VOP Program in Oregon Combines VOM and Criminal Thinking Error Training
The Victim Offender Program (VOP) at Mediation Works, a Community Dispute Resolution Center in Medford, Oregon, is an interesting program to examine as it differs from other Victim Offender Mediation Programs.
VOP is something of a hybrid program. It combines elements of traditional VOM models with elements of conflict resolution and criminal thinking error training. The program also differs in that the juvenile offenders involved have already been adjudicated, and are required to participate in VOP as one of a variety of consequences that includes community service, restitution payments, lock up, etc.
Youthful offenders are referred to the program by Juvenile Department probation officers. The juveniles must first satisfactorily complete a series of classes before participating in a mediation process. The classes contain the following elements:
·how to identify and avoid using criminal thinking errors,
·developing empathy for others,
·the ripple affect of the juveniles' crimes,
·brainstorming positive choices,
·writing a letter of apology to the victim.
The classes consist of four, 1- hour sessions and require full participation from the offenders. The goal is to help offenders:
· develop victim sensitivity
· realize that they are not "bad people" but instead have made "poor choices"
· make healthier choices in the future.
Once the offender has completed all assignments and passed the class (which is a challenge for many), he or she is eligible to participate in the mediation process.
Of course, mediation only takes place if the victim of the crime is interested and willing to participate. Because financial restitution has already been set by the court, the mediation session focuses on bringing closure and healing, and addresses other non-monetary needs.
If the victim is unable or unwilling to participate, the mediation takes place between the offender and his or her parent(s). A mediation between the parent and child can often be just as effective for the juvenile offender as a meeting with the crime victim. Parents often feel victimized by their child's crime and have never been able to share those feelings with their son or daughter. The mediation session provides an opportunity for both parties to share their feelings and experience of the crime in an environment of safety and support. Often, in these mediations between the juvenile offender and his/her parents, we have seen the first steps toward positive communication and true listening.
Although this program is new, the results so far have been promising and exciting. The juvenile offenders have learned to take responsibility for their actions and have been able to express sorrow and empathy for their victims.
Victims and parents have also been very pleased with the results of the program. Many have expressed to us that they are more able to move on with their lives and have fewer questions and fears about the crime they experienced.
Although only time will tell the long-term impact of the program, we are pleased with the results we have witnessed so far.
For more information contact:
The PA VOM Network was established in 1997, as a result of the Restorative Justice Initiative throughout Pennsylvania's Juvenile Justice System. Founded by Jane Riese of York County and Beck Glessner of Somerset County, and supported by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency, the network meets quarterly at PCCD offices in Harrisburg to discuss mediation issues and program development.
The purpose for this establishment was to connect with other restorative justice programs for juveniles across the state and to validate the Victim/Offender Mediation programs in Pennsylvania. The network currently has more than 20 members who represent such programs as Victim/Offender Mediation and Youth Aid Panels, along with representatives of the PA Dept. of Corrections, PCM (Pennsylvania Council of Mediators), Juvenile Court Judges Commission, and victim advocacy across the state. We are also very proud to have Lorraine Stutzman-Amstutz, co-author of the Pennsylvania Victim/Offender Conferencing Manual with Howard Zehr, as a current member of the network.
If you would like more information on the PA VOM Network, please contact Sean McNalley, Allegheny Co. Victim/Witness Coordinator and Editor of the PA VOM Network Newsletter at 412- 587-8260.
The Wisconsin Association of Mediators has created a Self-Assessment Tool for Mediators. It is an easy-to-use seventeen page booklet designed to guide one's overall practice of mediation and provide practical application to specific cases. It assists mediators to prepare for mediation, reflect on their strategies, and review their performance. This tool can be used independently, with a consultant, or as a guide for group discussion on high quality mediation. To order send $5.00 check payable to:
The Wisconsin Association of Mediators
by Maureen Holen and Joanne Lescher
VOM Network Helps Programs in Pennsylvania
by Becky Glessner
Somerset County Juvenile Court
Victim/Offender Mediation Program
Mediator Self-Assessment Tool Available
© 1999 Victim Offender Mediation Association