Board of Directors/Association Administration
A Humanistic Mediation Model by Mark Umbreit
From the Board by Lorraine Stutzman-Amstutz
1996 VOMA Conference Features Joseph Folger by Kate Hunter
The VOMA Conference: One Person's Experience by Warren Oster
1997 VOMA Conference News
Victim-Offender Mediation: A Road Somewhat Traveled by Marty Price
California Legislative Update by David Valenta
Job Announcement, Newsletter Submissions
|Co-Chair: Marty Price
2315 NE Mason
Portland OR 97211
(NW contact point)
|At-Large Board Members
The Mediation Center,
189 College Street
Asheville NC 28801.
MCC Office on Crime and Justice
2501 Allentown Road
Quakertown PA 18951
(East Coast contact point)
University of Wisconsin Law School
Restorative Justice Project
975 Bascom Mall, Room 4318
Madison WI 53706
Ethics and Standards Committee
|Vice-Chair: Dorothy Barg Neufeld
583 Ellice Avenue, Room 202
Winnipeg Manitoba R3B1Z7
(Canadian contact point)
c/o Tarrant County CSCD
200 West Belknap
Fort Worth TX 76196-0255
VORP of Anderson County
PO Box 4081
Oak Ridge TN 37831-4081
423/457-5400 ext 352
(Southern contact point)
Community Justice Project
Victim Offender Conferencing
Washington County Court Services
14900 61st Street North
Stillwater MN 55082-0006
Public Relations Committee
(Midwest contact point)
Cumberland County VORP
102 N Thurman Avenue
Crossville TN 38555
Victim Offender Mediation Project
505 West Northern Lights #210
Anchorage AK 99503
Restorative Justice Institute
P. O. Box 16301 Washington, DC 20041-6301
Mediation Services for Victims and Offenders
1305 4th Avenue, Suite 606
Seattle Washington 98101
The Victim-Offender Mediation Association is an association of individuals,
organizations, governmental entities, educational institutions, and students with
an interest in mediation, restorative justice, or the criminal justice system.
The 14th annual VOMA Conference and Training
Institute will take place
from September 16 - 20, 1997, in Des Moines,Iowa. VOMA board members
Dorothy Barg Neufeld and Bruce Kittlewill be program co-chairs of this event.
They are seeking committtee members to participate in the planning. Please
contact either one if you'd like to get involved.
by Co-Chair Lorraine Stutzman
There have been several moments over the past two months when Marty Price
I have sat in silence on the telephone as we pondered the tasks involved in
co-chairing an organization that has gone from a "gathering of practitioners and
other interested persons" to a national association for victim-offender mediation. I
think we also feel humbled by the realization of how much out-going Chair, Kate
Hunter, has accomplished this past year (evidenced by the fact that it took two of
us to fill in the position)!
I find myself particularly amazed that the victim-offender movement has become
much more than anyone thought possible when the program developed in the
1970's. I attended several of the first "gatherings," as we called them, when we met
in Valparaiso, Indiana, in one room (although, as I recall it was a big room!) of a
church across from the PACT (Prisoner and Community Together) offices.
In 1989 a significant milestone was passed at the Toronto conference when the
decision was made to establish the "U.S. Association for Victim-Offender
Mediation." Mark Umbreit, as chair of the association, wrote in the spring 1989
newsletter that the organization is "designed to strengthen our collective work and
provide leadership to our field. We need to draw upon the talent and strength of
each other and to grow together as we further develop the field." I think we
continue to do that, as evidenced by the number of proposals we receive for
workshops and trainings at our conferences as well as the wonderful representation
of persons from across the U.S. and Canada as members of the board. Those
board members include Niki Stewart, Victim-Offender Mediation Project in
Anchorage, Alaska; Dorothy Barg Neufeld, Mediation Services, Winnipeg,
Manitoba; Sandy Snyder, VORP, Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Jerry Williams,
Cumberland County VORP, Crossville, Tennessee; Kate Hunter, Mediation
Services for Victims and Offenders, Seattle, Washington; Bruce Kittle, Restorative
Justice Project at the University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison, Wisconsin;
Carolyn McLeod, Community Justice Project, Stillwater, Minnesota; Charles
McCollum, Tarrant County Community Service and Corrections Department, Ft.
Worth, Texas; Kim Fink-Adams, The Mediation Center, Asheville, North Carolina;
Marty Price, Portland, Oregon; and Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, Mennonite Central
Committee, Quakertown, Pennsylvania.
We heard Kate Hunter report at this year's conference in Ft. Worth that in the past two years many exciting things have happened for VOMA, including:
becoming an autonomous organization separate from PACT,
selecting the Orange County VORP as the VOMA administrator,
electing an 11-member board, and
receiving our 501c3 status.
We have also worked at developing links with other organizations and have begun
the process of developing a standardized basic training, which was used this year
by trainer Eric Gilman. And, last but not least, VOMA has its own web page on
The question is "where to from here?" In 1994 John Gehm served as a consultant to VOMA and did a "Membership and Constituent Survey: A Strategic Analysis," which we, as a board, have found extremely helpful as we look at goals. John proposed a number of suggestions that I think, as an organization, we need to seriously consider in order to maintain the vision of restorative justice that is becoming so prominent within the criminal justice arena. Those recommendations include:
by Mark S. Umbreit, Ph.D.
Center for Restorative Justice & Mediation
School of Social Work, University of Minnesota
With many years' history of being applied in diverse settings, the field of mediation now faces a wonderful opportunity to build upon the numerous anecdotal stories of how mediation periodically has been far more than simply working out a settlement. Mediation can move toward a higher level of practice which can intentionally and more consistently tap into its transformative and healing powers. These healing powers are intrinsic to the process of mediating conflict between individuals but need to be consciously drawn out and utilized. A specific application of transformative mediation practice, which is particularly suited to victim-offender mediation (although it can be applied in other settings as well), is what I describe as a humanistic model of mediation. Instead of the highly directed "settlement-driven" model practiced widely in civil court settings, a humanistic mediation model is very non-directive and "dialogue driven." It prepares the parties so that they feel safe enough to have an opportunity to engage in a genuine dialogue about the conflict, experience their own empowerment, and develop what Bush and Folger call "compassionate strength," including empathy for the other party in the conflict.
A humanistic model of mediation, in some respects, parallels the humanistic style of psychotherapy or teaching, which emphasizes the importance of the relationship between the therapist and client or teacher and student, while embracing a strong belief in each person's capacity for growth, change, and transformation. It is important to note, however, that although parties in conflict may be more likely to experience emotional benefits from a humanistic mediation model, such a process is not psychotherapy, nor does it require a mediator to have training in psychotherapy. Acknowledgment of brokenness or hurt is intrinsic to humanistic mediation. Working on that brokenness and dealing with past emotional issues contributing to these feelings, however, is the domain of therapists, not mediators.
A humanistic mediation model is grounded in a number of underlying values and beliefs about the nature of human existence, conflict, and the search for healing. These include beliefs in:
In order to consistently embrace a more humanistic, nondirective, and "dialogue-driven" model of
mediation requires a number of significant changes in the dominant "settlement-driven," and often highly
directive, Western European model of mediation. The following ten implications for humanistic
mediation practice are offered.
1. Centering of Mediator
A humanistic mediation model emphasizes the importance of the mediator's clearing away the
his or her own life so that he or she can focus intensely on the needs of the involved parties. Prior to
initiating contact between people in conflict, the mediator is encouraged to take a few moments of
silence -- through reflection, meditation or prayer -- to reflect on the deeper meaning of his or her
peacemaking work and the needs of the people in conflict.
2. Reframing of the Mediator's Role
Tapping into the full power of mediation in resolving important interpersonal conflict reframes the
mediator's role. Instead of actively and efficiently guiding the parties toward a settlement, the mediator
initiates a transformative process in which the parties enter a dialogue with each other, experience each
other as people (despite their conflict), and seek ways to help each other find peace, which may or may
not involve a formal, written settlement agreement. Once the parties are engaged in a face-to-face
conversation, the mediator intentionally gets out of the way. It should be noted that rarely does the
mediator totally get out of the way, especially during the later stages of mediation, when the parties in
conflict may need assistance to construct a formal settlement agreement if one is needed. In all cases, it
is important for the mediator to provide a brief closing statement which thanks the parties for their work
and schedules a follow-up meeting if necessary.
3. Premediation Sessions
Routine use of separate premediation sessions with the involved parties would become a standard
practice. These individual sessions would occur at least a week or more before the mediation session.
Although collection of information, assessment of the conflict, and description of the mediation program
are important tasks to complete, the first and most important task of such sessions is establishing trust
and rapport with the involved parties. The development of trust and rapport, along with the mediator's
clearly explaining how the mediation process works, contributes to the parties' feeling safe and
comfortable with the process, making them more likely to engage in a genuine dialogue. For this reason,
the mediator needs to get into a listening mode as quickly as possible during the initial meeting by
inviting the involved parties to tell their stories of the conflict and how it affects them.
4. Connecting with the Parties
A far greater emphasis on the mediator's connecting with the parties in the conflict is needed.
viewing mediators as technicians who are emotionally distant and uninvolved, with no prior contact with
the involved parties, emphasis would be placed on the mediator's establishing trust and rapport with the
involved parties before bringing them to a joint session. A mediator does not need to lose his or her
impartiality to effectively connect with the involved parties before bringing them together. The art of
mediation -- as in teaching, nursing, therapy, and social work -- is found in connecting with people at a
human level through the expression of empathy, warmth, and authenticity. The late Virginia Satir, a
world-renown family therapist, mediator, and trainer, recognized the supreme importance of the
"presence" of the therapist. Satir regarded authentic human connection as being fundamental to change
processes. Making contact with people on a basic human level requires "congruence," a condition of
being emotionally honest with yourself in which there is a connectedness of your words, feelings, body,
facial expressions, and actions. Humanistic mediators can have a powerful presence with their clients,
as Virginia Satir did, through a more spiritual understanding of life which embraces the
connectedness of all people as well as an integral relationship between the mediator's actions and belief
system and the core of his or her being.
5. Tapping into Individual Strengths
When people become engaged in conflict, it is common for them to communicate and interact in
dysfunctional ways. The expression of intense anger and bitterness, along with the inability to listen to
the other party or communicate effectively their own needs, can mask many strengths that they may
have. It is the mediator's job, during separate premediation sessions, to identify specific strengths in the
individual that may directly assist in the mediation process and to encourage the expression of those
strengths in mediation. Tapping into the strengths of individuals and coaching them in how to effectively
communicate their feelings can contribute greatly to the mediator's ability to use a nondirective style of
mediation, as noted below.
6. Coaching on Communication, if Required
The open expression of feelings related to the conflict is central to a humanistic mediation model.
Because of the extreme intensity of those feelings, it may become necessary during the separate
premediation sessions for the mediator to coach the disputants in helpful ways of communicating those
feelings so that each can be heard by the other party. This coaching focuses on how to own one's
feelings rather than projecting them upon the other party. Projecting intense feelings through aggressive
communications often will trigger defensiveness in one or both parties and shut down honest dialogue.
To avoid this requires the speaker owns these feelings and communicates them in "I" statements rather
than attacks the other party. Furthermore, through coaching, the mediator works to help identify and
tap into the strengths of each of the parties in conflict, despite any emotional baggage that is present.
Advocating the process of coaching is not, however, suggesting what specifically should be said.
7. Nondirective Style of Mediation
Moving mediation to a higher plane requires a nondirective style of mediation in which the mediator
assists the involved parties in a process of dialogue and mutual aid. The mediator opens the session
and sets the tone that will allow the parties in conflict to feel safe, understand the process, and talk
directly to each other. The mediator's ability to fade into the background is directly related to
connecting with the parties before the joint session and securing their trust. Without routine use of one
or more separate premediation meetings, it is unlikely that a truly nondirective style of mediation will
work. The parties' ability to participate in a process of dialogue and mutual aid depends on their having
trust for the mediator, clear expectations for the process, and feelings of safety and comfort, as well as
the mediator's ability to fade into the background until he or she is needed.
A nondirective style of mediation is not meant to be confused with a passive style, in which the
provides little direction, leadership, or assistance. Instead, the mediator remains in control of the
process and, although saying little, is actively involved nonverbally in the encounter and is able to either
respond or intervene at any point required, particularly when people get stuck and indicate a need for
assistance. When the mediator sets a clear and comfortable tone, it puts the parties at ease so that they
can talk directly, and they experience a far more empowering and mutually expressive form of
mediation. This style of mediation, which can only be used effectively if the mediator conducts separate
premediation sessions, will frequently result in the mediator's saying very little after the opening
8. Face-to-Face Seating of Involved Parties
Seating arrangements during a mediation session are important. Routine use of a seating
which the involved parties sit across from each other with natural eye contact is central to the process
of direct communication and dialogue. If the mediation requires a table, the mediator would be at the
end and the parties in conflict would sit across from each other. Having the involved parties sit next to
each other behind a table, facing the mediator on the other side of the table creates a major blockage to
mediator-assisted dialogue and mutual aid. This rule, however, may occasionally be inapplicable due to
the cultural norms of one or both parties.
9. Recognition and Use of the Power of Silence
Moments of silence in the process of dialogue and conflict resolution are inherent to a nondirective
of mediation. Recognizing, using, and feeling comfortable with the power of silence (abilities that are
more commonly found in non-Western cultures) are important to the humanistic mediation process.
When the mediator can resist the urge to interrupt silence with guidance and has the patience to make
use of silence, as well as extended conversation, he or she is more consistently able to assist the
involved parties in experiencing mediation as a process of dialogue and mutual aid -- a journey of the
heart in harmony with the head.
10. Follow-Up Sessions, if Required
The importance of follow-up joint sessions between the parties in conflict is recognized as central
humanistic mediation model. The nature of conflict and human behavior is usually far too complex to
resolve in only one session, particularly when the conflict involves an important relationship. Often, the
parties cannot address the full range of issues and concerns in only one session. Even in those cases
when the parties are able to largely resolve the conflict in one session, a follow-up session several
months later (to assess how the agreement is holding or to resolve any issues that may have emerged)
can be important in the overall process of healing and closure.
The dominant model in Western culture of settlement-driven mediation is clearly beneficial to many
people in conflict and superior to the adversarial legal process and court system in most cases. Moving
to a higher plane -- which embraces the importance of spirituality, self-esteem, and our common
humanity -- is even better. As an expression of the transformative power of conflict resolution, a
humanistic mediation model can lay the foundation for a greater sense of community and social
harmony. With its focus on the intrinsic healing power of mediation and dialogue, this model can bring a
more complete resolution to the conflict. Through a process of dialogue and mutual aid between the
involved parties, the humanistic mediation model not only facilitates the achievement of outer peace
through resolution of the presenting conflict, but it also facilitates a journey of the heart to find inner
peace. This inner peace -- real peace --is the true goal of humanistic mediation.
by Kate Hunter
VOMA Board of Directors
Executive Director, Mediation Services for Victims and Offenders
Joseph Folger, as keynote speaker at the Victim-Offender Mediation Association's annual
was challenging and stimulating. He and Robert Baruch Bush have written The Promise of
Responding to Conflict Through Empowerment and Recognition, which is about the possibility of
Folger asked us to consider what mental space we as mediators need to occupy if we are committed to a transformative approach to practice. He suggested that we need to believe in people's ability to act from compassionate strength and to believe in the humanity of every human being. In his mind, even the criminal who has committed the most heinous of crimes has the spark of humanity and the ability to act from a place of compassion. He asked us three questions:
1) What shakes your belief in people's ability to act compassionately and with strength?
2) How have you lost this belief as a mediator?
3) When have you acted from this pessimism?
Has our faith been shaken because of our expectations of the outcomes in a mediation? For example, if we have a series of cases with non-communicative juvenile offenders, does this cause us to become more directive? Folger suggests that we must look for even the small steps that parties take that demonstrate their compassionate strength. For some it might be simply that they have come to the mediation. Or it may be that the changes experienced were internal rather than external, or that the impact of the mediation may hit a person later on. In other words, it is not for us to judge whether the mediation has successful outcomes, because we may not know it. The outcomes are our clients'.
Mediators committed to a transformative practice approach their work in the following ways. They:
(Taken from A Transformative Approach to Mediation by Bush and Folger.)
Folger suggests there are three steps we mediators must take to identify transformative
First, we adopt a focus on the here and now of a conflict interaction, carefully listening and responding
to individual comments and contributions. This means that we are not grasping at comments in a way
that meets with our own expectations as to a direction we think the parties should take. We do,
however, focus on any comment parties make which offer an opportunity to work towards
empowerment or recognition, taking our cues from the parties themselves. We are mindful of common
signpost events that often occur at predictable phases of an intervention that may open the way for
empowerment or recognition.
It is important in step two, says Folger, to avoid a problem-focused approach, checking instincts
could undermine a transformative response. Specifically, we will avoid the inclination to shape parties'
comments and contributions into one solvable problem, to focus exclusively on tangible issues, or on
settlement. For many of us, this is an extremely challenging concept, while clearly resonating with us as
Finally, the mediator who is enacting a transformative response will make comments that encourage
allow disputants to gain clarity and make self-determined choices as well as to consider, acknowledge
or respond to the situation of the other party. This will require that the mediator's actions slow the
process down -- not rushing toward solution -- inviting elaboration or clarification, always responding in
ways that encourage recognition or empowerment. Folger likens this to a dance, in which the mediator
is following the cues of the parties, rather than the other way around.
Bush and Folger use the terms empowerment and recognition in their book, giving names to what
of us already believe are the twin responsibilities of a mediator. They contend that for us to be truly
neutral as mediators, we must both strengthen our clients and help them to recognize the humanity in
each other; one without the other may create an imbalanced mediation. Folger believes that most
mediation training does not teach skills that assist mediators to promote empowerment and recognition
but teach, instead, an orientation toward settlement. Folger urges us to understand that what we believe
is a successful outcome for our clients may not be what they want, need, or believe is fair or just. What
distinguishes our work from that of the courtroom or the arbitration room is that the participants
themselves hold the power to create a solution or to agree to disagree. And that distinction is critical.
by Warren Oster
Victim Offender Mediation Program
Clackamas County Juvenile Department
Oregon City, Oregon
My first three days in Fort Worth were spent attending the VOMA Training Institute that preceded
conference itself. On Tuesday and Wednesday I attended the advanced training led by Dorothy Barg
Neufeld and Karen Ridd, two knowledgeable mediators from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The training was
attended by about 20 people. For me, much of the material was review, but I found myself
remembering skills that I had learned and forgotten. The role plays we did were challenging. It's not
easy being observed by peers. Perhaps the most rewarding part of the training was the ability to share
ideas with people from many different places and varying experiences. This is probably not news to
those of you who have been to VOMA conferences in the past, but this was my first one, and I loved
meeting people who shared my enthusiasm and interest in victim-offender mediation.
Several of us met after conference hours for dinner and conversation. On Tuesday night some of us
watched the movie "Dead Man Walking." Afterward, Susan Carey, who works with prisoners on death
row, led a worthwhile discussion.
The movie was a good preface to my choice of Thursday's training with Mark Umbreit. Mark presented information about victim-offender mediation in crimes of severe violence. Most of my work is property crimes mediation involving juveniles. I first had a taste of Mark's work when I attended a conference in Oregon over a year ago and although I take Mark's advice seriously -- don't try this without a lot more training -- I wanted to know about it. The morning was full of basic information given in Mark's comfortable way. In the afternoon, we watched actual video tapes of the meetings or dialogues with Mark and between victims and offenders. I was truly amazed and impressed. Two questions ran through my mind:
On Friday I experienced an even more intense, emotional time: the opening plenary of the
itself. What we observers experienced was remarkable. The presentation began with comments by
Janice Lord, National Victim Services Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Then we met the
actual participants of a mediation that concerned the drunk driving death of Elaine Menkin. These were
the driver Suzana Cooper, Elaine's sister Elizabeth Menkin, Elaine's parents the Serrells, and the
mediator Marty Price. Marty gave a moving description of this journey. He talked about the careful
progression that led towards the mediation. Elizabeth explained how she and her family went through
terrible anguish and pain over Elaine's death. Marty asked Suzana a series of questions to elicit her
responses concerning her own realization of what she had done and what led her to the meeting with
Elizabeth and the Serrells. Although Elizabeth emphasized that she and her family members were
nothing special, I came away with a great appreciation for what each person, including Suzana, had
experienced, and the chutzpah it took to do this. There was no doubt that their willingness to meet face
to face and Marty's skillful facilitation enabled everyone to get on with their lives in a much fuller,
Saturday morning's session was led by Joseph Folger, co-author of the book, The Promise of Mediation. I had read the book recently and liked what it had to say. The authors struck a familiar chord when they talked about how many mediators experience the excitement of seeing participants discover empowerment and recognition without having a name for what they are experiencing. We were reminded that, in conflict, people begin in states of protectiveness and weakness. As mediators, we help people move to states of openness and strength. As we help people through the process, we should be aware of opportunities for improvement and recognition. We should not be so focused on creating a final agreement. Joseph gave us his great insights and I found myself wanting more -- maybe at the next VOMA conference.
Carolyn McLeod conducted the closing session of the conference, asking questions of Howard
We all appreciated his humor and great warmth. This was a great way to end the conference.
Congratulations to all who had a hand in putting on this conference. I'm already looking forward to next
year's gathering, wherever it may be!
by Marty Price, J.D.
Co-Chair, VOMA Board of Directors
Adapted from a presentation at the 1996 Conference of the Society of Professionals in
In the April 1966 Atlantic Monthly "Word Watch," a column about new words and
new meanings in
the English language, the term restorative justice appeared. I wasn't thrilled with the
definition in the
column but, for me, the significance was that it appeared there at all. The column
"Proponents make up an unlikely alliance, including wardens, academics, prison chaplains, lawmakers,
judges and even some victims. The emergence of the concept and the term is an anomaly in an era of
harsher sentencing guidelines and a push toward building more prisons."
In place of the "Word Watch" definition, I offer a definition of restorative justice that I prefer,
part from the "bible" of restorative justice, Howard Zehr's book, Changing Lenses:
Instead of focusing solely on the offender and defining justice as the placing of blame (guilt) and the
administration of pain (punishment), restorative justice recognizes that crime results in hurt to the victim,
the community and the offender. Restorative justice seeks to right the wrong through meaningful
accountability by the offender, restoring the losses, as much as possible, to all who have suffered due to
crime. Restorative justice is not a program or set of programs, but a guiding philosophical paradigm.
The most common application of the restorative justice concept takes form as the victim-offender
mediation or reconciliation program (VOMP/VORP) but victim-offender confrontations are not
inherently restorative. Victim-offender meetings could be set up to be punitive as well.
From humble beginnings....
Modern victim-offender mediation programs sprang from a seed planted in Kitchener, Ontario,
Canada, over twenty years ago, after two intoxicated boys (aged 18 and 19) went on a rampage,
wreaking destruction on a total of 22 cars. There were smashed windshields, mirrors, grills and lights,
and cars disabled with broken radiators and slashed tires. This sort of thing was not an everyday
occurrence in the small town of Kitchener and people were outraged.
The boys had no history of offenses; their probation officer, who had previously been a Mennonite
community justice volunteer, thought that punishment was not what they needed. He recommended to
the judge that "there could be some therapeutic value in these two young men having to personally face
up to the victims of their numerous offenses." Initially, the judge dismissed the recommendation as
"having no basis in law." But at the sentencing hearing he ordered that boys to do as the probation
officer had recommended.
While the probation officer observed, the boys went to the homes and stores of the 22 crime
They admitted their crimes and worked out an agreement for restitution of each of the victims' losses.
Three months later, the boys had satisfied the agreements, paying back losses of over $2000.
(Peachey, 14-15) The community experienced a kind of meaningful accountability that punishment
could not provide, and the first North American VORP was born. Shortly thereafter, the new
Kitchener program was replicated in Elkhart, Indiana, establishing the first VORP in the United States.
Most of the early VORPs were community-based non-profits; many were affiliated with churches
often, Mennonite churches. The Mennonite Central Committee Office on Crime and Justice continues
to provide information, resources, training and support for victim-offender programs worldwide.
Toward the mainstream of criminal/juvenile justice....
Today, in addition to the community non-profit and church-based programs, victim-offender mediation programs are commonly found in juvenile courts, probation and corrections departments, law enforcement agencies and victims' assistance programs. In one major city, a victim-offender program is being run by a county legal aid organization. In recent years, community dispute resolution centers all over the U.S. have expanded their neighborhood mediation programs to include victim-offender mediation. The vast majority of these programs work only with juvenile offenders and only with crimes against property; some work with minor assaults.
|There are now well over 200 victim-offender mediation programs in the U.S., about 20 in Canada, over 500 in Europe and the U.K., and scattered programs in about 20 other countries. In the U.S., several large programs in metropolitan areas mediate over 1000 cases per year and have budgets in six figures. (Umbreit and Niemeyer, 1996)|
The expansion of victim-offender mediation programs into neighborhood mediation and criminal/juvenile justice system venues has sometimes brought with it a tendency to take familiar models of mediation in civil disputes and apply them to the victim-offender context. The models are only somewhat applicable. The victim-offender context differs in some fundamental ways, requiring some differences in training and mediation procedures:
Coming together for restorative justice....
Programs founded on the principles of restorative justice are being organized, sponsored and supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice and National Institute of Corrections. In 1994 the American Bar Association published its Endorsement of Victim-Offender Mediation/Dialogue Programs and recommended that such programs be incorporated into federal, state, and local criminal justice systems.
There has often been an uneasy relationship between victim-offender mediation programs and victims' advocacy programs. Victims' advocates have sometimes seen mediation as "soft on crime" and therefore not in the best interests of the victims. They also have objected loudly when victim-offender programs have been overly persuasive, or even subtly coercive, in their efforts to enlist the participation of victims.
The victims' assistance programs are teaching us how to work sensitively and respectfully with victims. At the same time, victims' advocacy organizations have been recognizing that swift and certain punishment, often important to victims' experience of justice, is many times not sufficient to allow victims to heal their wounds, and that confronting their offenders in mediation can help to meet their needs for healing. The recognition of common ground is leading to alliances and partnerships. For example:
What is the state of the art?
The trends are toward deepening the process and expanding its scope. Highly structured and mechanistic processes that were developed by the early programs are evolving in the direction of models that increasingly honor the relational, emotional, and
spiritual dimensions of crime and victimization, seeking dialogue from the heart. The "victim-
offender dialogue" or humanistic mediation model developed by Dr. Mark Umbreit and
the"transformative mediation" model developed by Robert Baruch Bush and Joseph Folger are
receiving widespread attention. (Umbreit, 1994; Bush and Folger)
While the majority of victim-offender mediation programs limit their services to juvenile and
offenses, a growing number of programs are finding that a face-to-face encounter can be invaluable in
even the most heinous of crimes. Usually at the request of the victims, a growing number of programs
have now mediated rapes and other violent assaults; a number of mediations have taken place between
murderers and the families of their victims. Increasingly, mediation is being used to help repair the lives
of victims and offenders devastated by drunk-driving fatalities.
It should be emphasized that, in cases of such serious, violent or catastrophic victimizations, the use
the victim-offender mediation process would not be recommended for all, or even for most, victims and
offenders. Such cases must be carefully assessed and screened for their appropriateness for
mediation, and participation must be absolutely voluntary for both the victim and the offender.
For crimes of this kind, the VORP model of case development through separate, preliminary
provides only a starting place. Extensive preparation of the participants is essential, often requiring
months or even years of work with mediators and other helping professionals, before victim and
offender are ready to come face to face.
What have we learned?
In the first two decades of victim-offender mediation, we learned the answers to some basic questions, such as: "Would victims really want to do this? Will it work? What benefits will it bring?" Substantial research has indicated:
(Mark S. Umbreit and Robert B. Coates. "Cross-Site Analysis of Victim-Offender Mediation in
States." Crime and Delinquency. 39(4): 565-585. 1993)
Where are we going?
In the coming years, we will be "pushing the envelope" of victim-offender mediation, exploring
increase the healing potential of this process, expanding its application to a broader range of offenses
and offenders and continuing to be "restorative justice pioneers," as this paradigm moves steadily into
the mainstream of criminal justice. We will be developing new and creative applications of the
restorative justice philosophy. All the while, our society dances a schizophrenic dance between the
understandable fear that fuels the demand for more prisons and a growing recognition that our criminal
justice system is not working for us and will not be remedied by doing more of the same
Readings in restorative justice and related topics:
Bush, Robert A Baruch, and Joseph P. Folger. The Promise of Mediation. San
Jossey-Bass Publishing. 1994.
Edelman, Joel. The Tao of Negotiation: How You Can Prevent, Resolve, and Transcend
in Work and Everyday Life. 1993.
Herrman, Margaret. Resolving Conflict: Strategies for Local Government. MD:
Mika, Harry (ed.). Mediation Quarterly. Special Issue on Victim Offender
Publishing. 12:3. Spring 1995.
Peachey, Dean E. "The Kitchener Experiment.," in Mediation and Criminal Justice.
and Burt Galaway, eds. Sage Publications. 1989.
Umbreit, Mark S. Mediating Interpersonal Conflicts: A Pathway to Peace. MN: CPI
Umbreit, Mark. Victim Meets Offender: The Impact of Restorative Justice and
Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press. 1994.
Umbreit, Mark S., and Mike Niemeyer. "Victim-Offender Mediation: From the Margins Toward
Mainstream." Perspectives. American Probation and Parole Association. 28. Summer
Zehr, Howard. Changing Lenses. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press. 1990.
by David Valenta
Program Development Coordinator
Institute for Conflict Management
As the California legislature begins work on another two-year term (July 1996 though 1998), we
that it will reconsider an important bill from the previous term.
SB1188 would have formally legalized the right of juvenile justice agencies, such as local police and parole offices, to refer misdemeanor cases to mediation. This is important for two reasons:
First, as California does not have a state-wide policy for victim-offender mediation, such a law would make clear the legality of referring misdemeanor cases to mediation. Currently, counties are working out their own procedures based on local ordinances.
Second, passage of this bill would have given victim-offender mediation state-wide validity. With
recent proliferation of victim-offender programs throughout the state, California will soon need to
confront the issue of victim-offender mediation and whether it will be treated as a viable solution for
Unfortunately, this bill was dropped by an influential senator for various reasons. We are optimistic
the senator will work with the Institute for Conflict Management in this current term and reintroduce this
important and critical piece of legislation.
Beginning January 2, 1997, Mediation Services for Victims and Offenders in Seattle,
be providing applications for the position of executive director. For application information, call
after the New Year at (206) 621-8871.
Kate Hunter, VOMA board member, is head of the Editorial/Publications
Committee. Please submit to
her any ideas or articles you'd like to see in the VOMA Quarterly. Sharon Peelor, at the
administrative offices, is the newsletter editor/publisher.
Agency membership is to any organization that has an interest in the mediation process, the philosophy
of restorative justice, or the criminal justice system. Reduced annual dues are available for agencies
experiencing financial hardship. Annual agency dues are $150.
Individual membership is available to those persons who are interested and/or involved in victim-offender mediation and reconciliation programs. Annual individual dues are $40.
Student membership is available to full-time students. Annual student dues are $15.
Institutional membership is available to libraries and educational institutinons. Annual dues are $30.
Program Name (if agency membership)
City _______________________ State_____ Zip
__________ Country _______________
Telephone (_____)__________ Fax (_____) __________ Amount
Enclosed $ __________
E-mail __________________________________________ New? _____
Make checks payable to: Victim-Offender Mediation Association. Send to 777 S. Main Street, Suite 200, Orange CA 92868-4614.
VOMA membership benefits include the quarterly publication, an annual directory of all
members, access to VOMA resources, and agency discounts on the annual conference.