I was glad to see the excellent article on restorative justice in your Dec. 13-14 edition. However, it had one significant ommission — there is another restorative justice project in the Portland area which has been functioning with much success. Unlike the efforts described in your article, which are all state-sponsored, ours is run by the Community Dispute Resolution Center, a private non-profit entity.
The Victim/Offender Mediation Project has been active for about two years. During that time, we have successfully faciliated more than 20 face-to-face meetings between victims and offenders. In this process, offenders are required to acknowledge and face up to the human costs of their past conduct, and apologize for what they have done. Victims are given an opportunity to tell the offender the harm they have experienced, how painful it was for them, what effect it had on them, and what the offender can do to try to make things right. A restitutionary agreement is worked out, and in some instances it has had a dramatic impact upon everyone involved. There is an enormous potential for both victims and offenders to heal through this process, as we have shown on numerous occasions.
Our process pursues a very different approach to crime, far different than that taken within the traditional system. However, we have received referrals from police, prosecutors, juvenile caseworkers in the probation office, defense attorneys and judges. While we have not handled a large number of cases, everyone with whom we have spoken has been pleased with our work. We are hopeful similar projects will be developed in the near future in Augusta and Bangor by the community-based dispute resolution centers located there. Cushman D. Anthony Chairman Victim-offender Mediation Project Advisory Committee Portland