The retributive and rehabilitative approaches of justice are dominant, and research suggests that they have disappointed the juvenile legal system. The rise in youth crime and critiques of the juvenile legal approaches has led to demands for reforms in the way of charging youth offenders. The retributive approach of justice suggests that juvenile offenses are violations against the state and holds the state accountable for sentencing youth offenders (Umbreit and Greenwood, 1999). This approach assumes that punishment will help in reducing future criminal activities; however, research suggests that the punishment is likely to increase youth delinquency. On the other hand, the rehabilitative approaches focus on resolving youth offenses by utilizing interventions including probation, cognitive training and behavior therapy to reform delinquency (McCorry, 2010).
In the same context, restorative approach has also become a widespread alternative to react to crime. Unlike the retributive approach, restorative justice emphasizes that criminal offenses abuse people and relationships. Therefore, the approach addresses victims, offenders and society as the main people concerned with restoration and healing. The main components of the restorative approach include dialogue, reparation and accountability (Umbreit and Greenwood, 1999). There are three categories of restorative justice dialogue, and they include family group conferencing (FCG), peace-making circles and victim offender mediation (VOM). This proposal will focus on the victim offender mediation (VOM), mainly because it is the most appropriate approach.
The Victim-Offender Mediation approach is the most widely used restorative program in cases involving less violent crimes committed by the youth. The approach employs a voluntary aspect, whereby both victims and offenders make the choice to participate or not to participate. However, research suggests that in some jurisdictions, victims and offenders are less than willing participants are. Therefore, this calls for a prior assessment on their will and readiness to meet before the actual meeting. The approach allows victims and offenders to tell their take on crime, and finally, the mediator helps the two in formulating and agreement for restitution (McCorry, 2010).
Statement of the Purpose
Questions about the efficiency of the Victim-Offender Mediation as court policy have prompted substantial research in the recent years. Additionally, there are a number of studies suggesting substantial benefits of this approach in comparison to the traditional approaches to juvenile justice. Although the benefits are many, there is a need to offer empirical evidence on the same. Owing to the aim of the juvenile legal system, to reduce juvenile crimes, the research under this proposal should bridge the gap on studies and determine the reasons why the young offenders who take part in VOM change their deliquescent behaviors.
The guiding questions to this study include:
i) Would it cost the state less to implement victim offender mediation program for juvenile offenders than it would to expand the courts, corrections staff, and facility infrastructure?
ii) Would it take the state less time to implement a program such as this than it would to expand the courts and corrections staff and facility infrastructure?
iii) To what extent could a VOM program reduce court case backlog and thereby shorten the average time between arrest and case disposition?
iv) What is the feedback record of one or more comparable VOM programs?
v) What are the social benefits and social costs of a VOM program for juvenile offenders themselves and to the larger community?
vi) Are there particular types of cases that are appropriate as opposed to others that the legislature might want to exclude?
vii) What are the major challenges that will be faced by the Administrative Office of the Courts in implementing this proposed policy?
Since 1980, victim-offender mediation programs involved face-to-face encounters between victims and offenders. Owing to the variations concerning the program's objective, pedigree and their most appropriate location within the juvenile legal system, the general aspect is the voluntary participation between the victim and offender. In most cases, the programs seek to offer an opportunity for victims and offenders to meet directly. A trained mediator, present in the mediation process, facilitates the discussion between the victim and offender. The utilization of this program, traditionally, aimed at reducing victim trauma, instill humanity in the legal process, increase offender responsibility, provide meaningful tasks for victims and reduce dependence on traditional methods of punishing youth offenders (Bazemore and Umbreit, 1995).
Research suggests that victim-offender mediation programs began in the Midwest. Additionally, the programs operated in various jurisdictions in the United States (Umbriet and Greenwood, 1999). Currently, the programs are spreading and operating in Canada, Germany, England and New Zealand. Additionally, research states that the rise in the use of VOM programs is steady and consistent. This is translating to the many cases, which courts find applicable with the programs. Although most of the community-based organizations head the programs, currently, they are working together with the courts (Ghem, 1998).
Another prior study suggests that the program existed among Native Americans. The victim and offender come together in the presence of an elder, who acts as the mediator. Additionally, the meeting will include any other person affected by the offense and its aftermath, and the party spoke in turns without interrupting the offender and victim. They describe the grief they suffered, relations, and speculate on what could happen. However, in private, the offender and the victim were to make the ultimate decision on the way forward. Once the two reach an understanding, it is made known to the elders, who later invite the larger part of the community and announce the decision.
A number of studies have reported different impacts of VOM on recidivism. The most current study claims that mediation has the capacity to reduce recidivism rates (Caroll, 1995). Another study suggests that the youth who participate in the program were likely not to re-offend. Therefore, participating in the program is likely to reduce delinquency in youth offenders and if they re-offend, they would commit less severe crimes. The support from such studies suggests that implementing VOM programs in the juvenile justice policies will help in achieving the objectives of the juvenile court. Another study suggests that VOM is a well-established empirically supported the measure in the reduction of juvenile delinquency.
Other scholars, attempt to elaborate why VOM leads to a decrease in crimes for the participating youth. They claim that mediation offers for victims developing empathy in the offender, which has the ability to reduce delinquent behavior in the future. Additionally, the change of delinquent behavior is a significant result of the VOM program. The change reflects both individual and social well-being. Crime and recidivism provides a chance to understand the crime and offer appropriate interventions. Therefore, in opting to implement the VOM programs within the juvenile legal system, it is appropriate to assess its efficiency at achieving crime change (Lauritsen, Laub, and Sampson 1992).
Research further suggests that the VOM cannot interrupt the court process because it is up to the victim to choose whether to take part in the mediation process. Therefore, the state can pursue its court process. However, another study claims that the courts have a substantial effect on the effectiveness of the VOM program. By supporting the program, the court gives the program an opportunity to serve as a separate entity from the traditional legal system. Additionally, many legal systems in the globe are embracing these programs, but they should take part in revising the available provisions of the agreements arrived at by the victim and offender (Chang, Chen and Brownson, 2003).
Based on findings from Georgia, the state could save millions of dollars if it implemented the VOM policy. From factual findings, Georgia allocates $4.77M in $3,000 disbursements to every juvenile court for VOM programs. Annually, the court diverts four youth offenders to VOM program, instead of detaining the offenders (Sheinin, 2009). In this context, by diverting the four juvenile offenders annually, the court would save approximately $1,431,954. On the other hand, increasing the staff would mean an increase in the salaries for payment. Additionally, expanding the court and its infrastructure would also mean increased costs to incur (Sheinin, 2009). This means that implementing the VOM policy would work to save the taxpayers' money.
Still in Georgia, the savings are likely to increase by around $1,550,488 for any additional juvenile referred to the VOM program. This will translate to savings of up to $13,835,862 annually. This is a positive move towards the implementation of the policy (Sheinin, 2009). The program saves time, which the court should have taken in the process of gathering evidence and prosecuting the offender. In addition, the implementation process is not complicated because it will only require the approval of the court. When the victim meets the offender, they are likely to spend less time; less than twenty-four hours to reach an agreement.
An overall decrease in prison time saves the state substantial amount of funds. Additionally, mediation saves up the court's time for trial. In Henderson County, empirical evidence suggests that trials reduced by two-thirds owing to implementation of the…