Victims Confront Offenders, Face To Face July 28, 2011 Audio for this story from Talk of the Nation will be available at approx. 6:00 p.m. ET.
Guests Sujatha Baliga, senior program specialist, National Council on Crime and Delinquency Robert Johnson, former president, National District Attorneys Association July 28, 2011 Even when criminal cases end in guilty verdicts, sometimes victims need more. A growing number of jurisdictions are giving offenders and victims a chance to meet each other, and even reconcile. Some go further, giving crime victims a say in the offenders’ punishment, without ever going to trial.
A recent post by Hofstra’s Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation caught my attention. They have recently published a tremendously useful source book entitled Transformative Mediation: A Sourcebook. I would invite you to investigate the transformative model first put forward by Folger and Bush many years ago. I believe that what it shares in common with restorative justice is the awareness of and respect for the integrity of the individuals who are in conflict not necessarily due to a problem needing to be solved but a context to be understood. How often do we go right to the ‘fix it’ model without giving people a chance to tell their stories with respect, without interruption, and taken seriously. As RJ continues to mature and transform I think it is worth our attention to think about how we move beyond victim-offender mediation and understand that, at root, we are about peacemaking and community. What do you think?
What place does transformative mediation have in Court-connected programs?
“More than 1000 cases are referred to the Mediation Center of Dutchess County each year from courts and similar agencies. In one recent year, more than 600 cases were business disputes such as landlord/tenant and consumer/merchant issues referred from twelve local courts. More than 180 cases of child custody/ visitation/ support issues between parents or extended family were referred from Family Court; and Supreme Court has referred adult guardianship cases…. Transformative mediation is used in all of these cases. Negotiating the transition to transformative practice in courts came down to explaining what we would do that would meet the courts’ own goals.
“We explained ’empowerment’ as helping people become clear about their situation so that decisions could be made. ‘Recognition’ was explained as understanding the other person’s point of view. We talked about mediation as a ‘conversation’ between parties. ‘Changing interaction’ meant that decisions could be made and next steps could be taken because something had changed between the parties. These explanations were helpful to the courts because these goals were not inconsistent with their own. Transformative values are present — in the work that we do and in the relationships that have been fostered.”
I would urge us all to explore the possibilities of who we are, where we’ve come from and to consider the possibilities of approach crime, conflict and dispute resolution from an integrative framework.
As always your comments are welcomed!
what are the possibilities of an integrative framework?
Restore will host its second Public Information reception at the downtown branch of the Sioux Falls Public Library. This will be an opportunity to learn about restorative justice, see examples of victim-offender mediation, and strategies for increasing the use of these successful programs in our community. There will be opportunities for questions and answers with the director of Restore, John Gehm. The event begins at 6:30 and ends at 8:00. Refreshments will be provided.
We incarcerate too many youth and our government is broke—we’ve heard both laments lately in the news. The cry goes up for an effective way to deal with youthful offenders—a way that is cost effective, proven, humane, and rehabilitative. The answer is here: Restorative Justice.
Restorative Justice is an age-old way of dealing with infractions upon societal norms. It involves those who have been wronged, and allows them to have a say in the outcome. It holds the perpetrator directly responsible for the wrong-doing, and seeks to reintegrate him or her into the community. It is an alternative to incarceration that reduces recidivism and costs, and provides better emotional outcomes for victims and offenders. It involves a face-to-face meeting between the parties to get answers and provide accountability. Meetings are facilitated by an experienced mediator.
RESTORE, Inc, formerly the Victim-Offender Mediation Program, has offered this service in southeastern South Dakota for nearly 20 years. The program is underutilized, however, and is ready to step in today to alleviate budget and other problems associated with nonviolent juvenile offenders. Restorative Justice programs have been used across the United States for over 25 years, but are based in indigenous practices that have been in use for thousands of years. Dozens of studies exist to prove their effectiveness. In South Dakota, the Center for Restorative Justice in Rapid City was created under the leadership of Judge Merton B. Tice, Jr. in 1997, and mediates many cases each year. I helped set up programs in Indiana, New Hampshire, and Michigan that have been in operation for decades. As a consultant to the National Institute of Corrections, I have evaluated the effectiveness of such programs and have published many articles in the field. I know it works.
It’s time for South Dakota to stop thinking about punishment only in terms of jail and prison. Thinking about crime through the lens of restorative justice translates into a philosophy of making things right—for the victim, the offender, and the community as a whole. RESTORE is ready to put Restorative Justice to work. The question is, is South Dakota ready for a better approach?
A restorative justice information night will be held on Thursday, March 17 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in meeting room A at the downtown public library in Sioux Falls.
The event will open at 6:30 with a 35-minute documentary film shown at 7:00. The film, “Burning Bridges,” will be followed by a question and answer time with refreshments.
Burning Bridges recounts the aftermath of the arson of an historic wooden covered bridge by six local young men in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The focus is on the restorative conference that dealt with the shock and outrage of the community and how the young men were held accountable, as well as the fear and grief experienced by the perpetrators and their families in this small community.
The film provides an excellent introduction to restorative justice, which seeks to repair the harm done to victims of crime and hold offenders accountable in a meaningful, rehabilitative way. Restorative justice can also be used to resolve disputes in schools, churches, businesses, neighborhoods, and families. Information will be available on upcoming mediation workshop opportunities.
The event is sponsored by RESTORE, Inc., a non-profit organization which provides mediation services in southeastern South Dakota. For details, call (605) 338-6020 or email Restore-SD@sio.midco.net