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.
To prepare for this assignment:
- Review The Little Book of Family Group Conferencing. Focus on the seven goals and seven principles that guide Family Group Conferencing, and consider the incentives and drawbacks of having more members of a community involved in the discussion. Think about the outcomes of a successful Family Group Conference.
- Review the video, Stephen’s Whanau – A Maori Youth Justice Story , focusing on the process and effects of a Family Group Conference.
- Review The Little Book of Victim Offender Conferencing. Focus on critical issues in Victim Offender Conferencing as well as the benefits and risks of following such a process for direct victims, offenders, and communities. Note how a crime of severe violence alters these risks and benefits.
- Consider the strengths and limitations of the Victim Offender Conferencing and Family Group Conferencing models.
- Think about the risks and benefits for the victim, offender, and community associated with each model.
The assignment (2–3 pages):
- Explain strengths and limitations of Victim Offender Conferencing and Family Group Conferencing models.
- Explain stakeholder benefits and possible risks associated with both models.
- Provide at least one insight you had or conclusion you drew about restorative justice conferencing models based on completing this assignment