Victim impact programming in corrections: A team approach to reducing recidivism
Apr 25, 2011
from the note by Verna Wyatt in The Wall:
At first glance, it might seem counter-intuitive for victim advocates to work with inmates. However, the truth is, victim advocates and corrections professionals are not adversaries. We actually share a common goal: “no more victims.” Conducting Victim Impact classes for the incarcerated is a team approach to preventing victimization. There have been several studies looking at the effectiveness of victim impact programs across the country. A Iowa Department of Correction report, using two evidence-based studies, concluded victim impact is a contributing factor in reducing recidivism.
[You Have the Power (YHTP)] developed our own Victim Impact Curriculum based on our experience as victim advocates. We’ve learned from our class participants that the majority of offenders never think about their victim as a human being. Many never even think about their victim at all. One of our offender participants told us, “I’ve been incarcerated for over twenty years, and I never once thought about my victim until this class.”
....The YHTP victim impact curriculum covers ten topics: accountability, domestic violence, child abuse, drug addiction/drug dealing, DUI, property crime/burglary/robbery, sexual assault, hate crime/gang crime, crimes against the elderly, and homicide. We also talk about the difference between guilt and remorse. This class is not about guilt or making the offender “feel bad.” We want remorse from our class participants. Genuine remorse is a catalyst for changing behavior and making amends. Guilt holds back any kind of progress.
....There is absolutely no excuse for victimizing behavior. However, there are explanations. And it is very important to understand what motivates negative behaviors if we want to address them. Knowledge of core issues can help offenders have a “light bulb moment,” realizing they are not crazy or a bad seed. Connecting those dots, they can now work on their symptoms more successfully by tackling the issues driving the symptoms. Because many core issues are tied to child sexual abuse and growing up in homes with domestic violence, we spend more time in our victim impact classes talking about the dynamics of these crimes and the long term impact for the victim.