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Restorative Justice



Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice 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.  

Instead of focusing only on the offender, restorative justice encompasses a more holistic approach to include all of those affected by crime.  Restorative justice focuses on offender responsibility and accountability instead of punishing and controlling crime.  It also includes the victim, and in fact, the victim is one of the central components of restorative justice. Where criminal justice focuses on preventing, controlling, and punishing, restorative justice is more about a process that attempts to repair harm and make amends to victims and communities. Bringing victims and the community into the justice process not only assists with the healing process, but can assist with empowering victims as well.

The restorative justice programs that the Wyoming Board of Parole offers to victims are the Offender Apology Letter Bank Program and the Victim Offender Dialogue Program.  

What is the Offender Apology Letter Bank?

Victims often wonder whether or not their offender has taken responsibility and/or is sorry for his/her criminal actions. Likewise, inmates sometimes seek to put into words acceptance of fault, responsibility, and/or pain caused by their actions. The Apology Letter Bank is a form of restorative justice that allows offenders who are incarcerated to write letters of apology to their victim for their crimes. Letters accepted into the Letter Bank remain there until victims choose to receive them. The Letter Bank is a safe system for the victim to receive the letter of apology from the offender when and if desired.

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. 

Process

  • Offenders write and submit apology letters to the Victim Services Coordinator (VSC) at the WY Board of Parole.
  • The VSC will review and check the letter for appropriateness. Any inappropriate letter will be returned for revision.
  • Once accepted into the Bank, the VSC will attempt to contact the victim to inform of the letter. The victim decides: 
    • If and when the apology letter will be accepted
    • Whether or not the offender is informed that the victim requested, received, and/or has read the apology letter.
  • Letters will remain in the Bank until collected by the victim.
Victims who would like to know if their offender wrote an apology letter may contact the WY BOP Victim Services Coordinator at 307-777-5390.

The Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) program enables victims/survivors the ability to meet with their offenders face-to-face in a safe and secure environment to discuss how the crime has affected them and their loved ones, and to ask questions only the offender can answer. The Wyoming VOD program is a victim-centered program that can provide a pathway to a sense of further healing and justice for those that choose to participate. It can offer victims the chance to give voice and feel heard while getting some answers, and give offenders an opportunity to better understand the devastating effects of their actions and to take responsibility for those actions. Only victims can initiate the process and either party may discontinue participate at any time during the process.

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.

Why would a victim want to meet with an offender?

Victims/Survivors often have questions about the crime, the offenders thinking, about their lost loved one, or other questions they wish they could have the answer to.
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?

These are questions that only offenders are able to answer. 

Victims may want to tell the offender how their lives and the lives of their family have been affected by the crime and how they feel about what happened.

Victims often want to see the offender for themselves what kind of person the offender has become, and whether he or she is sorry.

Most victims who participate in dialogues with their offenders find that the process moves them forward in their journey towards healing.

The following are quotes from victims in regards to their participation in the WY VOD program:

    "Key to opening up and not holding on the negative things anymore."

    "Life and attitude changer."

    "Through my participation, I conquered that hill."

    "I would highly recommend all victims of crime to participate in the VOD program because it was so                empowering." 

    "Instead of dreading my lost loved one's life, I now am able to celebrate it."

Why would an offender agree to participate in a dialogue?

Many offenders are sincerely remorseful for their crimes and want an opportunity to apologize to their victims.

Answering the victim’s questions and providing information about the crime is one way offenders can demonstrate personal accountability and attempt to make amends.

How does victim offender dialogue work?

Once a victim requests a victim offender dialogue, the VOD Program Manager will contact the offender’s caseworker and the facility CEO to consider criteria for the offender’s participation. Once cleared, the offender is contacted to determine participation, and if the offender agrees to participate, preparation begins.

A trained facilitator meets several times separately with the victim and offender. Preparation takes months due to the intense nature as well as the long travel distances for preparation with both parties. Preparation meetings can occur in person, via video or telephone. Once all parties are fully prepared, a face-to-face meeting occurs at the facility where the offender is located.

How do I know if a Victim Offender Dialogue is for me?

The VOD Program Manager can help. The WY VOD program usually does not allow dialogues in domestic violence or stalking cases due to the risk that the offender would intimidate or exert power over the victim. The program manager may decide that a dialogue is not appropriate due to risk of physical or emotional harm to anyone involved.

What if I change my mind?

Any of the parties may decide at any time to discontinue the VOD process.

Offenders rarely discontinue the process once they have agreed to participate. Victims sometimes process their feelings during the preparation phase and discover they do not need to go forward with the dialogue.

Click here for the Victim Offender Dialogue Brochure.

To request a Victim Offender Dialogue with an offender, contact:
VOD Program Manager
Wyoming Board of Parole
307-777-5390
Email: Contact Us