Restorative Justice (RJ) is a framework for the criminal justice system that involves victims and community more broadly in the system. It helps give victims a voice, focuses on offender accountability, and promotes healing for everyone affected by crime.
The Board of Parole offers two RJ programs to better serve victims. The programs offered include the Offender Apology Letter Bank and the Victim Offender Dialogue programs to provide more services to victims.
This helpful tool is often the missing piece for some victims. For some victims an apology is all they need from their offender. Other victims may need an apology letter and much more, while some victims have no interested in anything from the offender. Each victims needs are different and must be given the right to choose if they want the apology letter or not.
Many offenders are sincerely sorry and want their victims to know that they are taking steps to change their criminal behavior. For the offender who writes a letter of apology, it is often his/her attempt to communicate accountability, genuine remorse, and acknowledgement for the pain caused by their actions. The letter does not offer excuses or request for forgiveness. Involvement in this process is completely voluntary and does not affect the inmate’s release dates or other conditions of incarceration.
Why did you do it?
What happened before and during the crime?
Was my loved one in pain?
Why did you decide to drive that night?
Are you sorry?
What were my loved one’s last words?
This program may not be for all victims, but for certain victims/survivors of severe violence this program can be a very empowering experience. With thorough preparation with a trained facilitator, this program can be very effective for both the victim and the offender. Both victim and offender participants in previous VODs report gains in their own healing, recovery, and rehabilitation.
The purpose of the VOD program is to provide victims of felony crime the opportunity to participate in a structured face-to-face meeting with their offender in a safe and structured setting. Goals for the program are to:
- provide victims the opportunity to address the trauma of their victimization with their offenders, and to ask questions and receive answers which only offenders can provide.
- provide offenders the opportunity to take responsibility for their behavior, to learn the full impact of their actions, and express remorse related to their offense and its resulting impact, and to answer questions for the purpose of personal assistance for the victim.