Victim Offender Conferencing
VICTIM-OFFENDER CONFERENCING (VOC) FACT SHEET
“RESTORATIVE JUSTICE THROUGH DIALOGUE”
WHAT IS VOC?
Victim Offender Conferencing is a process which provides interested victims of crime the opportunity to meet the offender in a safe and structured setting, with the goal of holding the offender directly accountable for their behavior while providing important assistance and compensation to the victim. With the assistance of a trained facilitator, the victim is able to let the offender know how the crime affected him or her, to receive answers to the questions they may have, and to be directly involved in developing a restitution plan for the offender to be accountable for the losses they incurred. The offender is able to take direct responsibility for their behavior, to learn the full impact of what they did, and to develop a plan for making amends to the person(s) they violated. Some victim offender conferences are called “victim offender medication” or “victim offender meetings”.
WHEN ARE CASES REFERRED?
In some programs, cases are primarily referred to victim offender conferencing as a diversion from prosecution, assuming the agreement is successfully completed. In other programs, cases are referred primarily after a formal admission of guilt has been accepted by the Court, with the facilitation being a condition of Probation (if the victim is interested). Some programs receive case referrals at both the diversion and post-adjudication level. At this time, the Jo Daviess County State’s Attorney and Jo Daviess County Probation Department will make the referrals for the VOC. The key in VOC is that it is victim directed and will only be initiated when the victim indicates an interest.
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER MEDIATION?
Mediation is being used in an increasing number of conflict situations, such as divorce and custody, community disputes, commercial disputes, and other civil court related conflicts. In such settings, the parties are called “disputants,” with an assumption being made that they both are contributing to the conflict and therefore need to compromise in order to reach a settlement. Often, mediation in this setting is focused heavily upon reaching a settlement, with a lesser emphasis upon a discussion of the full impact of the conflict upon their lives.
In VOC, the involved parties are not “disputants.” One has clearly committed a criminal offense and has admitted doing so. The other has clearly been victimized. Therefore, the issue of guilt or innocence is not mediated. Nor is there an expectation that the crime victims compromise and request less than what they need to address their loss. While many other types of mediation are largely “settlement driven,” victim offender conferencing is primarily “dialogue driven,” with the emphasis upon victim healing, offender accountability, and restoration of losses. Most victim offender conferencing sessions (frequently over 95 percent) do in fact result in a signed restitution agreement. This agreement, however, is secondary to the importance of the initial dialogue between the parties that addresses emotional and informational needs of victims that are central to their healing and to development of victim empathy in the offender which can lead to less criminal behavior in the future. Research has consistently found the restitution agreement is less important to crime victims than the opportunity to talk directly with the offender about how they felt about the crime.