Source: (1998) British Journal of Social Work 28: 729-744.
Mediation in the restorative justice approach balances the victims’ needs against holding offenders responsible for the harm caused and requiring them to make reparation for it. However, the Italian juvenile justice system has not yet widely implemented victim-offender mediation. Social workers employed by the Juvenile Criminal Justice Department are the only professionals involved in mediation. Results of the national survey indicated that in most cases the young offender received the primary attention and that the victim’s interests did not receive consideration. Social workers reported that they perceived the advantages of a restorative justice approach to crime, but lacked the skills as well as the time to undertake this duty adequately. Findings also addressed the potential biases of offering mediation programs as part of a probation order, thereby affecting the independence and neutrality of mediation. A case study involving attempted murder demonstrates how thorough training of social workers acting as mediators can avoid this risk. The case study also revealed that mediation can be successful even with serious offenses and that both the victim and the offender can benefit from it. Findings indicated that mediation programs should be well structured and that they can fit well with social work practice.
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