September 1, 2014

VICTIM OFFENDER RECONCILIATION PROGRAM

The Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) works with victims and offenders to identify who was affected by the crime, what harm was caused, and what steps the offender can take to begin to make things right.  This program has existed in Elkhart County with the first mediation in 1977.   From 1992-2009 Indiana Department of Corrections funded the work in Elkhart County through Community Corrections Grant.

Elkhart County Superior Courts I, II, IV, V, VI, Circuit and Juvenile court refer cases.  This program is currently funded through contributions from donors like you, ICJI Voca funding, and are actively seeking new sources of funding to help this ongoing work.

 

 

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80% of Adults who sign a contract in VORP are not convicted of another crime (looking at data for 3 years after signed contract).

Click here to see 2015 VORP Adult Recidivism Report

VORP operates out of a philosophy of restorative justice, which views crime as harm done to people and communities, and seeks to identify and address that harm.  Doing so requires that offenders recognize how their actions have harmed the victim, their community, and their own lives.  VORP holds offenders accountable for the harm they have caused, and works with them in taking steps to address that harm.

VORP is a victim-driven program; the VORP process is fundamentally shaped by the victim’s wishes.  VORP caseworkers assist victims in identifying how the offense has affected them and what would be meaningful by way of reparation.

1. THE VORP PROCESS: CONVERSATION AND CONTRACT
The Conversation
The VORP process is a conversation that allows victims to ask questions about why the offense was committed and to tell the offender how it affected them.  It is also a conversation that gives offenders an opportunity to take responsibility for their actions by taking steps to address the harm they caused—to the victim, to themselves, and to their community.  This conversation may involve a face-to-face meeting between the victim and offender, or it may be facilitated indirectly by VORP staff.
The Contract
One outcome of the VORP process is a contract that identifies how the offender will make reparation for their actions.  This contract may include:
– Monetary restitution for financial losses.
– Community service.
– A letter of apology.
– Some other meaningful step the offender can take to address the impact of his/her actions.

VORP seeks to work with offenders in repairing the harm they have caused.  By fulfilling a VORP contract, an offender takes an important step toward doing this; it is a tangible and meaningful way to accept responsibility and move forward into a productive life.

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2. VOLUNTEERING WITH VORP
VORP depends on the hard work of volunteers from the Elkhart County community.  Volunteer mediators play a critical role in facilitating face-to-face meetings between victims and offenders.  If you are interested in learning more about VORP or volunteering with the program, please contact CCJ and ask for more information about the VORP annual training. Read about VORP training.
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3. DOES VORP MEAN GIVING OFFENDERS THE EASY WAY OUT? 
No.  Accountability and taking responsibility are central parts of the VORP conversation.  In fact, some offenders report that meeting with their victim was the most difficult obligation that resulted from their offense.  VORP empowers victims of crime and holds offenders personally accountable to victims for the harm they caused.
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4. WHAT DOES A VORP CASE LOOK LIKE?
While it is hard to identify a “typical” VORP case, most VORP cases are referred by the courts in Elkhart County and involve an offense that has been committed against one party by another.  Common offenses referred to VORP include criminal mischief, theft, burglary, battery, robbery, and fraud.  VORP caseworkers monitor the fulfillment of all VORP contracts, and report to the referring court once they are completed. (return to top)

5. WHAT IF THE COURTS HAVE NOT BEEN INVOLVED?
While most referrals for VORP come through the court system, the Center for Community Justice also provides services to the general community through the Community Mediation Program (CMP).  If two or more parties wish to address an incident informally, CMP staff can assist in facilitating a conversation to address what happened. (return to top)

6. DOES IT WORK? 
Programs like VORP are being used increasingly in communities across the country and around the world.  A 2001 Canadian meta-analysis of 22 different studies involving 35 restorative justice programs found that participation in restorative justice significantly improved the likelihood of offenders complying with restitution agreements, compared to court-ordered payments.1

Additionally, many studies, including over 10 years of research by Mark Umbreit and his colleagues, have reported high levels of victim satisfaction from restorative justice processes that gave them the opportunity to tell the offender directly how they were affected and to be part of creating a restitution agreement.2

A victim who had his moped stolen participated in a face-to-face mediation with his offender through VORP.  He wrote about his experience, “I believe that your program is one of the few that truly work to help communities improve and become better places for all of us.  I did not need your help for my own healing.  I more than moved on and do not hold a grudge.  My true hope was for [the offender].  It was nice to see that he not only “paid” for his crime, but more that he “learned” from his mistake.  If anything, I think his sentence was too harsh.  I think he can, and with help, will be a credit to our community.  My involvement in this has been and will be to that aim.  I think we have made a good start on just that.  I give your program credit for that.  Your office was both understanding and helpful in the goal of making our city a better place.  I think that helping people heal and improve is far more important than the punishment of people.  Most of the justice system is not oriented for this, your office is.  Putting [the offender] in jail may have helped give him a wakeup call, but the healing he needs started at your office.”

At the Center for Community Justice, in the 2012-13 fiscal year:
– Victims participated in 16 face-to-face meetings with offenders.
– Offenders signed 137 contracts agreeing to make things right through restitution, community service, and letters of apology.
– Offenders took steps to make things right by performing 898 hours of community service and paying $99,440 in restitution to victims.
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1Meta-analysis conducted by Jeff Latimer et al. Cited in Sherman, L and Strang, H Restorative Justice: The Evidence (The Smith Institute, 2007) p58.
2Cited in Sherman, L and Strang, H Restorative Justice: The Evidence (The Smith Institute, 2007) p63.