VICTIM-OFFENDER MEDIATION IN JUVENILE DELINQUENCY: IS IT A BENEFICIAL & EFFECTIVE APPROACH?




This article has been authored by Vaidehi Gupta, a third-year student at Tamil Nadu National Law University, Tiruchirappalli.


It is conventional wisdom that the response to offences perpetrated by juveniles are perceived differently contrasted to the offences perpetrated by the adults. The uncoupling of the Juvenile Justice System as a distinct entity from the Criminal Justice System, pronounced a constant objective & endeavour in the Juvenile courts to reintegrate the juvenile delinquents with the expectation that they wouldn’t sustain the criminal demeanour when they come of age. In lieu of penalising the group of juvenile delinquents with detention & imprisonment, there is a sensed essentiality of a separate system or process. The young felons made to realize their wrongdoings much before they embark on adulthood. Over the advancement of the two distinct orbs of juvenile & criminal justice systems, the reintegrating juvenile delinquents’ ideology has prevailed & will endure to prevail with its execution across the board.


Approach To Reintegrate The Juvenile Felons


To achieve the purpose of rehabilitating juvenile delinquents, the approaches diversify & are driven by the central government of the respective nations like Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 in India, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), 1974 in USA, et al. The Juvenile Justice Systems & rehabilitation boards worldwide functioning with same purpose of juvenile intrusion that chiefly inculcate the capabilities essential for them to turn into an accountable & conscious person in the society. Providentially, this is a plausible outcome in collaboration & sustenance of their families, unified community & concerned operating agencies & if maintained by the dint of Graduated Sanctions system prevailing predominantly in US. It is also approved by The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) & should be espoused by juvenile justice system of every country.


Victim-Offender Mediation In Juvenile Delinquency


As the court dockets thrive & the young felons incline to backslide subsequent to getting out of the existing juvenile delinquency system, alternative dispute resolutions have popped up in several states. The amalgam of an organised capability growth plan & Mediation which proffers a pragmatic & conceivably efficacious tactic to the juvenile justice on account of its intrinsic particularity, outshines as a pre-eminent recourse reducing the backsliding of the juvenile hooligans. Couple of programs based on restorative justice theory viz. family mediation & victim-offender mediation, present fascinating & effectual alternatives to the court system. Victim-Offender Mediation impenetrable with restoration is planned to make the victims vociferous in the process of justice. This doctrine is executed in numerous programs post the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) in Canada, with indigenous effectual objectives to provide substituted way of adjudging crime & allowing the victim & offender an occasion to resolve & jointly settle on restoration. This is done by providing a safe environment for the facetime between the two, facilitated by the third party alias mediator to reconcile. It also solve the anxious queries people usually have like, (i) belief that the juveniles might get off scot-free from their wrongdoings; (ii) victims often appear to have no contribution into delinquency matters which are usually observed in Juvenile Justice System.


For victim-offender mediation to thrive, it is essential & significant that, people believe in the program & capable to meet the necessities of the both the sufferers. Mediation being an alternative dispositional system, ought to propose something that is majorly acceptable to those who avail & brace it surpassing most of the traditional penitentiary approaches.


Victim-offender Mediation Stands Different In The Mediation’s Cataloguing


Contemporarily, mediation as an alternative & effectual adjutant has been increasingly employed in several conflict resolution cases viz. conjugal disputes, child custody cases, societal disputes, commercial disputes, property & other civil matters etc. At the outset of distinct types of mediation, it is presupposed that both the parties (disputants) are giving their input in the resolution process & is therefore expected to negotiate to the best of their abilities & reach a settlement that sustain both the parties. In general, mediation have minimal consideration on deliberating the complete conflictual influence on the parties (disputants) & accentuates more on reaching a healthy settlement.


Victim-offender Mediation stands a class apart amongst the other types of mediation. Unlike other mediation, in this the involved parties aren’t the disputants per se. Usually, there is a clear distinguished positioning of the parties, as one of the parties to the dispute evidently committed the offence (offender) whilst the other has been evidently wronged (victim). Thus, neither the subject of culpability.is mediated nor there is any anticipation that crime sufferers usually claim or negotiate relatively less than what they actually suffered or to reinstate the incurred damages. However, other types of mediations are settlement driven, the victim-offender mediation is more of a Humanistic Mediation that taps into the inherent transformative & remedial possibility of mediation, as it is client-centered more of dialogue-driven mediation, [i] which accentuates on victim authorization, offender answerability, & refurbishment of damages. The discourse between the parties conveys both emotional & instructive necessities of victims that are vital to both the victim’s authorization & inseminating the compassion towards victims in the offenders, which can help to avert criminal conduct when they come of age followed by the restoration agreement. Influence of restorative justice establishes the safe environment for the discourse between the victim-offender & also identifies impact & prime attributes of victim-offender mediation that possibly result in the restorative impact.


Is It A Beneficial & Effective Approach?


The Victim-Offender Mediation is a clearest expression of Restorative Justice in a juvenile justice process. This theory of restorative justice stresses upon restoring the damage imputed by the crime committed by the offender espousing the cooperative methodologies. The participants meet voluntarily & try to settle the contention, where focus of the justice should be restoration of the harm caused to the sufferer by the offender. This program proffers an opportunity to the interested victims to meet with their offenders face-to-face in an innocuous & organized milieu. This approach is apparently advantageous & efficacious as it aids the victims to expose themselves more than the court proceedings. The offenders being the primary observant in the process are made realize their deeds & consequences by the victims themselves in aid of mediator advocacy. The sufferers are entitled to receive answers to multiple persisting questions & to hold the felons answerable for the injury inflicted on them. It is one of the practicable alternatives to more conventional retributive retort to serve what victims necessitates by probation, prosecuting lawyers, courts, reformatory services, & societies.


· Advantages Of the victim-offender Mediation


In consort with being beneficial & efficacious, this process is certainly advantageous also,

  • Turns down the recidivism or backsliding of the felons.

  • Reintegrates the offender by keeping them in the orb of graduated sanctions system

  • Upsurges victim satisfaction as they get a preliminary occasion to narrate of their suffering, damages incurred, consequences to be faced et al.

  • Holds the offender liable making it difficult for them to escape the punishment.

  • Fair to both the victim & the offender as it provides an innocuous, unprejudiced & more comfortable setting to conciliate face-to-face.

  • Develops positive outlook influencing their opinions & attitudes regarding other dispositional alternatives, as in mediation they are certainly proud of their mediators & their training for assisting them efficaciously consequently developing a good rapport.

  • The Juvenile Delinquency works in absolute contrast to the jam-packed courts where either the juvenile cases never get settled or the young felons end up getting the probation. The juvenile delinquents have inconsiderable knowledge of what precisely drove their offensive conduct & have no idea about how & why to change it.

  • Victim-offender mediation works phenomenally for public relations & also provides the victim some contentment for their participation in the criminal justice process. The involved victims also get their queries replied & they pass experience & observations to others.

  • Those who are committed with mediation might assess restoration, probation, imprisonment & other conventional processes in a different & positive way & encourage this process. Considering few significant differences, these programs were found to be more alike & operating roughly in similar fashion than disparate in structure & function.

Drawbacks Of The Victim-Offender Mediation


As it goes without saying, nothing interesting is ever completely one-sided. Like any other process, this process is also like a double-edged sword. With pros it encompasses some cons too & the benefits of mediation must be weighed against its costs rather being overlooked. We need to mull over & figure out nearly the best suited solutions or alternatives to it.


§ Shortfall of staff or volunteers in the process gives an impression of too many juveniles & not sufficient hired hands, the probable solution to this is designing & developing computer programs to supervise the pecuniary restoration. This would steadily reduce certain chores to quite an extent.


  • Program taking only finite referrals majorly due to funding paucity which could be fixed by receiving a new grant, & increased promotion.

  • Hitches with victim cooperation, as they are reluctant to proceed for this process, for getting victims to partake, some planned meetings on weekends or evenings (in comfortable environment meeting basic amenities) can be arranged to augment the participation rate.

  • Financial Cost varies with the formation of the mediation plan, it could be a little painstaking, extortionate mainly where aid employees supervise the mediation processes. However, the best could be thought is the mediators needn’t be the expensive professionals, in lieu should be someone who hold good command & understanding of the structure & process of mediation.

  • Collecting restitution/restoration from the juvenile delinquents, & some young offenders who are incapable of paying the restoration amounts if they are too high or run programs for the purpose of juveniles to earn restoration money like newspaper recycling etc.

  • Unawareness or collaboration from the court. The courts have often viewed victim-offender mediation programs as an intrusion on their turf. Even when the juvenile judge, the members of the executive committee & delinquent boards are invited to join mediation but they hardly ever attend. This could be resolved to an extent if they are persuaded to attempt the program by evidently defining the principle & purpose of the programs followed by giving regular & methodical reports on successful cases.

  • Participating more in mediation training, it often happens that even after putting a great toil in training, when it comes to the practical aspect, the mediators get cold feet & feel like backing out. This could be mitigated by organizing extra hours of training, concentrating on team building, communicating victims, examining cases, & harmonizing with non-mediator-coached staff etc.

Conclusion


With the advancement of victim-offender mediation it is progressively vital to manage the process in an extremely victim-sensitive manner whilst also contemplating the requirements of offenders. The nature of the mediation is decided by the arrangement between the victim & the offender to promote compassion & develop rapport between the individuals.


The prosperity of the Victim-Offender Mediation in the Juvenile Delinquency is rooted in the likelihood of re-evaluating or exhilarating the relationship (between the sufferer & the wrongdoer) in a way that the requirements of both the sides are fulfilled. Furthermore, this process outstrips the serious atmosphere & ceremoniousness of the court proceedings rather, frequently conclude with profound emotional expression from both the parties & is therefore comprehensively an advantageous & a productive approach. juvenile justice system, although victim-offender mediation is a novel addition, it seems to have been acclaimed & preferably used in US quite extensively & ready to be advocated by several other countries. Ensuing the growth of this firmly establishing predisposing alternative for adjudging juvenile delinquents & providing certain amount of satisfaction to victims must prove constructive.

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