What Is Victim-Offender Mediation?

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen
Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Victim-offender mediation is a process in which a victim of a crime is allowed to confront the offender in a supportive atmosphere facilitated by a trained mediator. During the mediation, both the victim and the offender have the opportunity to speak to each other about the crime. Victims, or in some cases members of the victim's family, can inform an offender about the consequences they suffered as a result of being victimized. They are also offered the opportunity to seek answers from the offender regarding the offender's decision to commit the crime. Offenders are also offered the opportunity to explain the crime and its impact on their own lives and in some cases may be able to make restitution to the victim or the victim's family, which may become part of the offender's sentencing.

For many crime victims or families of crime victims, the fallout of victimization can be significant. Victims and their families may feel helpless, frustrated, and vulnerable. Advocates of victim-offender mediation argue that the process of bringing crime victims and offenders together offers victims a chance to regain some control over their lives following the devastation that victimization can cause. These advocates also maintain that offenders benefit from being held accountable for their crime by the actual victim rather than by representatives of the criminal justice system. The process may also provide more direct compensation to a victim, which he may not otherwise receive if the offender is merely sentenced to prison or required to pay fines to the court.

The actual process of victim-offender mediation may vary by jurisdiction as well as the policies of the organization that provides the mediation services. In many cases, both victim and offender will be prepared for the mediation session by being able to speak to a mediator or, in some cases, a crime victim advocate about the process prior to the actual meeting. Both victim and offender may be permitted to bring supporters, such as family members or spouses, into the session. The mediator may then ask the victim to read a victim impact statement or simply explain the impact of the crime and its aftermath to the offender.

After the offender has a chance to speak to the victim and answer the victim's questions, both parties may decide to work out a program of restitution in which the offender can offer some form of compensation to the victim. Depending on the jurisdiction's rules on victim-offender mediation, the restitution agreement may be presented to the judge who presides over the offender's case. If the judge agrees, the restitution decided upon between victim and offender may be included in the punishment issued by the judge during sentencing.

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