The Minneapolis Center for Victim–Offender Mediation was established in 1985 by the Minnesota Citizens Council on Crime and Justice. The Center is based upon the larger framework of restorative justice, which allows victims to come face-to-face with their offender in the presence of a mediator. The main objective of the Center is to empower the victims as they search for closure, stress to offenders the harm they caused, and compensate victims for the crime they experienced by making offenders pay restitution.
Victim–offender mediation is a subset of the restorative justice framework. Both victim–offender mediation and restorative justice are based on the idea that crime is more than an offense against the state; crime is also an offense against a person, and therefore parties involved in the offense should be brought together to discuss the offense, its consequences, and establish a plan for the future. Restorative justice holds the belief that empowering victims as they seek answers and closure, as well as having offenders take responsibility for their actions, is more important than harsh punishments for the offender. Such an approach does not solely focus on a victim’s loss or an offender’s guilt. Instead, it seeks to benefit both parties as it focuses on a problem-solving plan for the future that allows the victim to feel a sense of closure and receive compensation, while also allowing the offender to understand the harm caused and learn how to be a law-abiding citizen in the future (Umbreit and Coates 1993; Umbreit, Coates, and Roberts 2000).
The Minneapolis Center for Victim–Offender Mediation is one of the first victim–offender mediation programs operating in such a large jurisdiction (it operates in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.). The Center is operated by private, non-profit community based organizations that work closely with the juvenile court. The majority of mediation cases are referred by the juvenile court and probation staff, with a small number of referrals coming from the prosecuting attorney or police. The program operates as a diversion program for juvenile offenders, as well as a program following adjudication of juvenile offenders. Mediators receive approximately 20–25 hours of training to function as a mediator.
The program operates with a four-phase process: intake, preparation for mediator, mediation, and follow-up. The intake phase involves the referral of juvenile offenders from courts in Hennepin and Ramsey counties to the Minneapolis Center for Victim–Offender Mediation. During this phase, each case is assigned to a specific mediator who has received the 25 hours of initial training. The preparation phase involves the mediator meeting separately with both parties to hear their versions of the offense story independently, while also explaining the procedures of the program and finalizing a date for the mediation to take place. The mediation session, which typically lasts an hour, begins with a discussion of the facts and feelings surrounding the crime. Mediation creates an open environment where both parties are brought together and barriers to communication or various stereotypes are broken. Following the initial discussion of the crime, a restitution agreement is reached between both parties. Finally, the follow-up phase includes ensuring that the restitution agreement is followed, as well as scheduling additional mediation sessions if needed.
During the initial year of the program, only juvenile burglary cases in which a plea of guilty had been accepted by the court—yet prior to a disposition hearing—were accepted. However, due to these referral limitations, only a small number of cases were referred to the program. As a result, the program was changed to accept any property offenses or minor assaults that were committed by a juvenile. Additionally, referrals are accepted at any point in the juvenile justice process.
Umbreit and Coates (1992) found that participating in the Minneapolis Center for Victim–Offender Mediation appears to have a positive impact on a juveniles’ future criminal behavior. At the 1-year mark following completion of the mediation, 22 percent of offenders who participated in the victim–offender mediation program recidivated, compared to 34 percent of offenders in the non-referred comparison group. However, this finding is not statistically significant.
Offenders in the mediation program were significantly more likely to complete their restitution obligation than offenders in the comparison groups who were also ordered by the court to pay restitution. Specifically, 77 percent of the mediation program group completed restitution agreements compared with 55 percent of the non-referred comparison group, a significant difference.
Mediation had a significant impact on victim satisfaction with the juvenile justice system. Eighty-five percent of mediation victims expressed satisfaction with how their case was handled, compared with 64 percent of victims in the referral/no mediation comparison group and 61 percent in the non-referred comparison group (all differences were statistically significant).
Mediation also appeared to have a positive impact on offender satisfaction with the juvenile justice system; however, the impact was not as great as victim satisfaction, and not statistically significant. Eighty-seven percent of offenders in mediation indicated they were satisfied with how their case was handled, compared with 80 percent of offenders in the referral/no mediation comparison group, and 78 percent in the non-referred comparison group.
As part of a cross-site evaluation of victim–offender mediation programs, the Minneapolis Center for Victim–Offender Mediation, along with three other victim–offender mediation programs, was evaluated by Umbreit and Coates (1992) to investigate the effectiveness of victim–offender mediation programs in terms of the mediation process and outcomes, client satisfaction, perceptions of fairness, restitution completion, and recidivism. The Center was chosen for a multitude of reasons, including its regional and program development diversity, its similarity to the other sites selected, and the permission granted by the director to access the records of those in the study group as well as contact the subjects.
A quasi-experimental design was employed in this study. All individuals that were referred to the Minneapolis Center for Victim–Offender Mediation between 1990 and 1991 were eligible to participate in the study. Of the 658 juvenile offenders referred during this 2-year period, 81 participated in the study. Of the 633 victims referred during this 2-year period, 96 participated. Taken together the participating offenders and victims made up the experimental group. Two comparison groups were used in this study. The first comparison group consisted of offenders and victims who were referred to the Center, but declined participation, known as “referred but no mediation.” The study authors noted that no significant differences were found between the offenders and victims that chose to participate in the study and those who declined participation. The second comparison group was comprised of a sample of similar offenders and their victims from the same jurisdiction that were not referred to the mediation process, known as “non-referral to mediation.” The study authors noted that offenders in the second comparison group were matched on age, sex, race, and offense variables with offenders in the experimental group.
Between 1990 and 1991, 658 juvenile offenders and 633 individual victims were referred to the Minneapolis Center for Victim–Offender Mediation. The age of the offenders ranged from 10–18, with an average age of 15. The majority of offenders were male, comprising of 85 percent of the sample. Furthermore, 70 percent of the sample was white, 23 percent black, 2 percent Hispanic and 5 percent was comprised of other minorities. Of the 903 referrals over the 2-year study period, 72 percent were diversionary, or pre-adjudication, referrals. Of the offenses, 89 percent were property-related, and 11 percent were offenses against the person. The most common property offense was vandalism, and the most common violent offense was assault.
To investigate the effectiveness of the Minneapolis Center for Victim–Offender Mediation, both quantitative and qualitative research techniques were used in this study. Interviews were conducted prior to and following the mediation. All pre-mediation interviews and all interviews with the comparison groups were conducted over the phone. Almost all post-mediation interviews with the experimental group were conducted in person, lasting approximately 45 to 60 minutes. Quantitative research techniques were used when investigating program cost issues, recidivism, and restitution completion rates. Using both research techniques, the following outcomes were investigated: recidivism, restitution completion, victim satisfaction, and offender satisfaction.
In 1992, the annual cost of operating the Minneapolis Center for Victim–Offender Mediation program was $123,366. This amount includes at least 3 full-time employees, which makes up $88,493 of the costs (Umbreit and Coates 1992).
The process for mediation requires considerable work on the part of the mediator, the offender, and the victim. Staff as well as volunteers serve as mediators for the Minneapolis Center for Victim–Offender Mediation. Prior to mediation, each mediator receives approximately 20–25 hours of mediation skills and program procedure training.
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:Study 1
Umbreit, Mark S., and Robert B. Coates. 1992. Victim Offender Mediation: An Analysis of Programs in Four States of the U.S.
Minneapolis, Minn.: Citizens Council Mediation Services.https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/Digitization/140263NCJRS.pdf
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Bradshaw, William, David Roseborough, and Mark S. Umbreit. 2006. “The Effect of Victim Offender Mediation on Juvenile Offender Recidivism: A Meta-Analysis.” Conflict Resolution Quarterly
Nugent, William R., Mark S. Umbreit, Lizabeth Wilinamaki, and Jeff Paddock. 2001. “Participation in Victim–Offender Mediation and Reoffense: Successful Replications?” Research on Social Work Practice
Umbreit, Mark S. 1998. “Restorative Justice Through Victim–Offender Mediation: A Multi-Site Assessment.” Western Criminology Review
Umbreit, Mark S., and Robert B. Coates. 1993. “Cross-Site Analysis of Victim-Offender Mediation in Four States.” Crime & Delinquency
Umbreit, Mark S., B. Vos, and Robert B. Coates. 2006. Restorative Justice Dialogue: Evidence-Based Practice
. Minneapolis, Minn.: Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking.
Umbreit, Mark S., Robert B. Coates, and Ann Warner Roberts. 2000. “The Impact of Victim–Offender Mediation: A Cross-National Perspective.” Mediation Quarterly