The second pillar is victim - perpetrator reconciliation
Reconciliation between the victim and the perpetrator requires an encounter between
the two adversarial parties. The encounter can be a direct meeting between the two
parties (and perhaps other community members) with a mediator or it can occur
indirectly through the exchange of letters, videos, and messages delivered by a third party
There are five elements of victim-perpetrator reconciliation:
In mediation, conferencing, and circles, the victims meet with their offenders; with
victim-offender impact panels, the meetings are between representative victims and
offenders. If the meeting is done through exchange of letters, tapes, or videos, or if it is
done through indirect communication, the "meeting" will not involve face - to - face
confrontation. Nevertheless, what takes place during any form of the meeting directly
engages the other party, in contrast with court proceedings where at most each party
will only observe the other's statements to the judge or jury.
At the meeting, the parties talk to one another; they tell their stories. In their narrative
they describe what happened to them, how that has affected them, and how they view
the crime and its consequences.
Narrative permits the participants to express and address emotion. Crime can produce
powerful emotional responses that obstruct the more dispassionate pursuit of justice to
which courts aspire. Encounter programs let those emotions be expressed. This can
result in healing for both victims and offenders.
The use of meeting, narrative and emotion leads to understanding. As David Moore has
observed about conferencing, "in this context of shared emotions, victim and offender
achieve a sort of empathy. This may not make the victim feel particularly positive about
the offender but it does make the offender seem more normal, less malevolent."
Likewise, for offenders, hearing the victims' story not only humanizes their victims but
can also change the offenders' attitude about their criminal behavior.
Reaching this understanding establishes a productive foundation for agreeing on what
happens next. Encounter programs seek a resolution that fits the immediate parties
rather than focusing on the precedential importance of the decision for future legal
proceedings. Encounter, therefore, opens up the possibility of designing a uniquely
crafted resolution reflecting the circumstances of the parties. Further, they do this
through a cooperative process rather than an adversarial one, through negotiation that
searches for a convergence of the interests of victim and offender by giving them the
ability to guide the outcome.
Learn more at restorativejustice.org