Victim Youth Conferencing

Victim Youth Conferencing

Victim Youth Conference (VYC) is one example of a Restorative Justice Practice. A VYC is a dialogue between a youth, victim (or victim surrogate), family and other support persons who come together during a joint conference to discuss how the crime affected each of them.  This allows the victim to express themselves to the youth, and the youth to understand the full impact of their decision. 

In 2015 the Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR) initiated a pilot VYC project involving The Mediation Center, Mediation West, and Concord Mediation Center funded by the Sherwood Project.  ODR partnered with Dr. Mark Umbreit and his team at the University of Minnesota's Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking to integrate evidence-based practices into victim youth conferencing at the three pilot centers.  The project had three main priorities:

  1. Youth involved with VYC will increase their awareness of wrong doing, their sense of acountability, and create reparations to the victim.
  2. Victims invloved with VYC will increase their satisfaction and confidence with the justice system.
  3. Evaluation completed externally by the UMN team to assess impacts on the juvenile, victim, and the community.

Beginning January, 2018, the VYC program began expanding statewide through an initiative partially funded by the Sherwood Foundation. Since the pilot, the VYC program has been incorporated into  every ODR approved regional mediation center and is now offered in all twelve judicial districts. The ODR identified three primary long-term goals for the Statewide Enhancement Initiative:

  1. Reduce youth recidivism  & close the gap in disproportionate minority contact with courts by expanding the use of VYC services in all six mediation center regions.
  2. Increase community safety and expand statewide expertise and community stakeholders' awareness and education around VYC.
  3. Build capacity to sustain VYC services statewide.

 

What are the benefits of Victim Offender/Youth Conferencing?

  1. Victims express higher satisfaction for being involved and for having a meaningful voice in the process
  2. Offenders have higher rates of completing restitution and community service
  3. Research demonstrates lower recidivism rates for offenders who meet with their actual victim (see National research studies, following)
  4. Community volunteerism increases a sense of community investment
  5. Interagency collaboration results in stronger services throughout a county
  6. Earlier interventions with restorative dialogue lead to overall cost-savings
How Does Victim Youth Conferencing (VYC) Work in Nebraska?

The Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR) coordinates a network of 6 nonprofit, community-based mediation centers± that covers every county in Nebraska.  Various referral partnerships have been established for the centers to receive VYC case referrals from:

  1. Schools  (pre-arrest / pre-charge)
  2. Law Enforcement (diversion)
  3. County Attorneys (diversion)
  4. Courts (pre-adjudication)
  5. Probation (condition of court sentence)
  6. Post-sentencing (for severe crimes)


 

[Text Box: Nebraska’s statutory authorization for juvenile mediation and conferencing includes: N.R.S. §43-274 providing that the county or city attorney may offer victim offender mediation as part of pretrial diversion; §43-245 which requires specific juvenile mediation training for mediators affiliated with ODR-approved mediation centers; §43-247.01 providing for confidentiality and privileged communications of youth conferencing; and §43-247.04 which provides that the State Court Administrator’s office is responsible for contracting for juvenile victim offender dialogue and related services.]

What is the sequence of a typical VYC restorative dialogue case?

  1. Case referred to regional mediation center from partner agency  
  2. Initial letters and phone calls to both parties
  3. Preparation meeting(s) with youth and parent
  4. Preparation meeting(s) with impacted party (victim)
  5. Joint mediation/conference meeting
  6. Tracking of reparation agreement
  7. Completed case information sent to partner agency

What if the actual victim chooses to not participate?

One of VYC’s core principles is that a victim always has full discretion as to whether to meet with the youth or not. If an actual victim chooses not to participate, trained victim surrogates and community members participate in conference meetings with the juvenile. In this way, every youth can still be part of a meaningful restorative conversation with the opportunity to enter into a signed reparation agreement.