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Victim-offender mediation in Finland

Iivari, Juhani
June 4, 2015

Source: (2000) In Victim-offender mediation in Europe: Making restorative justice work, ed. The European Forum for Victim-Offender Mediation and Restorative Justice, 193-210. With an introduction by Tony Peters. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press.

Juhani Iivari examines the history and current state of victim-offender mediation in Finland. Reform of the criminal justice system in Finland began in the 1970s and 1980s. This “neo-classical” reform sought, for example, a system based on punishment to express and maintain social norms, general prevention of crime, just and legitimate punishment, and clarity and simplicity in sentencing (i.e., limitation of judicial discretion in sentencing). Soon, however, this came under criticism from many social workers, researchers, and others. At the same time, some people in Finland became aware of Nils Christie’s interpretation of criminal offenses as conflicts “owned” by the parties directly involved (primarily the victim and offender). This led to alternative ideas and efforts based on conflict resolution –particularly victim-offender mediation –as the better response to criminal offenses. Mediation experiments took place in Finland in the early 1980s. Through the mid 1990s mediation programs expanded in Finland to many cities, towns, and municipalities. At first mediation programs in Finland operated primarily under community supervision, with minimal roles for criminal justice authorities. Because of problems with this model, alterations were made; victim-offender mediation programs now operate more like the Anglo-American model in cooperation with social welfare and justice authorities. Finland does not have a separate law for mediation; the legal basis is found in the general penal code. Also, there are no formal conditions for non-prosecution base on the results of mediation. While there are generally followed principles of ethics and standards for mediation and mediators, there are no prescribed standards specified in Finnish law.


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