What Is Mediation?
Mediation is an informal process where a mediator helps people with a dispute to reach agreement. The mediation process identifies important issues, clarifies misunderstandings, explores solutions, and negotiates an agreement for resolution.
The mediator is not a judge and does not make a decision or impose a solution on the case. Rather, the mediator helps those involved talk to each other, thereby allowing them to resolve the situation themselves through a contract. The mediator remains impartial and manages the mediation session, which is confidential.
Purpose of Program
The main purpose of VORP is to personalize and increase accountability in the justice system by bringing offenders together with the victim of their crimes. It is hoped that this experience will impart a feeling of the seriousness of their crimes and the impact on the victims and increase their desire to make restitution to the person(s) they have hurt. The victims will have an opportunity to learn why they were victimized and express their feelings directly to their offenders. The process is voluntary and confidential and of benefit to all parties.
Who May Refer:
The program is prepared to accept referrals at any stage of or before the legal process. the judge, court staff or district attorney, the police or sheriff's department, the police/school liaison officers or other school personnel, community organizations and individuals may make direct referrals.
Who To Refer:
The program does not wish to exclude any classes of offenses (except domestic violence), but rather to accept referrals on a case-by-case basis. These guidelines can help determine cases that are appropriate.
The Victim Offender Mediation Program works with cases in which:
- There is something to negotiate or discuss. The exact amount of restitution need not be set prior to referral since restitution amounts provide a concrete goal to work for in discussion. However, if restitution has been ordered, the mediation can proceed to deal with the attitudes and feelings that still need to be resolved.
- When community services is the likely consequence and a victim is involved, mediation can be the appropriate response that allows the victim to feel more restored. The community sevice can be a part of the contract and the victim can have input about where it is performed.
- Mediation can be helpful in cases of theft, burglary, harassment, neighbor dispute, assault with or without injury, vandalism, telephone code violations and disorderly conduct. If the contract is not fulfilled, the case can be sent back to court.
Court Based Referrals:
Either a diversion or a deferral may be granted to a person who, as an adult, has never been convicted of an offense (including traffic violation). With a diversion no plea is entered. With a deferral, a plea of guilty is entered, but the court makes no finding of guilt. A referral to VORP may be included as part of the conditions of either the diversion or deferral.
At the time of the probation/sentencing hearing, the Criminal Court judge makes the decision as to whether to grant probation or to incarcerate the offender. VORP receives referrals for persons placed on probation, not for persons sent to state penitentiaries. Participation in VORP may be written as part of the plea agreement or may be included as part of the court order at the time of the probation/sentencing hearing.
School referrals con come through principals, the school resource officer, guidance counselors, or teachers. The mediation team helps the parties negotiate a contract that solves the problem and prevents further difficulties. The contract provides for attendance at a conflict resolution class, which teaches nonviolent ways to handle and resolve disagreements and improves communication skills. The types of cases that can be referred include assault, verbal slander, theft, fighting, and harassment, truancy, and suspension.