The Drawbacks And Disappointments Of The Victim Offender Mediation Program

2250 words - 9 pages

Over the years, the traditional criminal justice system has emphasized offenders’ accountability through punishment and stigmatization. The emphasis on the retributive philosophy made it challenging for the system to meaningfully assist and empower crime victims. In the criminal justice system, victims often face insensitive treatment with little or no opportunity for input into the perseverance of their case and report feeling voiceless in the process used (Choi, Gilbert, & Green, 2013:114). Crime Victims, advocates, and practitioners have called for an expansion of victims’ rights and community-based alternatives rather than punishment-orientated justice policies. What victims want from ...view middle of the document...

In order for the VOM to be successful, the mediator has to be trained properly. The mediator should know his/her functions in the program. Furthermore, there is a deeper issue related to confidentiality. The base of the VOM program is “confidentiality” and if that is unstable, how are the victims and the offenders suppose to participate peacefully? Moving on, VOM program is one of the most widely used practice of RJ system in North America. The specific concern that is demonstrated in the VOM program is the power relations at the micro level of the mediation sessions.
Meaningful participation is central to restorative processes like VOM. Low levels of participation make it difficult for VOM to achieve the fundamental goals of empowering, recognizing, reintegrating the participants. The first barrier to participation is that “both juvenile and adult participants were relatively unclear about the purpose and goals of mediation.” (Gerkin, 2009:239). Both, victims and offenders lack a restorative vision of justice. They are frequently misguided by their assumptions about RJ system. The participants have little or no knowledge of what RJ system is. The victims are bewildered by the process and they do not understand the significance of VOM program. This is a major challenge for RJ system; if victims and offenders do not participate, they will not be successful in the mediation. The second barrier to participation is the common misconception that, they consider the mediator to be the administrator of justice (Gerkin, 2009:240). In the study done by Gerkin, the victims perceived the mediators as an authority figure, similar to a judge, able to make decisions and hand out judgements. Consequently, the victims were not able to participate properly because they were anxious that the mediator would impose a “judgement”. This departs from the fundamentals of RJ system. Also, Victims were often not prepared appropriately, were sometimes pressured by mediators to behave in certain ways, and were occasionally intimidated by some of the offenders and/or their families (Choi, Gilbert, & Green, 2013:128).Furthermore, the victims have broad discretion to create restrictions on the behaviour of the offenders, who appear to be powerless in their ability to influence the agreement produced by their mediation (Gerkin, 2009:241). Without participation, the offenders are less likely to feel empowered and identify their needs. The consequences of this are devastating for the practice of RJ system. In conclusion, all participants need to be prepared to participate in restorative processes. “Participants must first come to see crime and the response to it through a restorative lens.” (Gerkin, 2009:242). Preparation involves helping individuals to develop a restorative lens, making restorative outcomes a reasonable solution in the participant’s eye.
VOM programs have been developed to help both victims and offenders address the issues/effects of crime. The program is...

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