VICTIM-OFFENDER
RECONCILIATION PROGRAMS

THE JOHN HOWARD SOCIETY OF ALBERTA

1998

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

While the formalized criminal justice system is based on a retributive approach to criminal justice, where crime is perceived as an act against the state, VORPs fall under the concept of restorative justice, which aims to provide for the needs of the offender and the victim, and crime is a conflict between individuals.

There are four main models of victim-offender reconciliation programs. Church-related programs are sponsored and funded by churches. Community-based private criminal justice agencies are run by non-profit agencies working within the criminal justice system. Probation-based programs rely on trained volunteers to be mediators. Dispute settlement centres are those agencies which have extended their services to victim-offender mediation.

There are four phases to the process. The intake phase is where the agencies accepts referrals. These referrals come from various sources, and are for various crimes. In the preparation phase, the offender and the victim are contacted and a meeting is arranged between the mediator and each individual. Either the victim or the offender can refuse to participate. During the mediation phase, the two parties meet to discuss the incident, and an agreement is worked out. The follow-up phase checks to see whether the agreement has been completed.

The victim, the offender, and the community can all benefit from victim-offender reconciliation programs. VORPs leave both parties satisfied with not only the program, but with the entire criminal justice experience itself. The majority of victims and offender find the experience satisfying and state they would participate in the program again if they had the opportunity. Studies into the effectiveness of VORPs on recidivism rates are inconsistent.


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