JUST Alternatives is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit committed to supporting victims/survivors of violence and violation, and to the advancing of promising Victim-Centered and Offender-Accountability oriented practices in justice and corrections. Our mission is to identify and support effective Victim Impact- and trauma-informed approaches to reducing violence and victimization by illuminating crime victims’ needs, including the need for personal accountability and acknowledgment from offenders. Survivors believe that offenders should be required to understand the depth of the harms they caused, and explain themselves – without excuses.
Victims and Survivors of Violence and Violation are at the very Center of our Mission. Making Offenders understand the Impacts of the choices they made to traumatize, hurt, or kill others is an equally essential part of what we do.
Our Victim/Survivor Support work is rooted in the power of deep, compassionate, and non-judgmental listening to victims and survivors of violence and violation. We know how deeply alone they can feel in the unrelenting aftermath of violence, loss, and post-traumatic stress, and how hard it can be for these survivors to feel heard — by the justice system, by society, and even by family and friends. We offer opportunities for survivors to feel heard through supportive inquiry, dialogue, and unwavering acknowledgment.
Our Victim-Centered Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) work provides safe opportunities for survivors of violence and violation to give direct and powerful voice to the trauma of their experiences, and for offenders to face more fully the impacts and effects of their devastating choices and behaviors. Think of Victim Offender Dialogues as Victim Impact Dialogues, similar to Victim Impact Statements made at sentencing, but enabling survivors to more thoroughly describe those impacts to the offenders, and expect considered responses from them. Victim Offender/Impact Dialogues may not be for every survivor, but our victim-centered and offender-sensitive approach offers possibilities for a sense of justice, of accountability, of understanding and acknowledgment, and often, a sense of hope and healing for survivors.
At their very best, Victim-Centered Dialogues provide survivors with a long-sought chance not only to be heard directly by their offenders, but to get answers to some of the haunting, anguished questions that only the offender can answer. The process creates in offenders a deeper understanding of the devastation they caused, and of what it means to be personally accountable. Sometimes, for offenders with the capacity, these Dialogues inspire a change in their thinking. This is the elusive ‘holy grail’ of corrections practice, because it provides a foundation for a self-actualized commitment to pro-social behaviors. Survivors know it is not enough to simply put offenders away for the duration of their sentences; they learn little from punishment alone. What remains missing in our system of mere punishment is the comprehension of impacts on victims and survivors. But what most offenders see in prison are only the impacts on themselves.
The real power of Victim-Centered Victim Offender/Impact Dialogues is not only that survivors feel heard, but that offenders are finally challenged to acknowledge, address, and explain the devastation they caused. When they begin to think about this, they can often begin to see the damage they also cause to our communities and our society. But survivors are critical to making them see this.
For answers to some of the more frequent questions about VO/ID, click the Victim Offender Dialogue FAQs buttons – for Survivors and/or Offenders – at the left. For more on Victim Impacts, and movingly powerful examples of Statements by survivors of a variety of violent crimes, click the Victim Impact Statements button.
For corrections-based Victim Service and allied agency professionals, we offer rigorously Victim-Centered VOD Facilitator Training . These immersive, experiential trainings are anchored in an understanding of the profound effects of violence and victimization upon individuals and families, and of the particular natures and needs – especially criminogenic needs – of offenders.
For further information and a CV on trainer Jon Wilson, see About Us.
FOR ARTICLES ON the work of JUST Alternatives, see:
–Yankee magazine, Jan/Feb 2011
Jon Wilson Making a Difference
–Christian Science Monitor, 4/9/2012