The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) recently sponsored the development of a nationally recognized training program to prepare facilitators to assist survivors with a victim-centered, victim-driven dialogue with the incarcerated persons who caused them harm. Throughout the country, this post-conviction victim service is referred to by many names, including victim-offender dialogue (VOD), victim-offender mediation, victim-offender mediation/dialogue, facilitated dialogue, and others. As a corrections-based victims service, VODs have been conducted in conjunction with people involved in a variety of crimes of severe violence and violation for more than two-and-a-half decades in the United States. Today, several states are increasingly recognizing the importance of VODs within the prison system for victims, survivors, and those who committed crimes.
One of the most important keys to a successful VOD outcome lies in the quality of the training and experience of VOD facilitators. VODs are not mere “conversations,” they are deeply complex interactions that follow a thorough, sensitive, trauma-informed, and discerning process of preparation, which is where the quality of a facilitator’s training is most critical. Formal training is so essential that states without their own VOD training partner with neighboring states to fill the gap. This year, the National Institute of Corrections partnered with the National Association of Victims Assistance in Corrections to create and provide the first national curriculum and training for new VOD facilitators.
The new curriculum was designed using a combination of synchronous virtual instructor-led training (VILT)/online sessions; inter-session asynchronous assignments, which included case studies, videos, scenarios, and enactments; and three days of in-person training. The online portion of the new curriculum 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 VOD programs were eligible to nominate participants for piloting the new curriculum.
Recognizing the unique differences these programs have from state to state, this training focused on fundamentals of VOD that are common across the country while also providing examples of how some programs differ. Participants who completed NIC’s national training are still required to take state-specific training on their policies and procedures and should be mentored as they begin to provide VOD services. Future cohorts of the class will allow states without their own VOD training to participate.