Application: Restorative Justice Conferencing Models
Victim Offender Conferencing and Family Group Conferencing are two models used in restorative justice. Both models have similar principles and values, although they have different strengths, limitations, and stakeholder benefits and risks. Victim Offender Conferencing (VOC) often occurs as a result of a request from a judge, probation or police officer, prosecutor, and/or community agency. Once the offender agrees to participate, the facilitator contacts the direct victim. A victim’s participation is purely voluntary. VOC can also include people the offender or victim wants to have present. Victim Offender Conferences allow the direct victim and offender a forum to express their feelings, ask questions, and address harm or damages. Ultimately, one of the primary goals of the VOC is for the offender and his/her family to create a plan to deal with the offense and provide restitution. It also gives the victim a final opportunity after the plan is created to weigh in on the final agreement. After the conference, the referring agency receives a report from the facilitator and monitors results until restitution is complete, the final report is written, and the case is closed. This does not mean the offender automatically is free; he or she may still have other punishment, such as probation or jail time that must be completed.
Family Group Conferencing emphasizes “the entire outcome or disposition and not just restitution” (MacRae & Zehr, 2004, p. 12). This model is particularly useful when addressing youth crime and child welfare. Like Victim Offender Conferencing, Family Group Conferences are face-to-face meetings. The direct victims may elect to participate in a number of ways other than meeting in person—i ncluding sending a representative to meet on their behalf. In Family Group Conferencing, participants may extend to youth advocates, social workers, caregivers, law enforcement representatives, and in some cases, extended family.
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