Ohio’s Victim Offender Dialogue Program
Victim-Offender Dialogue (VOD) is a process in which the victim of a violent crime and the offender who committed the offense(s) meet. The focus is on the harm done to the victim and the offender’s responsibility in the reparations of the harm caused. VOD is a form of restorative justice. The VOD program that the Office of Victim Services (OVS) administers adheres to the 20 Essential Principles of corrections-based Victim Offender Dialogue Programs. This program is also in compliance with American Correctional Association standard number 5-5F-4447-2 for corrections-based Victim Offender Dialogue Programs.
Ohio is 1 of 34 states that offer a corrections-based VOD program. All dialogues are victim-centered and victim-initiated; offenders cannot initiate a dialogue. Offenders must agree to participate; they cannot be forced into the process. Ohio is unique in that all facilitators go through an application and panel interview process before being accepted to attend a 40-hour rigorous training to become a VOD facilitator. There are currently 43 trained, active VOD facilitators. In adherence with the 20 essential principles of VOD, the Victim-Offender Dialogue process cannot be used by offenders to obtain an early release from prison or supervision.
The success of Ohio’s Victim-Offender Dialogue program can be measured in different ways and has been enhanced since 2016 to include the following for maximum integrity and program success:
- Trauma-informed and trauma-responsive care and the ACE study have been built into the new facilitators 40-hour training.
- New facilitators are partnered with veteran facilitators for the first few case assignments.
- VOD facilitators adhere to an Ohio-specific Victim Offender Dialogue Code of Ethics that is signed after the successful completion of the VOD 40-hour training.
- Quarterly confidential VOD facilitator meetings are held with a built-in training, case debriefing and analysis component.
The Victim-Offender Dialogue program is a highly sensitive and time-consuming process that is confidential in nature. The Victim-Offender Dialogue program is not recommended for everyone. For those who decide to participate in this program, it can be a vital step toward healing for both the requesting victim and the offender.
It should be noted that cases may be paused or closed by the victim, offender, assigned facilitators or OVS Administrator for various reasons. Examples of why cases may be paused or closed include but are not limited to poor behavior during incarceration, offender does not take responsibility for harm caused, concerns with mental health status of the victim and/or offender, answers to questions received prior to dialogue, the overwhelming nature of the process for some participants, lack of family support for participation or participants experiencing health challenges.
Again, VOD is a victim-centered, victim-initiated program. Should an offender wish to offer remorse/ make amends the offender can write an Apology Letter to the victim and submit it to the Office of Victim Services. The Office of Victim Services will notify the victim that an Apology Letter is available.
To request Victim-Offender Dialogue, or if you have questions about the program, please email the Office of Victim Services at DRC.Victim.Services@odrc.state.oh.us