Victim Mediation is a relatively new approach to criminal dispute resolution. It involves a face-to-face meeting between the victim of a crime and the offender, with a trained professional acting as mediator between the two. The victim mediation process helps to “personalize” the criminal incident and encourage dialogue between victim and offender. The parties may also choose to form an agreement regarding the victim’s compensation.
Victim Mediation is also known by many other names, including: Victim-Offender Mediation (VOM), Victim-Offender Mediation Assistance (VOMA), Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP), Victim-Offender Dialogue, Restorative Mediation, and Restorative Justice Dialogue. Such mediation programs are often prescribed as a type of alternative sentencing or as part of a pretrial diversion program.
What is the Goal of Victim Mediation?
For the injured party, victim mediation allows them an opportunity to face the offender, voice their opinions, and overcome emotional trauma. For the offender, victim mediation helps them to realize the consequences of their conduct, and gives them a chance to explain their background and express remorse or apology.
Both parties are contacted beforehand and assessed to determine whether victim mediation will be appropriate. In some cases, the victim may not be ready or willing to face their offender. On the other hand, if victim-mediation occurs, studies show great success in terms of reconciliation. Also, victim mediation has been shown to reduce the potential that the offender will repeat the criminal conduct in the future.
What Happens During Victim-Offender Mediation?
Besides providing a space for communication, victim-offender mediation can often result in a formal agreement between the victim and the offender. The offender may take responsibility for their actions by forming a written “restitution agreement” with the victim. A restitution agreement may involve monetary reimbursement as well as symbolic conduct by the offender.
For example, the restitution agreement may address:
- Forming a monetary payment schedule for the victim’s losses
- Community service by the offender
- Letters of apology to the victim and those affected by the offense
- Any other actions or promises by the offender that would create a sense of justice between for the victim
Statistics show up to a 90% compliance with agreements formed through victim-offender mediation. This is compared to only about 20-30% compliance with court-ordered restitution agreements.
What Role do Lawyers Play in Victim Mediation?
During victim offender mediation, the parties are often accompanied by family members, community volunteers, and their lawyers. The presence of these additional persons can help create a more favorable atmosphere for discussion and conflict resolution.
In particular, lawyers can provide the parties with legal advice or counseling in relation to the criminal offense. The parties are encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns with their attorneys prior to the mediation meeting. During the actual meeting, the lawyers can provide assistance, especially in drafting and reviewing the written restitution agreement.
After the meeting, the written restitution agreement may be submitted to a court to be converted into an official formal court order. This will allow the victim to enforce the agreement if the terms are violated in the future. The victim’s lawyer can provide assistance in interacting with the court and in addressing future disputes.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Victim Mediation?
Victim mediation has proven to be an effective supplement to standard criminal justice procedures. In order for it to work properly, the parties should be individually represented by their own lawyers. You may wish to contact a criminal lawyer in your area for assistance with victim offender mediation. Your attorney can assist you throughout the entire process and can help with the written restitution agreement.