Source: (1998) Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, California, April 13-17.

This paper represents the results of a heuristic study of public policy experiments in the criminal justice system, victim offender mediation conferencing. These conferences typically include the victim, the offender, their supporters and family members, and one or more conference facilitators. Participants report high levels of satisfaction with the process and outcomes, with frequent references to significant changes in attitudes, behavior and social belonging. Based on accounts of the experiences of moral learning in victim offender mediation conferences, I present preliminary conclusions regarding characteristics of effective community-based moral education. Seven important characteristics typify victim offender conferences as a social space in which moral learning is enhanced: roles effectiveness, situated learning, safety to openly address conflict, recurring free space for citizen empowerment, affective attachment to personal networks and social institutions, cognitive awareness and articulation of moral norms, and structured performance of moral norms. The key of their effectiveness appears to be the locus of moral learning: in the "space between places." Victim offender mediation conferences occur in an overlapping social context located between a small, local, personal community and some larger societal body or its representative, evoking the authority of both communal and universal norms. (author's abstract).