Back to RJ Archive

Victim-Offender Programs in Correctional Settings–Can They Effectively Bridge Divergent Perspectives?

Ruth-Heffelbower, Duane
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) In, Laura J. Moriarty, ed., Controversies in Victimology, Second Edition, P 133-146.Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing.

“Restorative justice” views an offense as being against a person or group rather than against the State. Its measure of success is whether responsibility for harm is acknowledged by the offender, equity is restored for the victim, and future intentions regarding remedies and accountability are made clear. One program reviewed involves teaching conflict-resolution skills to inmates in order to improve institutional safety. The trajectory for this program in correctional settings is toward general acceptance, since it helps inmates change aggressive and violent behaviors while reducing security problems in prisons. A second program involves teaching inmates how to reconnect with their families, who are secondary victims, by using the reconciling-injustices model. The trajectory of this process is clearly toward general acceptance, although it is so rare as to be inconsequential in its effect at this time. A third program involves face-to-face meetings or correspondence between inmates and their direct victims or surviving family members. This process is already well accepted in several States, and it could be implemented nationwide immediately. A fourth program is restorative justice training for correctional officers. The trajectory of this process is difficult to discern, since it is occurring in so few settings. The authors of this chapter predict that this process will gain traction and prove itself. A fifth program involves inmate reintegration through empathy-building with representative or surrogate victims. Although rarely implemented to date, those who have experienced it believe this process is vital to societal reintegration. The sixth program uses circles of support and accountability in order to improve chances for parole success for sex offenders. One intervention, Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) has proven effective in Canada. (abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


AbstractCourtsPrisonsRestorative PracticesRJ and the WorkplaceRJ in SchoolsRJ OfficeStatutes and LegislationTeachers and StudentsVictim Support
Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now