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.
Partnership with the Greene County Prosecutor's Office
The CDR also partners with the Greene County Prosecutor's Office to mediate cases involving adult offenders. This program represents the area's first adult victim-offender dialogue program. Through the program offenders often pay restitution and do community service as part of their efforts to repair the harm they have caused.
Benefits of the VOD program
The Juvenile and Adult VOD 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.
Training for program volunteers
The CDR regularly offers free training for volunteers in facilitating victim-offender dialogues.
For volunteers, participating in this program has been a rewarding experience. Lolita Albers, a VOD 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."
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For more information
The VOD program is just one example of the CDR's high-impact community involvement. For more information on the VOD 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.
Funds for the development of this program were provided by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.