Transforming Justice for Crime Victims and Survivors in Oregon through Victim Assistance and Restorative Justice Partnerships

Context

Over the past several decades, there has been a sustained effort in Oregon and across the nation to strengthen the capacities of community and governmental agencies toward more holistic and comprehensive services for crime victims/survivors. Though the philosophy of restorative justice emphasizes the centrality of victims’ needs in justice, restorative justice has often fallen short of fulfilling its potential as a service and voice for victims. Accordingly, the relationship between victim services and restorative justice disciplines is often characterized by a lack of communication and understanding, much less strategic coordination. A similar pattern is evident nationally and internationally.

There is much room and potential for growth in the relationship between victim services and restorative justice, based on a shared commitment to meeting the needs of crime victims and survivors. As advocates for meaningful justice, we at Just Outcomes believe that networking, collaboration, and even service coordination between these two disciplines can lead toward a quality of service that victims deserve.

Project Purpose

The project’s purpose is to convene victim service and restorative justice leaders across Oregon so as to increase understanding between these disciplines; strategize for future cooperation and collaboration; and, enhance the capacity of restorative justice programs and practitioners to meet the needs of crime victims/survivors through education and training mechanisms.

Outcome Goals:

Ultimately, this project is for the following outcomes for victim assistance and restorative justice professionals:

  1. Strengthened networking, relationships and collaboration activities between key leaders in the victim services and restorative justice disciplines.
  2. Increased cross-disciplinary knowledge and awareness of the impact of victimization, the needs of victims of crime, available services, assistance programs and relevant legislation.
  3. Expanded leadership in Oregon’s restorative justice movement by victim services leaders.
  4. Enhanced structures, policies and protocols within Oregon’s restorative justice programs to better serve victims/survivors.
  5. Dissemination of resources results in the increased awareness among restorative justice administrators and practitioners of the best practices for serving victims/survivors.
  6. Additional localized active and collaborative working relationships between victim service agencies and restorative justice agencies.
  7. Enhanced trust between discipline professionals.

More importantly, as a result of the above, the project intends to have the long-term impact of:

  1. Enhancing the services provided victims/survivors in restorative justice programs that is more trauma-informed, responsive, and flexible.
  2. Victim-outreach in restorative justice services that prioritizes meeting expressed needs over any pre-determined outcome of victim-offender dialogue. Ultimately, this results in further empowerment of victims/survivors in service delivery.
  3. Expanded resources provided to crime victims/survivors, including access to restorative justice programming.

Project Components

Advisory Committee

The project begins with convening an Advisory Committee composed of a representative group of 10-12 leaders from within the victim service and restorative justice disciplines. This Advisory Committee will meet quarterly for the 2-year duration of the project, guiding the content, networking, communications, and convening of the directly related project components (2-3). Through this Committee the project intends to be inclusive of the voices of both disciplines, and to assure outcomes that are in alignment with the needs of crime victims/survivors. Just Outcomes will provide the logistical, coordination and facilitation support for the work of the Advisory Committee.

Annual Palaver

The foundation of cross-disciplinary networking and collaboration will be built through two annual Palavers, or day-long conferences. The purpose of these palavers will be to explore differences and similarities, transform misunderstandings, and build a foundation for local disciplinary collaboration for enhanced and expanded services for crime victims/survivors.  The aim will be to invite teams of victim services and restorative justice professionals from shared jurisdictions.

Training

In recognition of potential gaps in knowledge and awareness within the field of restorative justice, the third component of the project is to recruit and contract with top victim service trainers in the state, to provide training for restorative justice program administrators and leaders from across Oregon. The premise is to provide a platform for victim services, as a discipline, to teach restorative justice professionals what they need to know in order to provide trauma-informed and effective services to victims/survivors in the work of restorative programming.

Guided by the Advisory Committee, the content of the palavers, and the victim services training, Just Outcomes will then create a two-day advanced facilitator training for restorative justice process facilitators.  This training will be delivered regionally across Oregon in hopes of significantly impacting service delivery for victims/survivors in restorative justice application.

Restorative Justice Standards

As a relevant, but separate component of this project, restorative justice professionals and stakeholders will be engaged in an elicitive, facilitated process of developing standards of practice and program accountability structures for restorative justice in Oregon. This process will be informed by, and operate concurrently with the Advisory Committee and associated activities, through 2019, plus one additional year with a target for completion at the end of 2020.

Documentation and Dissemination of Learning

Culminating the work of this project, Just Outcomes will develop several mechanisms for disseminating the learning from this project, including, but not limited to a webinar and a conference workshop to be delivered at both victim service conferences and restorative justice conferences.