VOD Guide to Best Practices

Based on information gathered from program administrators of 18 established state programs (March 2006)


The number of corrections-based Victim Offender Dialogue (VOD) programs in crimes of severe violence has been slowly growing in the United States since 1993, and the potential for continued growth among new states appears to be strong. (Currently, there are several states actively planning to establish VOD programs.) But the variety of VOD policies, protocols, and standards makes it challenging for any agency or individual to study and compare the best practices that have emerged as programs have expanded and evolved over the past decade.

Because our mission at Just Alternatives involves casework, research, training, and consulting in VOD in crimes of severe violence, we’ve had the opportunity to connect with several victim services practitioners who have been involved in establishing or developing VOD programs within their corrections departments (DOCs). Over the past several months, we’ve gathered program and policy information from each state with an established program in order to compile a comprehensive summary of the status of VOD programs in the United States. Our objective has been to access the experience of each agency, arrange it as concisely as possible, and identify common program policy components as a way of summarizing the scope of the field to-date.

We hope that our discussion of these shared characteristics across programs will contribute to a greater understanding of best practices for VOD in crimes of severe violence.

Program Development Overview

Dating back to 1993, Texas’ Victim Offender Mediation/Dialogue (VOM/D) is recognized as the first statewide, in-system dialogue program in crimes of severe violence. Other long-standing programs, established from the mid-to late-1990s, include those of Ohio (1996), Minnesota (1997-8), and Pennsylvania (1998).

New York’s and Utah’s programs also date back to the 1990s – New York’s as far back as 1990, and Utah’s to 1999. Both developed out of the state court system and deal with crimes other than those of severe violence. Each collaborates with its respective Victim Services office, and Utah administrators are currently training Victim Services staff to take on more responsibility in managing the program.

Among the subsequent programs developed from 2000-present [in Iowa (2002), New Hampshire (2002), Alabama (2002), Delaware (2002), Maine (2002), Washington (2002), Louisiana (2003), Nebraska (2003), California (2004), Oregon (2004), Montana (2005), and Wisconsin (WI’s official policy is in the process of being formalized, although its Victim Services office has offered VOD since 2000)], most have based their program policies and guidelines on one or more of the already established programs, modifying the existing policies to meet their specific intentions and needs. As such, no one program is an exact replica of another, yet all established programs have certain components in common that can serve as defining characteristics for the field of VOD.

In some areas, significant differences do exist among programs, and can often be attributed to the resources and needs of a particular program (e.g., funding, staff size, and number of requests). Other policy differences may reflect a spectrum of thinking or experience around a certain question – these topics could be the basis for particularly fruitful discussion/collaboration among administrators as VOD protocols continue to be refined.

Program Name: Dialogue vs. Mediation

The individuality of each program is reflected in the subtle variations found among program names. “Victim Offender Dialogue” (along with its variants “Victim-Offender Dialogue,” and “Victim/Offender Dialogue”) is the most common name (10 out of 18 programs) and is the term used in this study to refer to the collective of programs.

Five of the program names incorporate the term “mediation”: “Victim Offender Mediation/Dialogue” (TX, AL), “Victim-Offender Mediated Dialogue” (CA), “Severe Violence Mediation Program” (DE), and “Mediation Program for Victims of Violent Crime” (PA). The concept of mediation refers back to the origins of restorative justice and to the earliest victim offender meetings, involving victims of property crime and their juvenile offenders. As an alternative to sending these first-time offenders to jail, mediation guides both parties in negotiating an appropriate form of restitution to be made directly by the offender to the victim(s) and/or larger community.

While VOD in crimes of severe violence has grown out of the positive results of victim offender mediation, its goal is typically focused on the personal reasons that the victim has requested the meeting, not on reaching an agreement or negotiating restitution. Similarly, almost every program [even those with the word “mediation” in their name] now refers to the person who prepares the victim and offender and observes the dialogue as a “facilitator” instead of “mediator.” The bulk of the facilitator’s work takes place during the extensive preparation process, so that the victim feels empowered to guide the dialogue, the offender feels able to respond fully to the victim, and both parties feel safe and comfortable with the process.

Other program names include “Serious and Violent Crime Dialogue” (OR) and “Victim/Offender Meeting” (WA – designated as a policy directive but not officially a program).

The most innovative of all program names is Iowa’s “Victim Offender Intervention Session,” which conveys a second meaning in the sound of its acronym, “VOIS.” Administrator Betty Brown points out that a major goal of “VOIS” is to give victims more of a “voice” in the justice process.

Program Purpose & Goals

Almost every state’s policy begins with a purpose statement followed by a list of program goals. Seven programs share a purpose statement that places VOD in the context of the victim’s healing and recovery process:

To provide victims of violent crime the opportunity to have a structured face-to-face meeting with their offender(s) in a secure, safe environment, in order to facilitate a healing, reconstruction/recovery process. (TX)

The above statement is used in Texas, Alabama, Iowa, and Utah; the same statement is used without the word “reconstruction” in Delaware, Nebraska, and Ohio.

California’s and New Hampshire’s programs promote healing and justice in the context of victim empowerment:

To support justice and healing by empowering victims and survivors to meet with the offender and address the personal impacts of violent crime.

Minnesota’s program articulates not only a primary purpose of facilitating and supporting the healing process of victims requesting the program, but also a secondary purpose of facilitating and supporting the healing process of perpetrators of violent crime.

In contrast to these policies emphasizing healing, six programs describe their purpose in matter-of-fact terms that focus only on providing a specific service to victims. Of these states—Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington—each has an individualized purpose statement. Some examples include:

To accommodate, when appropriate, a request from a crime victim to meet with an offender who has committed a crime against that victim. (ME)

To develop a quality process for victims/survivors of serious and violent crime who wish to initiate a facilitated dialogue with their incarcerated offender. (OR)

While these six programs might support a victim’s personal interest in dialogue for healing purposes, they do not define the program itself as having a therapeutic intent.

Common program goals include providing these opportunities:

  • For victims to confront the trauma of their victimization;
  • For victims to ask questions and receive answers and insight that only the offender can provide;
  • For victims to express directly to the offender current and repressed feelings about the crime;
  • For victims to experience a sense of empowerment by having a voice and direct participation in the process;
  • For offenders to hear first-hand the depth of trauma experience by the victim;
  • For offenders to face the full human impact of their crime;
  • For offenders to honestly answer questions about the crime for the sole purpose of helping the victim;
  • For offenders to express remorse, develop empathy, and accept full responsibility for the harm caused to the victim and family.

Dialogue Initiation

By far, the most universal element of VOD policies is the prerequisite that only victims may initiate a request for dialogue. Administrators note that, although many offenders in the system want the opportunity to face their victims and express their remorse, the victim must come to the process completely of his/her own volition. Because the process seeks, above all, to empower the victim, he/she must be in control of both the decision to request the dialogue and the determination of what he/she wants to get out of the process.

Some policies make explicit that offender interest plays no role in VOD. For example, Washington’s policy directive states that “if there is any indication that the meeting was the desire of anyone other than the victim,…the meeting shall not be considered.” In contrast, in Iowa the Administrator has the discretion to make certain exceptions to the rule. If an offender has achieved a deep sense of personal accountability through participation in Victim Impact Panels and wants to participate in VOD, the Administrator might contact a victim advocate who works closely with the victim to find out if the victim should be notified of the request.  In other states, offender requests are not considered but are kept on file and can be revealed later if the victim asks whether or not the offender has tried to make contact.

Offender Eligibility

Admission of Guilt

Once a victim requests VOD, the offender must meet certain criteria in order to participate. Most importantly, the offender must take responsibility for his/her victimizing behavior to some degree. Many programs require the offender to admit guilt and take responsibility for the crime itself, although in some states exceptions can be made in the case of an offender who takes responsibility for some level of involvement in the crime, events leading up to the crime, or even for a more general awareness of his/her own victimizing behavior. In these cases, it is important that the victim be fully cognizant of the situation and have realistic expectations of the dialogue in order to prevent re-victimization.

In just a few states, the admission of guilt is not a factor at all. For example, Pennsylvania’s program allows that “the admission of guilt may not have bearing on the reason for the victim and offender wanting to meet.” In such rare cases, the victim may mainly want to share the story of his/her pain and loss resulting from the crime. Most of the time, however, victims have specific questions related to the crime that require an admission of wrongdoing from the offender. Regardless of the level of responsibility taken by the offender, it is up to the facilitator to ensure through the preparation process that the offender will treat the victim with attentiveness and respect.

Prison Status

Approximately half of the programs also require that the offender be incarcerated in order to participate in Victim Offender Dialogue. Some of these programs will make exceptions depending on the crime and the specific case. Louisiana further stipulates that the dialogue request will only be considered if the offender has been incarcerated for at least one year at the time of the request. Several other programs will not pursue a case if either the facilitator(s) or the program administrator feels that it is too soon after the crime. In California, the earliest possible release date (EPRD) of the offender must be at least two years after the date of the request (to ensure that the offender will still be incarcerated when the dialogue takes place).

Because many offenders in crimes of severe violence are serving life sentences, it is likely that the majority of offenders considered for the program will be incarcerated. However, many programs require only that the offender be under DOC supervision in order to participate in VOD, which means that offenders on parole or probation can also be considered. Pennsylvania is the only state specifying that the offender may have completed his/her sentence entirely and still be considered for participation in VOD.

Death Row Offenders

Fourteen of the 18 states with programs employ the death penalty. Out of these 14 programs, 11 allow participation of death row offenders in VOD, as long as other criteria are met. Most policies call for heightened scrutiny of the process in cases involving death row offenders. Although they may theoretically allow death row offenders to participate, several of these programs have not yet undertaken such a case.

Only three states with the death penalty do not allow death row offenders to participate in Victim Offender Dialogue. These include Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Other Dialogue Considerations

Alternative Dialogue Options

Victim Offender Dialogue typically refers to a face-to-face meeting between the victim(s) and offender in the presence of the case facilitator(s). Many programs also offer the option of an indirect meeting via video or letter for participants who do not feel comfortable facing each other directly, or for victims who the agency/facilitator feels would be at risk for re-victimization in the presence of the offender.

According to Ohio’s program coordinator, Mike Davis, some victims prefer not to be seen by the offender if it has been many years since the crime, particularly in cases of childhood sexual assault. Other victims simply don’t feel comfortable entering the institution. Still others may prefer dialogue via letter if they have difficulty verbalizing their thoughts and feelings. These creative options are not always addressed in official program policy but are made available on a case-by-case basis.

In the event that an offender is unwilling or ineligible to participate in VOD, surrogate dialogue offers the victim the option of meeting with an offender who committed a similar but unrelated crime. In such a case, the victim may find it helpful to hear what led the offender to commit such a crime, and may benefit from being able to tell the offender about the pain and loss caused by the similar crime committed against him/her. Hearing the victim’s story may help the offender understand the true impact of his/her own crime, as well. At least six programs offer the option of surrogate dialogue for the victim, and a few others would consider this alternative if requested by a victim.

Domestic Violence

One of the most delicate issues for VOD program administrators involves dialogue requests from victims of domestic violence. Because of the intricate power and control issues surrounding family/intimate partner violence, several programs do not allow VOD in crimes of domestic violence.

Twelve of the 18 programs cautiously consider domestic violence cases, but only under particular circumstances, like the victim’s need to confront a former partner in order to feel safe again. Oregon’s policy stipulates that domestic violence cases will not be considered if requested for the purpose of reconciliation. If accepted, cases involving domestic violence often require additional prep work and a facilitator familiar with family violence dynamics.

Even programs that do consider domestic violence cases often find most requests to be inappropriate when screened. At least two states (TX, WI), however, have accepted and successfully completed VODs involving domestic violence cases.

Multiple Meetings

Following a Victim Offender Dialogue, the victim sometimes feels compelled to see the offender again. Most programs strongly discourage additional meetings, and some policies specifically forbid them, defining VOD as a one-time meeting only.

Because VOD can be an intense, emotional experience for all participants, with the victim sharing his/her deep pain and the offender his/her deep remorse, the victim might feel exhilarated by the outcome of the session and instinctively want to prolong that feeling by repeating the experience. Facilitators and program administrators realize that an impulsive follow-up meeting could lead to either extreme disappointment (if the victim’s high expectations do not continue to be met) or to the establishment of a relationship that could potentially become unmanageable and/or detrimental later.

In some cases, there may be legitimate reasons for a victim to request a second meeting. For example, the VOD may uncover new information about the crime that leads to further questions the victim would like to ask the offender. Or perhaps the offender is granted parole, and the victim feels the need to meet again to ensure that he/she will be able to feel safe once the offender is released into the community.

Most programs will consider requests for additional meetings on a case-by-case basis. In many cases, the passage of time will help to differentiate between requests made hastily in the aftermath of VOD and those with a more deep-seated basis. In Pennsylvania, victims interested in meeting again are asked to wait at least three months to incorporate the initial VOD experience into their lives. According to PA Victim Services Director Kathy Buckley, after that time period only a few victims have decided to pursue a second meeting.

Facilitator Model

Single or Co-Facilitators

While a slight majority of programs uses a team of two co-facilitators per VOD case, others prefer that each case be handled by a single facilitator. A few programs allow either model.

Most programs using the co-facilitator model require that the facilitators participate in all aspects of the process together, including preparation meetings with the victim and with the offender. This team approach ensures that both facilitators are equally informed, and affirms for the participants the neutrality and unity of the facilitator role (as opposed to giving the impression that one facilitator is advocating for the victim and the other for the offender). According to Cheri Cochran, NE Victim Services Coordinator, who was trained in Ohio’s co-facilitator model, some benefits of the co-facilitator model include: minimizing any biases/personal opinions that any one facilitator might unwittingly bring to the process; providing additional opportunities for one facilitator to observe a warning flag that the other may have missed; taking advantage of the different interpersonal skills each facilitator possesses; and being able to discuss the progression of the case and experience the intensity of the process together with a colleague.

Proponents of the single facilitator approach feel that, because of the intensely personal and emotional nature of the subject matter involved, both the victim and the offender are better able to confide in and relate to a single person than a team of two people with differing personalities and sensibilities. While the co-facilitator approach may bring a variety of interpersonal skills into play, the single facilitator approach may allow participants to develop a deeper relationship with the one person focused on their case.

According to Jon Wilson, a VOD facilitator in Maine and other states who has been trained in the Texas, Ohio, and Minnesota approaches, “the participation of victims/survivors and offenders in a victim-centered VOD preparation and dialogue process is at its heart a matter of relationship and trust—of the facilitator and of the process itself.” Incarcerated offenders in particular are often reluctant to trust outsiders, and the added presence of a second facilitator could inhibit the offender’s willingness to open up to a full understanding of his/her personal accountability.

Who Can Be a Facilitator?

In most states, VOD facilitators can include both DOC/Victim Services staff and trained volunteers from the community. A few programs use only volunteer facilitators, whereas one (NY) asks three staff members to handle all case work and facilitation as part of their job duties.

The largest program – in Texas – has four full-time staff mediators, five to six other Department staff who serve as mediators, and 15 volunteer mediators. Most other states have much smaller programs and do not employ full-time facilitators, but staff can usually count case preparation and facilitation as work time and be reimbursed for travel expenses.

Volunteer facilitators are provided training but usually are not compensated or reimbursed for expenses. Only five programs reimburse volunteers for any expenses. Betty Brown, Iowa’s program administrator, acknowledges VOD facilitation as a profession that should be compensated, and her program attempts to provide stipends for volunteers.

Dialogue Preparation

First Contact with Offender

In 14 out of the 18 programs, either the facilitator(s) or VOD Program Administrator/staff makes initial contact with the offender to inform him/her of the victim’s request for dialogue, discuss the VOD process, and ascertain the offender’s willingness to participate.

In the other four programs, a facility designee (Chaplain, Program Manager, or Chief Advocate) first approaches the offender following the VOD request. While it makes sense that the offender might first speak with someone from within the institution, it is important that this contact person work closely with Victim Services in order to effectively represent the program and the victim’s request.

In Montana, the VOD Program Administrator and a facility staff member meet together with the offender. In Louisiana, the institutional contact informs the offender of the victim’s request but asks only if the offender would be willing to meet with facilitators who can explain and answer questions about the process (not whether or not the offender will participate). Ideally, the offender’s first contact is either with the facilitator(s) or leads directly to the facilitator(s), since the success of the VOD will depend in part on the establishment of a productive rapport between them.

Mental Health Screening

Almost all program policies include a provision for institutional mental health screening to ensure the appropriateness of offender participation. In some programs, the mental health screening involves a conversation with the institutional mental health staff and/or Warden regarding the mental health status of the offender, while in other cases a specific assessment/interview will be undertaken to clear the offender for participation.

In the majority of programs (at least 10), the mental health screening takes place immediately following the victim’s request to initiate VOD, and the process will not go forward unless the offender’s status is deemed suitable. However, several other programs (at least six) first assign a facilitator to the case and find out whether or not the offender is willing to participate in VOD before screening for mental health issues.

Preparation Timeline

The VOD preparation phase varies widely from months to years, depending on the individual case. As a rule, no program sets a limit on how long the preparation phase can last. Texas sets a goal of six months, but the actual preparation can be either longer or shorter. Average preparation times also vary, with some states listing averages of 3-9 months (UT), 6-12 months (CA, DE), and 18 months (OH).

Some states mandate a minimum number of preparation meetings (IA, LA, and MN require at least two with each participant, and WA requires that the victim meet at least three times with the facilitator team). These policies can serve as helpful guidelines, yet, ultimately, program administrators and facilitators prefer to let the needs of each case dictate the parameters of the preparation work. In Oregon, for example, this flexibility was necessary to accommodate an unusual “fast-track” case involving an offender who was dying in prison.

As part of the preparation phase, facilitators in Minnesota’s and New Hampshire’s programs encourage offenders to participate in victim impact programming. Nebraska’s policy notes that meetings with the offender should prepare him/her for the victim-centered nature of the dialogue process.

Facilitators, along with the participants and with the approval of the program administrator, typically decide when to move from the preparation phase to the face-to-face dialogue.

Dialogue Session

Duration and Set-up of Dialogue

As with the preparation work, there is no set schedule for the dialogue itself, except that it needs to happen within the time frame of one day. For this reason, most dialogues are scheduled in the morning in order to allow as much time as may be needed. In Ohio, dialogues have averaged two hours in duration, and past dialogues in Wisconsin have ranged from one to eight hours.

Seating arrangements and order of entry into the room are usually suggested by the victim or facilitator(s) and are subject to security considerations. Often, the victim has toured the facility prior to the dialogue and has had the opportunity to review the room set-up with the facilitator(s).

The victim is given the choice to speak first, or to ask the offender to speak first. Either participant can ask to take a break at any time during the dialogue.

Any additional criteria concerning the timing or set-up of the dialogue may be determined by the facilitator, participants, or facility according to the case and to institutional requirements.

Presence of Support People

Most programs allow (and about half actively encourage) the victim and offender to each select a support person to participate in the VOD process. A few programs allow only the victim to choose a support person.

The victim’s support person could be a family member, close friend, or victim services professional. The offender’s support person is usually a case manager or other representative from the facility. A support person may attend the preparation meetings only or may attend both the preparation meetings and the dialogue; however he/she may not attend only the dialogue.

A support person may not actively take part in the dialogue, since the focus should be on direct communication between the victim and the offender. Because the presence of others has the potential to affect either participant (whether noticeably or subtly), New York’s and Texas’ programs specifically discourage the participation of support people during the dialogue. Despite this risk, those programs in favor of including support people feel that it can benefit participants in the long term to have someone (other than the facilitator(s)) to talk to who has also witnessed the VOD.

Use of Affirmation Agreement

An affirmation agreement can help an offender demonstrate personal accountability for his/her crime by outlining specific actions the offender agrees to take (usually as suggested by the victim) to do something positive for the victim/community. Such actions might include writing to the victim on the anniversary of the crime, participating in victim impact panels or other rehabilitative programming, allowing videotapes of the VOD to be used for educational purposes, speaking to school groups about the wrong choices that can lead to violent crime, and/or undertaking any other action suggested by the victim and agreed to by the offender.

This tool was developed in Texas and probably derives from the mediation approach of VOM/D, with an emphasis on the two parties developing an agreement that responds to the victim’s needs and benefits the larger community as well. According to Texas’ VOM/D mission and goals statement, the affirmation agreement can serve the larger community by involving offenders in the following areas: “mutual commitment to crime prevention, assurance of personal safety, victim advocacy, service to/within the community, criminal justice reform, participation in victim impact panels, [and] specified use of the audio/video tape recording of the mediation session.” Affirmation agreements are also used routinely in Alabama’s program, which is based on Texas’ VOM/D model.

Despite the potential benefits that the development of an affirmation agreement can offer participants and the community, most programs (13) have rejected this practice because they feel it can take the focus away from the power of the dialogue itself. Some emphasize that VOD is not intended to promote any agreement between the victim and offender. As Louisiana’s policy states, “It’s a conversation, not a negotiation. Agreement is not a goal.” One program has abandoned the use of agreement because of the risk of re-victimization if the offender doesn’t follow through with his/her commitments.

A few programs offer to write an agreement if requested, but are rarely asked to do so. In Iowa, for example, no participants have chosen to pursue an agreement yet as part of the VOIS experience. According to Betty Brown, “most offenders are in prison for life, and the focus of VOIS tends to be more on answers to questions, on sharing the victim’s journey, and on offender accountability and apology.”

Taping & Media Contact

Twelve of the 18 programs allow audio-/video-taping of the dialogue if authorized by all participants. Of these, a few programs routinely encourage videotaping of dialogues for educational purposes, including facilitator training, as well as for the victim’s personal use. Other programs favor taping only when the victim feels that it would be helpful to have a record of the meeting, and a few programs allow taping only in exceptional situations. In Utah, for example, a dialogue was audio-taped for a victim’s husband who did not want to attend the VOD but was interested in hearing it afterwards.

In order to protect the confidentiality of the VOD process, six programs do not allow taping under any circumstances. Although participants generally agree not to call the facilitator to testify in court or subpoena material from the dialogue, some programs feel that the existence of materials such as a tape makes it possible for the content of the dialogue to be subpoenaed or accessed by someone other than the participants. Some of these programs also feel that taping would interfere with the integrity of the dialogue process.

Participants in every program must agree to refrain from contact with media during the entire VOD preparation and dialogue process. Any exception to this policy must be agreed upon in writing by all participants, as well as (depending on the state) the Warden, the Victim Services administrator, the DOC Public Information Office, and/or the Secretary/Commissioner of Corrections. Oregon’s policy states that any participants choosing to speak with the media should reach an agreement beforehand specifying which information may be shared.

Follow-up & Evaluation

The facilitator or co-facilitator team typically debriefs the victim and the offender separately immediately following the dialogue. A few programs allow up to 24 hours for the initial debriefing, depending on the situation. In Wisconsin, the facilitator debriefs only the victim and the victim’s support person; the offender is debriefed by an institutional staff member at his/her facility.

Texas’s protocol specifies debriefing the offender first, which allows the facilitator to convey the offender’s final words/thoughts/reactions immediately to the victim. In Utah, however, the offender is held while the facilitator team first debriefs the victim. In some programs using co-facilitators, one facilitator meets with the victim immediately following the dialogue while the other meets with the offender. Others require that the facilitators conduct each debriefing together.

Additional follow-up requirements vary widely among programs and range from two days to six months later. Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Montana ask facilitators to follow up twice with participants, once within three days (DE/PA/NH) or one week (MT), and again within two (DE) or three (PA/NH/MT) months. Other programs require only one follow-up meeting within the time periods listed below:

1-3 weeks Oregon
2 weeks Wisconsin (victim only)
2-3 weeks Texas
1 month Louisiana, Nebraska (victim only in NE)
2 months Iowa, Ohio
3 months New York
up to 6 months Utah

Alabama, California, and Minnesota suggest follow-up meetings “at a later time” or “as determined to be appropriate,” but do not set precise guidelines. Maine and Washington also do not offer specific policies regarding follow-up meetings.

Some programs require that facilitators conduct follow-up meetings in person, and in Texas this session typically includes viewing the videotape of the dialogue with each participant. Other programs allow facilitators to follow up with participants either in person or over the phone.

Just over half of the programs use participant feedback in a systemized way as a means of program evaluation. This feedback is typically generated via mailed or hand-delivered evaluation forms and/or telephone interviews. Among the remaining programs, some are actively developing an evaluation component while others have intentionally refrained from collecting information about specific meetings. Similarly, some programs require that facilitators file written reports and paperwork following each dialogue, whereas others prefer that facilitators make only a verbal report to the Administrator on the outcome of each case.

Conclusion and Possibilities

Despite the individual differences in approach explored in this study, there are many structural components and rigorously-developed standards shared by all established VOD programs in crimes of severe violence. The high quality and seriousness of purpose behind each policy is a testament to the commitment of the victim services professionals, corrections staff, and other administrators who have pioneered these programs in each state. Through the generosity of these administrators and based on the program material, experience, and insight they have shared with us firsthand, we are honored to present this comprehensive study of best practices in the field of VOD in crimes of severe violence.

We hope that this report will promote a sense of strength and solidarity among program administrators in the field, while at the same time inspiring them to connect with and learn from colleagues with experience in approaches different from their own. In these differences, we envision rich opportunity for administrators to share with one another the stories and experiences that have informed each program’s unique perspective. We also hope that this study will serve as a helpful reference for agencies currently developing or considering developing VOD programs in crimes of severe violence in other states.

Finally, because VOD programs are by nature in a constant state of refinement, we will periodically update information in this summary and in our source data file in order to keep this resource current and active. Please let us know of any changes or additions that need to be made, as well as any feedback or further ideas you might have regarding this project.