Restorative Opportunities - Victim-Offender Mediation Services

2015-2016
Correctional Results for Face-to-Face Meetings

Background

The Correctional Service of Canada's Restorative Justice (RJ) Unit provides a safe and constructive process whereby victim(s) and offender(s) can communicate with each other and address the harms caused by serious crime. This is achieved across Canada through the Restorative Opportunities (RO) program.

Originally, institutional staff identified potentially appropriate offenders and generated the vast majority of requests received. However, there has been a significant rise among referrals received by victims for this service.

Victim-Offender Mediation (VOM) is a restorative process important in addressing the needs of all participants, contributing to public safety and the prevention of future crime. RO is a CSC funded initiative with a focus on safely reintegrating offenders into society by ensuring that they understand the human costs inflicted by their crime, address the harms, and repair some of the damage, as agreed upon by both the victim and offender. It is a critical step towards providing helping opportunities for victims by having their questions and needs responded to by those directly involved.

All requests for service are carefully assessed to determine the appropriateness of the intervention and the readiness of the participants to proceed with communication. Some of these requests will be screened out if the other party is inaccessible, unwilling to participate or if either party's motivation is deemed inappropriate for the program. Others will be managed using indirect communication - shuttle communication and/or letter/videotape exchanges. Finally, some will be delayed to allow for further preparation.

This report provides information about the requests for victim offender-mediation services, the services delivered through the Restorative Opportunities program and the correctional results of 234 offenders who completed a face-to-face VOM meeting from 1992 to March 31, 2016. An analysis of the data provided, in correlation with data extracted from the Offender Management System (OMS), was used to verify offender status and offence history post-VOM.

Although this report does not include an analysis of the various impacts to victims and offenders as a result of their participation in a face-to-face VOM meeting, it does include quotes from past victim and offender participants revealing high satisfaction. The quotes are taken from RO program feedback questionnaires completed by victim and offender participants at the time of file closure and submitted directly to CSC's RJ Unit at National Headquarters.

A 1995 qualitative evaluation demonstrated high levels of satisfaction for both victims and offenders. For victims, they reported having greater control over their safety and their lives, and that the process offered them a measure of closure. For offenders, in addition to personal growth, they reported having a greater commitment to addressing their criminogenic needs. Staff interviewed confirmed a higher commitment on the part of those offenders to participate actively in their correctional plan.

In addition, Rugge (2006) examined the effects on participant's physical and psychological health. Both victims and offenders exhibited positive changes over the course of the program in relation to the pre-post Physical Health Checklist and to the pre-post Psychological Health Checklist. There was a significant positive difference between participants who experienced a victim-offender meeting and those who did not.

In May 2013, a Preliminary Analysis of the Impact of the Restorative Opportunities Program was conducted by the Research Branch of the Correctional Service of Canada. The preliminary examination indicated that the program shows promise in reducing recidivism. The trend suggested that after one year of release, offenders involved in a face-to-face had fewer returns to custody despite lower reintegration potential and motivation ratings.

Referral statistics

Annual Referrals 1998-2016

Participation in the RO program is available to people harmed by the offence requesting to communicate with the offender who caused the harm. Since 1992, the RO program receives requests from victims directly, or through a victim representatives acting on behalf of registered victims. Federal offenders serving a sentence under the jurisdiction of the Correctional Service Canada and who have taken responsibility for their actions may express their interest to participate in the RO program to a CSC staff person. For the purposes of this report, these are represented as institutional referrals.

Although CSC's VOM services have been available since 1992, this graph includes referrals received since 1998. From 1992-1997, program data collection on incoming referrals was not standardized and requests for VOM services were not recorded.

Annual Referrals 1998-2016

Annual Referrals 1998-2016

This column chart shows a continuous increase in referrals, from 1998 to 2016. The chart starts in Fiscal Year (FY) 1998-1999 with 21 referrals and ends with 169 referrals for fiscal year 2015-2016. The chart also shows 2010-2011 being the year with the largest number of referrals, 201.

The total number of referrals received during fiscal year 2010-2011 remains the largest number of referrals received since the beginning of the RO Program. RO program outreach and presentations were completed in-person from 2007/2008 to 2010/2011 and were effective in referral increases; while the years where the Restorative Justice Unit was unable to deliver in-person presentations shows the opposite. The slight increase in 2015/2016 may be due to the coming into force of the Canadian Victim's Bill of Rights, which provides victims with a right to information on Restorative Justice programs.

Referral Origin 1992-2016

Victim Initiated Referrals 656
Institutional Initiated Referrals 1149
Other / UnknownFootnote 1 220
Total 2027

The number of institutional referrals continues to exceed the number of victim initiated referrals. The Québec Region is the only region to maintain higher victim initiated referrals versus institutional initiated referrals. Pacific has the highest ratio of institutional initiated referrals. The Atlantic Region demonstrates an equal number of referrals by both groups.

Regional Snapshot 1992-2016

The Pacific Region has provided VOM services for more years than any other of the 4 regions in Canada. For this reason, Pacific has the highest number of cases.

Regional Snapshot 1992-2016

Regional Snapshot 1992-2016

This pie chart depicts 5 sections representing 5 regions (Atlantic, Québec, Ontario, Prairies and Pacific) and their respective number of referrals to date. Pacific has the largest number, at 765 referrals. The smaller section of the chart is for the Atlantic region with a number of 143. Québec has 246, Ontario 530 and Prairies 343.

Victim-Offender Mediation Services Fiscal Year 2015-2016

Types of Dialogues Facilitated in Fiscal Year 2015-2016

The RO program provides VOM services that include a number of RJ processes or types of dialogues. The types of dialogue processes used are guided by the needs of the participants. They can meet face-to-face, correspond in writing, have a circle process and exchange video messages. The mediator can also relay messages back and forth between participants (shuttle mediation). During fiscal year 2015-2016, the RO program mediators have mostly facilitated face-to-face dialogues and letter exchanges.

Types of Dialogues Facilitated in Fiscal Year 2015-2016

Types of Dialogues Facilitated in Fiscal Year 2015-2016

This chart has 4 columns each representing a type of victim-offender dialogue and in its centre, the number facilitated in FY 2015-2016. The results are as follows: Face-to-face meetings 25, Letter exchanges 26, Shuttle Mediation 1 and Video exchange 1.

Face-to-Face Dialogues 1992 to 2016

Face-to-Face Meetings per Year

Between 1992 and March 31st 2016, 234 offenders participated in 375 face-to-face dialogues.

Face-to-Face Meetings per Year - 1992 to 2016

Face-to-Face Meetings per Year - 1992 to 2016

This column chart spans from FY 1991-1992 to FY 2015-2016. It shows the number of face-to-face meetings between victims and offenders for each FY, with the lowest at 3 in 1991-1992 and the highest at 28 for fiscal years 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.

Number of Face-to-Face Meetings per Offender

Of the 234 offenders:

1 Meeting 2 Meetings 3 Meetings 4 Meetings 5 Meetings 6 + Meetings
159 (68%) 48 (20%) 12 (5%) 7 (3%) 4 (2%) 4 (2%)

Offender Participant Snapshot

Age

  • The age of the offenders who participated in a VOM face-to-face meeting at the time of their offence ranged from 15 to 64, with an average age of 30.
  • Their age at the time of their first VOM face-to-face meeting, ranged from 18 to 81, with an average of 41.

The time between offence and VOM face-to-face meeting ranged from 7 months to 33 years, with an average of 9 years.

Marital Status

  • 44% of offender participants were single at the time of their participation in a VOM face-to-face meeting.
  • 29% were in committed relationships, either common-law or marriage.
  • 23% were separated or divorced from their partners, and
  • 4% were widowers.

Gender

  • 94% of offender participants were male and 6% were female.
  • These ratios are comparable to the general federally-sentenced offender population:
Federal Offender Status Women % Men % Total
Incarcerated
& on release
1,263 5.43 21,999 94.57 23,262Footnote 2

Aboriginal Representation

Sixteen percent of participants were of Aboriginal origin. This representation is below the Aboriginal representation in the total federally-sentenced and incarcerated offender population of 22%Footnote 3.

Religious Affiliation

Religious Affiliation

Religious Affiliation

This doughnut chart has 6 sections, each associated with a religious affiliation or spiritual belief system and the number of RO participants that fall under each category. The results are as follows: Catholic 25, Protestant 21, Christian 6, Native Spirituality 4, Other 14 and none 30.

Risk/Needs

For those who were rated at the time of intake, the majority of offender participants were rated as high risk and moderate needs.

Risk
  • 51% high risk
  • 38% moderate risk
  • 11% low risk
Needs
  • 41% high needs
  • 48% moderate needs
  • 11% low needs

Index Offences

Offence Type

Offences for which a VOM face-to-face meeting was sought:

  • 50% murder, manslaughter or attempted murder
  • 27% sexual offences
  • 7% robberies or break and enter
  • 5% driving offences causing death or bodily harm
  • 5% assaults
  • 3% death by criminal negligence
  • 2% kidnapping and forcible confinement
  • 1% threat and criminal harassment

Conditional Release Success Statistics

Participant Status at Time of Face-to-Face

Participant Status at Time of Face-to-Face

Participant Status at Time of Face-to-Face

This pie chart depicts three sections showing conditional release status at time of face-to-face meeting. The chart shows 165 offenders were incarcerated, 61 were supervised and eight were outside of sentence.

Current Participant Offender Status

Of the 234 offenders, 69 are presently incarcerated, 157 offenders have either reached warrant expiry or are on release, 3 offenders were deported, and 5 are deceased.

Of the 234 offenders:

Sentence Completed Incarcerated Supervised Deceased Deported
107 (46%) 69 (30%) 50 (21%) 5 (2%) 3 (1%)

Timeframe of Release Post-VOM Face-to-Face

Of the 165 offenders who were incarcerated and eligible for conditional release at the time of their victim-offender mediation, 107 were subsequently released.

  • 21% of offenders were released within 1 year of their next eligibility
  • 42% of offenders were released within 2 years of their next eligibility
  • 67% of offenders were released within 3 years of their next eligibility
  • 78% of offenders were released within 4 years of their next eligibility
  • 80% of offenders were released within 5 years of their next eligibility

The majority were released on day parole (n:56) and statutory release (n:40).

Reoffending Following VOM Face-to-Face

Recidivism

Of the 177 offenders who were either on release when they participated in a VOM face-to-face meeting or who were subsequently released:

  • 98% had not re-offended within 1 year of their face-to-face meeting.
  • 90% had not re-offended within 5 years of their face-to-face meeting.
  • By Year 10, 88% had not re-offended.
Offences Committed Post-VOM

Of the 234 offenders involved in face-to-face meetings (this includes all offenders since 1992 who were on release at the time of their face-to-face meeting, subsequently released, and incarcerated at the time of this report):

  • 213 offenders (91%) have not committed a new offence
  • 21 offenders (9%) have committed a new offence

Type of Offences Committed Post-VOM

Of the 21 offenders who committed a new offence post-VOM:

  • 7 (34%) charged with Robbery as their major offence;
  • 2 (9%) charged with Sexual Assault as their major offence;
  • 3 (14%) charged with Assault;
  • 2 (9%) charged with criminal harassment;
  • 2 (9%) charged with B&E;
  • 1 (5%) charged with possession of substance for trafficking;
  • 1 (5%) charged under a provincial statute;
  • 1 (5%) charged with possession of restricted firearm;
  • 1 (5%) charged with kidnapping
  • 1 (5%) charged with indecent act with intent to insult

Note that 14 (70%) of new charges are for lesser offences than those for which mediation was sought.

Participant Feedback

Victims and offenders provide us with feedback on their experience participating in the Restorative Opportunities program. Overall, participants show great satisfaction, finding strong support from the RO mediators, who are praised for their level of professionalism, honesty, and dedication. Victims expressed their expectations being met and, in some cases, exceeded, finding healing in the process and a sense of closure. Many offenders expressed an increased level of empathy toward the victim and appreciation for the compassion the mediators provided them.

"[I] I never thought I'd use this word in relation to anything to do with my abuse case, but my experience participating in the RO program was AMAZING." (victim)

"I cannot say enough about the mediators whom guided me through this process. My experience was everything I'd expected it to be. I went in with my eyes wide open and head held high. I left the prison with compassion in my heart for my father's offender." (victim)

"After meeting with my victim (…) saying sorry and listening to her experience, I now have more accountability because she is a real person. An amazing person who amazingly found the strength to meet me [and] speak to me. I was given the opportunity to apologize in person and answer any of her questions. None of that can take back or change what I'd done but I have no doubt that we are both healthier and moving towards a better future." (offender)

"The RO program motivated me to dig deeper into my healing. Since last summer, I have been involved in a Healing Plan, working with a Native Elder ... I'm proud to be showing signs of growth." (offender)

"I expected to be repulsed by a pathetic attempt to say 'I'm sorry' ... I received more that I could have wished for when I came to realize that he truly wanted to take back his actions (of course impossible). I never dreamed I would be able to forgive, never mind support the release of, my offender." (victim)

Footnotes

Footnote 1

The origin of referral was not recorded during the earlier years of the Victim-Offender Mediation Program (VOMP) which provides VOM services in the Pacific Region, where the program was piloted.

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Footnote 2

Source: CSC/NPB Data Warehouse Services 2015-12-13.

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Footnote 3

Source: CSC/NPB Data Warehouse Services 2015-12-13.

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