correction's VOD-SV program statistics, the authors' field recommendations, and identified best practices are now being shared within the Restorative Practices discussion group -- a listserve co-hosted by NAFCM and VOMA. I encourage you to join this group to learn about VOD-SV and other restorative practices, connect with colleagues, and share resources. Participation in this discussion group is open to all those interested in restorative justice theory and practice.

Characteristics of VOD-SV:
  • Victim-initiated;
  • Usually occur several years after the crime;
  • Usually occur within a correctional facility; and 
  • Involve high levels of emotion and tension.
Benefits of VOD-SV:
  • High process satisfaction from victims and offenders;
  • Opportunities for apology and forgiveness;
  • Victims’ safety concerns related to offenders’ release are reduced;
  • Less victim opposition to offenders’ release; and
  • Offenders are better prepared to re-enter the community. 
Stages of VOD-SV:
  • Case Development (assessment, contracting, and preparation);
  • Victim-Offender Dialogue (pre-dialogue briefing, victim-offender dialogue, and post-dialogue briefing); and
  • Follow-up.
Be part of the deeper VOD-SV and general restorative justice conversations. Join the Restorative Practices discussion group today!

In community,
Executive Director, NAFCM

Blending Transformative & Community Mediation

We are pleased to share with you an exceptional chapter from Transformative Mediation: A Sourcebook, co-published by ISCT and ACR. This chapter, entitled "Choosing to Change: Transitioning to the Transformative Model in a Community Mediation Center," is written by Jody B. Miller, Executive Director of the Mediation Center of Dutchess County. In addition to her many leadership roles within the transformative and community mediation spheres, Jody also serves as one of the moderators for the Transformative Practitioners and Centers discussion group co-hosted by NAFCM and ISCT. 

Jody's chapter provides an excellent first-hand account of integrating and administering the transformative framework within a community mediation context.  

As you read her experiences, I encourage you to join and engage the Transformative Practitioners and Centers discussion group.  Share your own experiences with transformative mediation, pose questions to Jody and other transformative-minded colleagues, and otherwise contribute to the group's conversation. 

For example, consider responding to the following questions:
  1. Practitioners: Does the community mediation program with which you are affiliated utilize the transformative mediation framework? If so, how does the center support your growth as a mediator? If not, how, if at all, has your personal mediation stylistic preference impacted the way you engage your local center? 
  2. Center Administrators: What have been some of the most significant benefits and challenges associated with your program's use of transformative mediation?
I look forward to reading your impression of Jody's important work and watching the conversation grow!

Special thanks go out to the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation for generously permitting this chapter reprint. We encourage you to learn more about ISCT and its definitive Sourcebook.

In community,
Executive Director, NAFCM

October 18, 2011

ACR 2011 Annual Conference - Daily Recap #4

Saturday marked the final day of ACR's impressive 10th Annual Conference. Though an abbreviated day, they managed to pack in plenty of opportunities for professional development and personal connections. The following final day recap is far too brief to capture all that occurred, so I encourage those in attendance to supplement this and previous recaps (Pre-Conference, Day 1, Day 2 [1] & [2]) with their own take-aways using the comments section below.

Performance-Based Evaluation

The first session of the day was another exceptional Harmon/Ennis-Benn production, titled: "Performance-Based Evaluation [PBE] of Mediators: A Case Study." Maryland's impressively designed PBE system is "one part of a continuum of education offered statewide by Community Mediation Maryland and locally by its member community mediation centers." The system evaluates mediators using Maryland's own Inclusive Model of mediation, itself a newer construct drawing upon the field's best practices and input from many mediation stakeholders.  As use of this new evaluation system continues, CMM and related programs continue generously sharing their experiences and incorporating feedback into regular updates to the system.  For example, you can listen to Peter Taillie's (Executive Director, Mid Shore Community Mediation Center, Easton) recent teleseminar detailing his program's experience with PBE on NAFCM's teleseminar recordings webpage.

Presidential Luncheon

The day's final gathering, the Presidential Luncheon, treated attendees with a great lunch, brittle and fruit sorbet cocktails, and, again, plenty of time to continue strengthening connections. It also featured the final inspirational speech by outgoing ACR Board President Lou Gieszl, who took time to recap the Association's accomplishments under his leadership, including strengthened connections with institutions of higher education, the recently endorsed Model Standards of Mediator Certification Programs, continued advancements in diversity promotion, as well as much more. Lou has been an exceptional leader for ACR and will be surely missed. Thank you, Lou!

Following Lou was Perri E. Mayes, ACR's incoming President Elect, who will continue to champion the Association's recent successes and inspire us as we continue to advance and grow the field. Personally, I look forward to working with Perri, who herself has a strong history in community mediation and is committed to working with field partners in ACR's various initiatives. Welcome aboard, Perri!   

Renewed Connections

There were an impressive number of community mediation folks in San Diego this year. In fact, when Woody Mosten asked a packed Grande Ballroom audience how many attendees were connected in some way to community mediation, I was both shocked and strengthened to see at least a quarter of the hands quickly raised! Though I likely missed personally connecting with many of these exceptional colleagues, I am grateful for the renewed connections with which I've left the conference, including those with such marvelous people as: Lance Allen, Linda Baron, Anne Bers, Hubert L. Brown, Karmit Bulman, Suzanne Burnett, Ken Cloke, Louis Cohen, Geoffrey Corry, Margaret Crowley, Christy Cumberlander Walker, Teresa Cusma, Cheryl Cutrona, Lois Edmund, Michele Ennis-Benn, Clare Fowler, Lou Gieszl, Sarah Gonzales, Alan E. Gross, Mary Hancock, Caroline Harmon, Tim Hicks, Pyllis D. K. Hildreth, Megan Johnston, Dai Kato, Kay C. Kenyon, Marya Kolman, Juliana Konze, Carrie Landrum, Jim Lingl, Perri E. Mayes, Catherine McCracken, Mike McLeroy, Jim Melamed, Jody B. Miller, Mary N. Miller, Ron Nelson, Jennifer Noffke, Tamra Pearson d'Estree, Charlie Pillsbury, Tim Pownall, Sharon PressDonzell RobinsonJonathan Rosenthal, Colin Rule, Duane Ruth-Heffelbower, Bill Stempel, Terri Stokes, Jeanne Tarantino, Avis Ridley-Thomas, Angelia Tolbert, Hector Valdez, Linda Waters, Bill Warters, Chris Welsh, John Windmueller, Rachel Wohl, Patrick Wolff, Zena Zumeta, and many other warm colleagues whose names I'll remember immediately after this posts. 

New Orleans 2012

And thus closes ACR's 10th Annual Conference. We hope many of you are already penning in ACR's 11th Annual soiree, scheduled for September 12-15 in New Orleans. NAFCM is planning an even larger presence for New Orleans (more details to come...) and looks forward to connecting with so many of you in the Big Easy! Until then, hope you've enjoyed the daily updates and found some helpful resources linked throughout the last five (3,200+ word) posts!

In community,
Executive Director, NAFCM  

October 16, 2011

ACR 2011 Annual Conference - Daily Recap #3 (Part 2)

The afternoon sessions and evening Section's gathering were full of community-worthy updates and definitely deserving of their own post. Read on for updates and plenty of helpful links...


Always the technology powerhouse at ADR gatherings, the peerless Mediate.com was solidly represented at ACR this year by its near-rockstar-status CEO Jim Melamed and the supremely knowledgeable and helpful Clare Fowler. (Does that earn me "Featured Blog" status?!) In addition to helping conference colleagues setup websites and streamline case management, these two also presented one of their reliably visionary presentations titled: "The Future is Here - Online Marketing, Case Management, and Case Communication." Though I was unable to attend, post-session buzz about their mention of NAFCM's partnership with Mediate.com quickly reached me. This partnership provides current NAFCM program members an up to 67% discount on the standard-setting, cloud-based Case Manager and a nearly 20% savings on their ubiquitous Dynamic Websites. In case you, like me, missed the future, you can always catch one of Mediate.com's Case Manager webinars, which are comfortably accessible from your own chair and futuristic hover chairs

Peacemaker Award

Kicking off the afternoon plenary was the presentation of ACR's Peacemaker Award, accepted this year by W. Timothy Pownall* on behalf of the Straus Institute's PRACIS Project in Faith Based Diplomacy. Tim is a gifted mediator and tireless champion of peace. In addition to his work with the Straus Institute, he also serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Conflict Resolution in Reseda, California. His extensive work both near and far should inspire us to embrace our shared humanity and discover opportunities for peace wherever we find ourselves. 

*Tim, along with his administrative right-hand-man and all-around-great-guy Chris Welch, actually gave me my first introduction to community mediation during an internship with CCR while I was completing Straus' Master of Dispute Resolution program. It was great to catch-up with both!

Journey from Mediation to Peacemaking

Moving next into Woody Mosten's plenary presentation, participants were challenged to conceptualize their work as more than mere resolutions to be packaged, consensed, signed, and triplicated. Instead, he encouraged us to view our work through a peacemaker's lens; a lens that takes both the long and deep views of human interaction and humanity's potential. 

Woody's challenge reminded me of the philosophical and promotional diversity found throughout the estimated 400 community mediation programs operating within the U.S. alone. Though equally responsive to their specific community's needs, programs vary widely on the motivating focus of their programming (e.g. emphasizing 'restoration,' compared to 'resolution') and the public image they cultivate (e.g. doves of peace, compared to scales of justice). Rather than bifurcate and strain our connections, however, these differences enrich our field and allow us to attract and introduce the constructive potential of mediation and other conflict-assistive services to wider audiences than any single approach alone would otherwise achieve. 

Increasingly this blended approach is not only visible at the macro level, but also within individual programs. Traditional community mediation programs are adding restorative processes to their service portfolio, and many restorative justice programs now also offer more traditional ADR processes to their communities. This blended approach is likely motivated by a number of economic, social, and pragmatic considerations, but the end result is a field more connected and with a greater capacity to assist those seeking justice of its varied alternative, informal, restorative, social, and other technicolored manifestations.

Real Dialogue in Restorative Justice

With so many exceptional presentations, many were frustratingly out of reach for any single conference goer to attend. Thankfully, I received updates from several colleagues in between sessions, such as Karmit's review of Rochell Arms A. and Jessica Hillard's "Creating Space for Real Dialogue in Restorative Practices - A Tale of Two Programs." Joined also by Bernard Le Roux via recorded video from Sweden,  this session outlined the use of adult victim-offender mediation for conflicts involving assaults, restraining orders, and pending criminal proceedings. Karmit shared her interest in the programs' acknowledgement and processing of reciprocal victimization often created in tit-for-tat escalated conflicts. This approach allows the participants to garner a deeper understanding of not only how they were harmed, but how they may have also harmed another and how the parties can collaboratively work to repair their collective harm. 

God in the Process

Karmit also shared a quick update on a session focusing on the presence and impact of religion within various conflict-assistive services. This session, "God in the Process: Is there a Place for Religion in Conflict Resolution Processes?," presented several examples of religion interlaced with conflict-assistive services, such as Ho'oponopono and those catalogued by Harvard's Global Negotiation Insight Initiative. While there are a number of community mediation programs directly affiliated with a specific religious institution or tradition (e.g. St. Louis Mennonite Peace Center and Jewish Community Justice Project), most programs' secular neutrality is professionally agnostic to yet personally respectful of participants' religious persuasions, specifically as they may relate to the substance or processing of a given conflict. This openness to and encouragement of mediation participants drawing upon their sources of strength is an example of how these programs embrace their communities' diversity and empower those burdened with harmful conflicts.

Missed Opportunities

Even with these additional updates, several more sessions were just out of reach but deserve notice. These included Jodie H. Jones' presentation on "Inviting Forgiveness into Restorative Justice Processes while Upholding Impartiality." The panel presentation on "Community Integration of Gang Members in the Bay Area: Understanding Gaps in Policy and Social Interventions." And Justine Darling and Jack Hamlin's "Peace Circle Use in Large Scale Community Conflict: A Case Study." 

If any readers were able to attend these or other sessions of note, I encourage you to share your take-aways in the comments section below for our colleagues who were unable to join us in San Diego.

In community,
Executive Director, NAFCM

October 15, 2011

ACR 2011 Annual Conference - Daily Recap #3 (Part 1)

Day two of ACR's 10th Annual Conference is now a wrap. From more Starbucks and a melon plate, to tomato and goat cheese soup shots, the food, the learning, and the connections continue to be exceptional this year! A huge congrats to ACR's hard working staff and Board of Directors for pulling together this opportunity to continually connect our field. 

Model Standards for Programs

Kicking the sessions off was a presentation for the first time of a new set of Model Standards for Mediator Certification Programs approved by the ACR Board of Directors earlier this week. The Standards, which set voluntary guidelines for "entities which have or wish to institute certification programs," have been an ambitious undertaking for ACR. As we review the Standards, NAFCM looks forward to engaging our network of community mediation programs to explore how these Standards may affect local centers that certify their volunteers, and what, if any, recommended modifications we may propose as ACR continually refines this living document. 

Community-Police Complaints

Next, was an informative presentation on a model program from the Western Justice Center on Citizen-Police conflicts. The presentation, titled: "Bridging Community-Police Divides: The Importance of Mediation and Dialogue to Peacefully Resolve Citizen Complaints," presented a solid example of how local community mediation programs can collaboratively engage local police departments to integrate mediation into an oftentimes high-tension, stereotype-laden, power balance-conscious conflicts. WJC's partnership with Pasadena Police Department represents a number of smart practices, including its eight-hour conflict skills training for officers, the ability to opt-in to mediation at multiple stages of citizen-police complaints (including pre-complaint filing mediation), engaging community forums, and WJC's commitment to continually evaluate and enhance the program's design and implementation.   

Mediators Beyond Borders International

Offering up a tasty selection of sweets, Mediators Beyond Borders introduced a full room to the organization's mission, leadership, and inspiring projects it performs around the world. MBB's focus on building and supporting communities' local capacity for conflict engagement is beautifully aligned with NAFCM's own mission to amplify peacemakers' voice, aggregate their wisdom, and advance our field. In fact, this synergy may open future doors for MBB/NAFCM collaboration as our respective organizations continue to explore new ways to support those in conflict. As you continue your own local work, I encourage you to also share your talents with MBB's global initiatives.

Afternoon and evening updates from the second day to follow...

In community,
Executive Director, NAFCM

October 14, 2011

ACR 2011 Annual Conference - Daily Recap #2

The first full day of conference sessions has now ended, and what an incredible day it was! Read on to learn about some of the more interesting community mediation happenings occurring throughout the day.

Diversity Plenary

Piping hot Starbucks in hand, I started off the morning with the luminary studded panel: "Diversity of Practice: What is the Future of Dispute Resolution?". Featuring NAFCM's very own former Executive Director and current FEMA mediator-extraordiaire, Linda Baron, the plenary engaged a series of provocative questions around the extent to which our field currently is and should strive to be process inclusive, profession encumbered, and "end-user" focused. Linda's notable inclusion notwithstanding, an acknowledgement and promotion of the community experience -- particularly our benchmark-setting work around client responsiveness, service accessibility, and mediator diversity -- seemed lacking from panelists' otherwise extensive musings. While this absence may seem more personally acute given yesterday's genuine group dialogue on diversity during the community pre-conference, I am re-motivated to work ever closer with association colleagues to ensure our community wisdom is more readily accessible and promoted within the big tent that is ACR.    

Peer Mediation

Slipping next into the outlet accessible back row of the day's first session, I was delighted to see our friends at Western Justice Center Foundation presenting to a packed crowd. Their presentation: "Beyond Peer Mediation: Approaches to Deepen and Expand Conflict Resolution Education for Youth," included inspiring updates about their annual Peer Mediation Invitational (older video). This program invites up to four students and their faculty/staff chaperones from each area school utilizing peer mediation to attend a day-long gathering featuring special speakers, mock mediations with professional feedback, a peace art project, student-directed training videos, and a recognition ceremony. WJCF has refined this invitational over the years to the point where it's now the regional can't-miss peer mediation event for students and program admins alike. Soaking in the presentation details were peer-focused administrators and advocates from all walks, many of whom signed up to participate in a new conference specific resource listserve. As materials develop through this medium, I will regularly cross-post them to the related NAFCM discussion groups.

ACR Community Section Luncheon

What can I say here, but "WOW!" We had an exceptional gathering of over 20 community program administrators and mediators, all proudly donning their "Community Mediator" conference ribbons and eagerly sharing their thoughts on how to further strengthen our field. Following an update on last year's newsletter, teleseminar, and conference accessibility accomplishments, we moved on to record over a dozen insightful and inspiring project ideas to keep the Section busy and it's partnership with NAFCM strong.

Higher Education Model Standards

Not an immediately obvious next session choice given the compelling community-focused alternatives, my attendance at the "Session Reporting on ACR Higher Education Model Standards Task Force" represents an important future community connection.  Over the past several months, I've had the privilege of representing NAFCM and the broader community mediation field on this ambitious Task Force. As the broader group has undertaken a learnedly nuanced assessment and visioning of standards for higher education dispute resolution programs, the practical implications of and exciting potential for community programs have been firmly in mind. In fact, an ambitious initiative to further strengthen the community/higher ed connection is in need of only time and technology for its Athenan birth. (Any interested collaborators out there?

Prisoner Re-Entry

Capping off the session day was the delightfully unpredictable yet reliably impressive Harmon/Ennis-Benn dynamo from the enviable Community Mediation Maryland braintrust. This session outlined the design and operational considerations for Maryland's statewide prisoner re-entry mediation service.  Well researched and well reviewed, the presenters recounted their dogged insistence on process integrity when designing this innovative service. By meaningfully challenging prison protocol and problem-solving with correctional collaborators, Maryland has founded a model program already flattered by a number of colleagues seeking to replicate and extend prisoner re-entry mediation programming elsewhere throughout the country. [Learn more about Maryland's experiences by listening to the Prisoner Re-Entry Teleseminar featuring Community Mediation Maryland's Executive Director, Lorig Charkoudian.] 

Missed Connections

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend all the wonderful community mediation related sessions...and fortunate attendees' high praise only deepens my regret. For example, I heard plenty of accolades for Steffanie, Theresa, and Samantha from San Luis Obispo's Creative Mediation for their presentation titled: "Developing Exceptional Volunteer Mediatiors: Implementing a Cohort Learning Model in Community Mediation Training." Similar kudos are due Jody Miller and Kristine Paranica for their informative "Screening for Domestic Violence" presentation. These and the many other timely, topical, and tantalizing sessions at this year's conference are certainly making session choice difficult!

As I prep for Friday's schedule, let me know your must attend session in the comments below and I'll do my best to provide a detailed update in tomorrow's recap. 'Til then...

In community,
Executive Director, NAFCM

October 12, 2011

ACR 2011 Annual Conference - Daily Recap #1

Welcome from sunny San Diego! 

The Association for Conflict Resolution's 10th Annual Conference is officially underway! In case you're unable to join us, I'll be endeavoring to provide a daily recap of all the community mediation happenings fit to print. To get an even broader sense of all that's happening this week, be sure to check out the conference's official online home. (For readers who are bouncing around the Sheraton conference halls, share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below for the enjoyment of our colleagues who are home and hard at work.)


Earlier today, the ACR Community Section held it's pre-conference training titled: "Surviving and Thriving in these Tough Economic Times." This four-hour session, featuring lively and inspiring presentations by Karmit Bulman, Cheryl Cutrona, Michele Ennis-Benn, and Caroline Harmon, topped out at 14 attendees representing varied geographies and professional interests. In between timely and honest discussions about field diversity, fund development, public outreach, and social entrepreneurialism, the group snuck in an impressively coordinated group juggle of a foam-, koosh-, and racquet-balls...oh, and also Michele's purse, a children's doll, a *ahem* feminine product, an otter/rat squeak toy, and, of course, scissors. (A perfect analogy of our professional need to remain focused even as new, distracting, and sharp projectiles whiz past our ever-busy heads!)  


Following the pre-conferences, an evening welcome reception brought a steady stream of attendees through the exhibitor's pavilion for an hors d'oeuvres fueled meet-and-greet. NAFCM's table was particularly well visited as Board Members Karmit and Jim Lingl and myself struck up conversations with community mediation colleagues hailing from Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington, as well as our farther flung brethren representing Canada, Guam, and Ireland, amongst other locales. NAFCM's new "Community Mediator" name badge ribbons seem to be a huge hit as dozens of conference goers are already proudly sporting the distinctive gray and maroon strip. Our table also featured NAFCM's new special promotion offering 25% OFF all new and renewal memberships now through November 6th, as well as our new "YOU@CommunityMediator.org" professional email accounts, which are available to all current NAFCM members.


All told, the pre-conference day at ACR's Annual Conference was a huge success. As tomorrow's first full day of the regular conference sessions unfolds, be sure to check back in with The Community Mediator and follow NAFCM on Facebook and Twitter to receive timely (wi-fi dependent) community mediation focused updates.

In community,
Executive Director, NAFCM