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Crime Victims - Mediation

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Another way victims can play an active role in resolving crimes against them is through a process called victim-offender mediation. In mediation, both the victim and offender must agree to meet and attempt to settle their dispute in a face-to-face manner, under the guidance of a mediator (a neutral party who helps resolve conflicts).

The mediation process predates the modern U.S. criminal justice system and was widely used in ancient times. Native American tribal justice systems have existed for centuries and still used this approach in the late 1990s. Several hundred mediation programs existed in the United States in the early twenty-first century. They can be found in the court system or the offices of sheriffs and prosecutors.

Mediation does require offenders to assume personal responsibility for their actions by admitting to the crime. The goal is to negotiate an agreement concerning the crime, with both parties having the opportunity to tell their stories and discuss what can be done to resolve the issues facing them. If the mediation is successful, the victim and offender write an agreement and sign it. The offender usually agrees to pay some compensation, perform services, or seek counseling. Mediators assign someone from their office to make sure both parties carry out terms of the agreement.

Occasionally, no agreement can be reached through mediation and the case returns to the usual criminal justice process. By this time, however, offenders have already admitted to their crimes as part of the mediation process. In some situations, the criminal justice system may still prosecute the case, even after an agreement is reached.

Mediations of more serious crimes, including murder, do occur though not as often. These cases, however, are more likely to be pursued after criminal prosecution has been completed and are usually conducted within a prison.

Mediation poses some risks to victims. If the offender fails to carry out the terms of the agreement, the victim may feel victimized once again. Most agreements, however, are honored; in these cases victims find their fears decrease while offenders often make positive changes in their lives as well.

Crime Victims - Protecting Victims [next] [back] Crime Victims - Victims' Bill Of Rights

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