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.