The International Journal of Restorative Justice

Article

How can the victim-offender mediation process contribute to a lower risk of reoffending? A synthesis literature review

Keywords restorative justice, victim-offender mediation, recidivism, synthesis review
Authors Jiska Jonas-van Dijk, Sven Zebel, Jacques Claessen en Hans Nelen
Author's information

Jiska Jonas-van Dijk
Jiska Jonas-van Dijk is a PhD-student of the Psychology Conflict Risk and Safety Department at the Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Twente and at the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology in the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University, the Netherlands.

Sven Zebel
Sven Zebel is Associate Professor of Psychology Conflict Risk and Safety at the Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Twente and Endowed Professor of Mediation at the Faculty of Law of the Vrije Universiteit

Jacques Claessen
Jacques Claessen is Associate Professor of Criminal Law and Endowed Professor of Restorative Justice at the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University, the Netherlands.

Hans Nelen
Hans Nelen is Professor of Criminology at the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology in the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Corresponding author: Jiska Jonas-van Dijk at j.jonas-vandijk@utwente.nl. Funding: This research was funded by a Research Talent Grant (grant number 406.17.555) from the Dutch Research Council (NWO).
  • Abstract

      Although it has been shown that participation in victim-offender mediation (VOM) can be associated with a lower risk of reoffending, it remains unclear how the VOM process may explain this relationship. Through a synthesis literature review, which included 53 articles, this article provides an overview of mechanisms in three phases of the VOM process that might contribute to a lower risk of reoffending. These are the preliminary phase (before the VOM encounter), the execution phase (VOM encounter) and the outcome phase (after VOM encounter). The findings of the review indicate that although a possible self-selection bias in the preliminary phase may (partly) account for the negative association with recidivism, multiple fundamental conditions and working mechanisms in the VOM process and encounter can help explain a psychological change within the offender and hence a lower recidivism risk. However, the review reveals remaining knowledge gaps regarding the contribution of VOM to reduced reoffending. To fill these gaps, we offer a number of recommendations for future research, such as examining how the fundamental conditions and working mechanisms of VOM interact with each other and produce a psychological change within the offender. This could help to find best practices that maximise the beneficial outcomes of VOM.

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