Resolution in Support of Victim-Offender Mediation

Resolution in Support of Victim-Offender Mediation

Summary

Victim Offender Mediation is a face-to-face meeting, in the presence of a trained mediator, between the victim of a crime and the person who committed that crime. Used mostly in cases of low-level property offenses and first-time offenders, this method allows the victim and the offender to settle their case out of court, thus saving taxpayers’ money on court costs, providing greater closure and restitution for the victim, and reducing recidivism by instilling in the offender a strong sense of the actual harm they caused to another individual. This Resolution encourages states to establish victim-offender mediation policies or to promote the availability and utilization of such an option if it already exists.

Model Resolution

WHEREAS, victim-offender mediation must be chosen over the traditional process by both the victim and the offender, since the offender is required to take responsibility for his conduct and waive his right to trial and appeal; and

WHEREAS, a written agreement is reached that typically requires restitution, community service, no further offenses, and counseling. The agreement is then ratified by the prosecutor or judge. Failure to comply leads to traditional prosecution, which can result in any of the penalties available for that offense up to and including incarceration; and

WHEREAS, victim-offender mediation is different from mediating a civil dispute because one party has admittedly criminally wronged the other.  The purpose in a victim-offender mediation is not to negotiate but to create a dialogue that allows the victim to discuss the impact of the crime, specify what is needed to make them whole, and obtain closure; and

WHEREAS, victim-offender mediation is most commonly used for low level property offenses such as graffiti, shoplifting, and criminal mischief and in cases involving first-time offenders; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Department of Justice has recommended victim-offender mediation since the 1990s’s and has published guidelines for its successful implementation; and

WHEREAS, there are over 300 victim-offender mediation programs in North America and over 1,300 worldwide. In the U.S., 11 states have statutes that expressly provide for victim-offender mediation. Most programs are for juvenile offenders, but a significant number are for adults;

WHEREAS, many victims want the mediation option. In a British Crime Survey, 60 percent of property offense victims expressed interest in a mediation; and

WHEREAS, mediation offers victims an expedited means of obtaining justice in contrast to protracted pretrial proceedings, jury selection, and the prospect of seemingly endless appeals; and

WHEREAS, according to a Texas Public Policy Foundation report, a study of victim-offender mediation programs serving adults and juveniles found that 89 percent of agreements were successfully completed. That means the restitution was fully paid in these cases, as that is part of over 90 percent of agreements. In contrast, the national restitution collection rate in the U.S. is 20 to 30 percent; and

WHEREAS, a multi-site study found that 79 percent of victims who participated in mediations were satisfied, compared with 57 percent of victims who went through the traditional court system; and

WHEREAS, in mediation programs in the U.S. and Canada, victims who went through mediation were over 50 percent less likely to express fear of re-victimization than a sample of victims who did not go through mediation; and

WHEREAS, a meta-analysis that looked at 27 victim-offender mediation programs in North America found that 72% of them lowered recidivism and that the average decline was 7 percent. Similarly, a comparison group study of four U.S. victim-offender mediation programs by Umbreit & Coates found that 18.1 percent of offenders who took part in mediation committed a new offense, compared to 26.9 percent of those who did not participate and that, of the re-offenders, 41 percent of those in the mediation group committed less serious offenses than before but only 12 percent in the control group; and

WHEREAS, researchers believe victim-offender mediation works because an offender often realizes that their conduct did not merely violate the words of a government statute, but also inflicted real harm on an individual victim. In many offenders, this heightens their sense of empathy, instills accountability for their actions, and makes it more difficult for them to try to rationalize their conduct; and

WHEREAS, the mediation also allows the victim to get closure and ask questions often sought for closure that only the offender can answer, such as why the offender did it and why they were the chosen victim; and

WHEREAS, in many mediations, offenders have the incentive of not having a conviction on their record if they do everything that is required by the agreement to the satisfaction of the victim, prosecutor, and judge.  Without a conviction, the offender is much more likely to be employable; and

WHEREAS, victim-offender mediation saves taxpayers’ money on court and prosecutorial costs and avoids the significant taxpayer expense of court-appointed counsel for indigent defendants. Many programs use volunteers such as attorneys and ministers as mediators while others pay mediators approximately $50. In contrast, trial court proceedings and appeals can cost many thousands of dollars in the allocated time of prosecutors, judges, and lawyers; and

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) supports giving victims the option to choose mediation in appropriate cases and urges state lawmakers and agency officials to implement policies that create the mediation option, or if it already exists, promote its availability and utilization.

 Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors January 7, 2011.

Reapproved by the ALEC Board of Directors July 1, 2014.

Keyword Tags: Justice Performance Project Task Force