Opportunity for a Conversation
By Ted Wachtel
In 1974, Mark Yantzi, a young probation officer in Elmira, Ontario, arranged for two young men who had vandalized a neighborhood to meet their victims. What quickly became apparent was that victims cared less about punishment and restitution than the opportunity to have a conversation.
It seems that such a conversation helps everyone touched by a crime—from victims and offenders to their families and friends—to deal with the emotional consequences of the incident.
Yantzi and his colleague, Dave Worth, a prison support worker, accompanied the two offenders up and down the streets of Elmira, as they apologized to their victims and listened to victims explain the impact the crime had on them. Yantzi described the victims as “very appreciative and responsive to the offenders. I think they were taken aback that the offenders were there to apologize and listen to them.”
This was the first recognized case of restorative justice in Canada. From this experiment evolved the first victim offender reconciliation programs (VORP) and victim offender mediation (VOM), which spread around North America, Europe and elsewhere. In New Zealand, in 1989, the initially unrelated development of the family group conference (FGC) came to be seen as an important new type of restorative justice.