Victim Offender Dialogue: a victim-centered program offered by the Georgia Parole Board
Georgia Office of Victim Services staff recently completed training to conduct Victim Offender Dialogues.
Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) provides an opportunity for victims of violent crime to meet with their offender(s) face-to-face, in a structured, safe, one-on-one meeting. Victims can ask important questions that only the offender can answer. The program is part of the victim-centered services offered by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles through the Georgia Office of Victim Services.
“The needs of crime victims or crime survivors in the aftermath of violent crime are unique and varied,” says Jon Wilson of JUST Alternatives.
JUST Alternatives is a non-profit specializing in victim-centered practices in corrections. Several new Georgia VOD facilitators recently received training conducted by Wilson.
“Many victims wish they could express directly to the offenders a measure of the grief and anguish they carry. The Georgia Office of Victim Services’ Victim Offender Dialogue Program offers a rigorously Victim-Centered opportunity for them to do that, with the help of well-trained facilitators,” Wilson states.
VOD requires thorough and lengthy preparation for both the victim and the offender with a trained facilitator. The facilitator, along with the participants, decide when the face-to-face dialogue is to take place inside a prison.
Terry Barnard is Chairman of the Parole Board.
“This program is so beneficial to victims of violent crime in Georgia. I encourage registered victims to contact us if they’re interested in taking part,” states Barnard. “Our victim services staff are well-trained. VOD is just one of the many services provided to victims by our agency.”
The primary objective of the VOD program is for the victim's voice to be heard and for the offender to fully understand the effects of his or her actions.
The program's victim-centered approach requires that the request for the VOD be initiated by the victim and demands that the preparation and dialogue process remain rooted in addressing the needs of the victims. The offender must voluntarily agree to participate and must acknowledge their role in the crime. The offender understands that participation does not mean special parole consideration.
Wilson says the program works well in Georgia.
“Georgia’s commitment to the needs of all crime victims has created one of the most robust Victim-Centered Victim Offender Dialogue programs in the entire country,” states Wilson.
To learn more about VOD, the Georgia Office of Victim Services, or the Georgia Parole Board visit www.pap.georgia.gov or contact the communications office at 404-657-9450.