What it's like to be a Victim-Offender Dialogue Volunteer
As a volunteer with the CDR's Victim-Offender Dialogue Program you will have the opportunity to make an enormous impact on the lives of many in your community.
Volunteers receive extensive training in how to help victims and offenders meet together and discuss the crime, the specific harm caused, and what can/should be done to repair that harm. These meetings are voluntary for both victims and offenders, and as "facilitators" volunteers help both parties deal with what happened and move forward in a positive way.
Volunteers are assigned to cases in pairs and always work with a co-mediator. When assigned a case, volunteers first meet separately with the offender (and parent, in the case of juvenile offenders), and then with the victim of the crime. These meetings, as well as the mediation itself, may be scheduled at times that are convenient for both the parties and the mediators, including evenings and weekends. If everyone is willing to move forward with a joint meeting, the volunteer mediators then facilitate the face-to-face meeting, wherein the parties participate in a structured dialogue about what happened and what can be done to repair the harm caused. If the parties come to an agreement regarding restitution (which could include paying the victim back for damages, doing community service, or other creative options), the mediators write up that agreement and send it to the Juvenile Office or Prosecutor's Office, who then enforce the terms of the agreement.
Most volunteers will work one case each month, which is approximately a 3-4 hour time commitment (1 hour for the meeting with the offender, 1 hour for the meeting with the victim, and 1 hour for the meditation).
The current volunteers in Greene County's juvenile victim-offender dialogue program report that their experience is extremely rewarding. You can read more about their thoughts and feelings below:
What Current Volunteers Have to Say
These quotes are from current volunteers in Greene County's Juvenile Victim-Offender Dialogue Program
- I think the most valuable aspect of this program is that it integrates members of the community with the victim and the offender. All participants are able to see and experience the effect of the program and the benefits to the community as a whole. ~Katrina Samlaska
- There's the satisfaction of bringing about a successful conclusion and meeting and working with interesting people. One thing I didn't anticipate was the generosity and concern of the victim for the offender's 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. ~Lolita Albers
- This is an opportunity for direct communication between the victims and the offenders, a chance to listen to one another about what happened and how it has affected them. In the juvenile system, the parties are often separated by the process with little or no chance to interact. ~Jeff Ireland
- 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. ~Rich Carmichael
- I think the biggest potential benefit of this program is that juveniles will see first hand the impact that there conduct has upon citizens who are the victims, and by placing faces to the crimes they may better recognize the consequences of their actions and not repeat it in the future. ~Jeff Ireland
- The program allows actual solutions to be found rather than a punishment that may not have anything to do with the negative behavior. Each party gets to be involved in the process and an understanding is reached by all. ~Charlie Nolan
- For the victim and the offender the program provides a safe place where both parties can tell their story and be listened to. The young offenders learn that actions have consequences and that real people can be harmed by what they do. In addition, they must work out a solution with the person they have harmed or face the serious consequences of going into the court system. The victim has the satisfaction of the problem being addressed directly and also of knowing he/she has helped a young person move towards good citizenship rather than into the criminal justice system. ~Lolita Albers
- 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. I'm really proud to be a part of this program. I don't think we could have asked for a better agency or better volunteers to work with. ~Mandi Franck, Greene County Juvenile Office
- I have seen fearful victims learn that the behaviors are not directed toward them, thus reducing their fear of being victimized again. I have seen the child take responsibility and show levels of maturity that you would not normally expect. I have seen people, who would not normally have any chance to talk, much less know one another's names, come together and peacefully reach a resolution that benefits all the parties. ~Charlie Nolan
I have seen juvenile offenders truly become apologetic and regretful for the poor decisions they made and, after the meeting with the victim, they understood how much their actions can impact other people. ~Katrina Samlaska
The actual mediation experience is invaluable, but, for me, the most rewarding aspect is meeting new people and helping them through a tough time. ~Rich Carmichael