Missouri State University

Victim-Offender Mediation Programs

In late March of 2007 the Center for Dispute Resolution (CDR) launched Greene County's first Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation (VOM) program. In 2007 the CDR expanded it's restorative justice program by partnering with the Greene County Prosecutor to begin an Adult Victim-Offender Mediation program. Today the CDR has many trained volunteers working in both these active programs.

Partnership with Greene County Juvenile Court

Through a partnership with the Greene County Juvenile Court, volunteers trained by and coordinated through the Center for Dispute Resolution facilitate meetings between young first- and second-time offenders and their victims. At these meetings victims have the opportunity to explain how they have been impacted by the actions of these young offenders, and the youth are held directly accountable to the people who were affected by their crimes.

Mandi Franck, Victim-Witness Coordinator for the Greene County Juvenile Division, explains how this program is unique. "This is the Juvenile Office's first true community project. All of the trained mediators are community volunteers. Victims have always had a voice, but this program gives them the opportunity to play a direct role in the justice process."

Partnerhip with the Greene County Prosecutor's Office

The CDR has also partnered with the Greene County Prosecutor's Office to mediate cases involving adult offenders. This program represents the area's first adult victim-offender mediation program. Through the program offenders often pay restitution and do community service as part of their efforts to repair the harm they have caused. Between February 2008 and June 2009 program participants worked more than 700 hours doing community service for non-profits in Greene County.

Benefits of the VOM Program

The Juvenile and Adult VOM programs offer a number of benefits for youth offenders, victims, and the community. First, the programs empower victims, and they often find closure through the mediation process. As more mediations have been conducted, Franck has been impressed with victims' responses to the unique program. "It has been very exciting to see such a positive response to this program.  Participation has been outstanding, illustrating that victims do want a voice in the justice process."

Additionally, the program helps offenders realize that their actions hurt others while offering them the opportunity to repair the harm they caused. Katrina Samlaska, a VOM volunteer mediator, explained the profound impact these meetings can have for the youth involved. "I have seen juvenile offenders truly become apologetic and regretful for the poor decisions they made and, after the meeting, they understand how much their actions can impact other people." Because offenders have an opportunity to repair the harm they caused, rather than simply being "punished,"  they are reaffirmed as a part of the larger society, which decreases the likelihood they will re-offend.

Dec 06 VOM Attendees Training Picture The turnout for the CDR's December 2006 VOM training was outstanding! Many of the above individuals now serve as volunteers for the VOM program.

Training for Program Volunteers

A grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks allowed the CDR to bring Dr. Mark Umbreit to Springfield to provide training for VOM volunteer mediators in December of 2006. Dr. Umbreit, a professor at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work and Director of the Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking, is an internationally recognized figure in the field of restorative justice.

Since this training, the CDR has received numerous inquiries from individuals interested in volunteering for the program. As a result, the CDR offered an additional Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation Training for volunteers and other learners in October of 2007 and May of 2008. The CDR hopes to continue offering regular volunteer trainings to support the VOM program as it continues to grow.

Volunteer Mediators Taking Case Referrals

The CDR's VOM programs currently have more than 30 trained volunteer mediators who accept case referrals from the CDR and the Greene County Juvenile Court and Prosecutor's Office. Other judicial systems have also expressed an interest in working with the CDR to implement similar programs in their areas.

For volunteers, participating in this program has been a rewarding experience. Lolita Albers, a VOM volunteer, describes how she has been impressed with victims' responses once they meet with the youthful offenders. "One thing I didn't anticipate was the generosity and concern of the victims for the offenders' long-term well being. We hear so much about how self-centered and uncaring people can be, but I've seen just the opposite. It's gratifying to see the best in people." Rich Carmichael, also a VOM volunteer, has also seen the benefits of this alternative to the traditional system. "I believe this is a very valuable service that can benefit many different people, victims and offenders alike. Everyone has problems in life and this program provides an effective means for dealing with those troubles. To be a part of that process is something unique and I am happy to do so."

For More Information

The VOM program is just one example of the CDR's high-impact community involvement. For more information on the VOM programs or any of the CDR's other services provided by the CDR, or to learn how you can become a volunteer mediator for the VOM programs, please email CDR@missouristate.edu or call (417) 836-8831.

Community Foundation of the Ozarks logo
Funds for the development of this program were provided by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.

Contact Information

Physical Address: Missouri State University, Park Central Office Building room 212, 117 Park Central Square, Springfield MO (View a map of the CDR's downtown location.)

Mailing Address: Missouri State University, Center for Dispute Resolution, 901 S. National, Springfield MO 65897

CDR Phone: (417) 836-8831

Fax: (417) 836-8288

E-mail: CDR@MissouriState.edu

CDR Staff

Charlene Berquist, Director, Center for Dispute Resolution; Professor, Department of Communication
Heather Blades, Associate Director, Center for Dispute Resolution
Janelle Thacker, Kristin Gearhart, and Becky Saunders, Graduate Assistants
Taylor Friedli, and Cassie Kite, Student Workers