Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation in the 26th Circuit
The 26th Judicial Circuit Juvenile Court, in partnership with the Center for Dispute Resolution at Missouri State University, is pleased to announce the implementation of an exciting new program, Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation.
Victim-Offender Mediation provides a unique approach to addressing juvenile crime in Camden, Laclede, Miller, Morgan and Moniteau Counties. Currently, most young offenders never come face-to-face with the individuals they victimize. Instead, they often pay court-ordered restitution and are supervised by the court for a period of time. They are not held accountable to the victims of their crimes and never see the "human" impact of their actions. As a result of this distance from the true implications of their offenses, many go on to commit more serious crimes later.
In contrast, Victim-Offender Mediation holds youth directly accountable for their actions, asking them to face their victims and take responsibility for repairing the harm they caused. Young impressionable offenders hear first-hand how their choices impact members of their community. Often these young offenders have never even considered how painting graffiti on a fence, breaking a car window, or damaging someone's yard affected the property owner! Through mediation they see come to understand the many consequences of their poor choices. “When juvenile offenders come to these dialogues and sit down with the individuals they harmed, they often feel empathy for their victims for the first time. By speaking with the victim, they realize the impact of their actions,” explained Dr. Charlene Berquist, Director of the Center for Dispute Resolution at Missouri State University. According to Dr. Berquist, similar programs across the United States have been shown to dramatically reduce recidivism among such youth.
Another unique feature of the Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation program is that, unlike the traditional justice system, victims play an active role in the process. Rather than simply participating as a "witness," the victim is actively involved in the creation of a Restitution Agreement. in other words, victims not only have an opportunity to explain the harm a crime caused, but they also have a voice in deciding how the young offender can repair that harm. Victims also have a chance to ask the young offenders questions and get answers that help them deal with the anger, frustration, and fear caused by the crime. As a result, “Victims tend to be overwhelmingly satisfied with their experiences in such programs and report that afterward, they feel less fearful and more empowered,” according to Dr. Berquist.
Finally, Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation allows the young offenders the opportunity to repair some of the harm they caused through their crimes. Rather than the court ordering a young person to pay restitution, offenders work with their victims and the trained facilitator to create a meaningful restitution agreement that may involve monetary restitution to the victim, volunteer work or other creative options.
The Juvenile Court is actively seeking volunteers for this program! For more information, please contact the Center for Dispute Resolution toll-free at 1-866-905-9998 or CDR@missouristate.edu.