Facilitated dialogue is a voluntary process that brings together victims of a crime and the justice-involved individuals who have harmed them. It has been called by many names, including restorative justice dialogue, victim offender mediation, victim offender dialogue, and others. During these sessions, victims have the opportunity to address the trauma of their victimization and to ask questions and receive answers to which only the individuals who committed the offense can provide. Those who committed the crime have the opportunity to be accountable for their actions, to express remorse, and learn the full effect of their actions on the victims. Both parties can learn to find ways to promote healing and resolution.
The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) in partnership with the National Association of Victims Assistance in Corrections (NAVAC) recently developed a new curriculum and blended training that prepares dialogue facilitators for their roles. The new curriculum was designed using a combination of in-person training, synchronous virtual instructor-led training (VILT)/online sessions, and inter-session asynchronous assignments, which includes the review of materials like case studies, videos, scenarios, and enactments.
NIC’s training fills a critical gap for standardized facilitator dialogue training. While the first national standards for facilitated dialogue were developed by NAVAC in 2012, many states continue to develop and offer their own versions of training. Only 33 states currently have their own facilitated dialogue training, and that leaves remaining states to outsource training or cover the expense of sending staff to neighboring states to earn their certification.
NIC’s training was piloted in early 2023 and reviewed both online and in-person sections of the curriculum. The online portion was piloted on June 27-29, and the in-person session was held in Aurora, CO, on July 11-13. Participants of the pilot included 27 participants and represented 20 states. Only those agencies with existing facilitated dialogue programs were eligible to participate.
Next steps for the training include development of situational training for topics such as homicide, domestic violence, sex abuse, and working with minors as well as refresher courses for seasoned facilitators that address new topics or rarely occurring situations.
Across the nation, demand for facilitated dialogue is increasing, and while NIC’s training is currently being piloted with states that have their own training, NIC plans in the near future to support states without their own training with this federally sponsored alternative.