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

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