Helping the Offender - Glossary

Helping the Offender


Victim-offender mediation: Victim-offender mediation is a process that prepares and provides interested victims and offenders the opportunity to communicate, directly or indirectly in a safe and structured manner with the assistance of a trained mediator.  Victims often tell the offender about the crime’s physical, emotional, and financial impact on their lives, receive answers to lingering questions about the crime and the offender, and participate directly in developing options for trying to make things right. The offender is afforded opportunities to make apologies, provide information and to develop reparative plans and gain insight for personal growth.

Family group conferencing: Rooted in Maori culture in New Zealand. The Maori concept involves the offender’s family in the process of holding the offender accountable, in teaching individual responsibility and in addressing the harm done. It was introduced to the juvenile system in New Zealand as an alternative to youth court and later expanded to Australia, North America and other countries.

Sentencing circles: A process used mainly by Aboriginal communities, bringing together the victim, the offender, their families, community members and Elders to discuss the impacts of the crime committed. This approach is based on the belief that the primary responsibility for addressing the problems of crime lies in the community and not just with those directly impacted by the crime and their immediate families. There is also the belief that it is important to address not only the presenting criminal problem but also to build a community. Participants arrange themselves in a circle, thus reducing the feeling of authority and facilitating discussion. The victim and community members discuss how the crime affected them while focusing on trying to uncover the underlying problems, and to restore balance where possible. The group then recommends a sentence to the judge and the criminal justice officers (who are also present). The judge decides whether the sentence is appropriate and complies with the directives of the court.

Surrogate victim-offender mediation: A variation of the victim-offender mediation model, this model provides an opportunity for dialogue between victims and offenders who are not associated by a particular offence. These programs can be very helpful when it is not possible for a victim and their offender to meet for any number of reasons. Surrogate victim offender dialogues can also be helpful in preparing victims and offenders for an anticipated meeting in the future.

Foster parents: Parents who have adopted a child and assumed responsibility for his or her upbringing.

Bilateral treaties on transfer of offenders: Canada has signed 14 bilateral treaties and acceded to three multilateral agreements on transfer of offenders, covering more than 60 sovereign legal entities. In the United States, in addition to the federal authorities, the 50 states accede to treaties on transfer of offenders.