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Dispute Resolution Programs - History

restitution mediation victims offender

In the mid-1970s, dispute resolution programs began to grow in the United States. The Minneapolis Restitution Center, for example, offered criminal offenders the opportunity to live and work outside the prison setting in order to make restitution payments to the victims of their crimes. As part of the program, offenders would meet with their victims in the presence of a program counselor to discuss the terms of restitution payment. A comparable program in the state of Oklahoma required juvenile offenders to make contact (in person or by letter) with the victims to whom they owed restitution.

Victim-offender mediation programs multiplied dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s. A study in 1998 found more than 289 victim-offender mediation programs in the United States. In 1994, researchers documented 20 projects in England, 26 in Canada, 54 in Norway, 40 in France, 293 in Germany, 130 in Finland, 8 in Belgium, and 1 in Scotland (Umbreit, 1994). The growth of victim-offender mediation has paralleled an increased interest in restitution for victims of crime. Mediation is seen as a cheap, informal way to determine the amount of restitution to be paid, while at the same time allowing for some interaction between victim and offender.

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