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After the Crime

After the Crime: The Power of Restorative Justice Dialogues between Victims and Violent Offenders

Susan L. Miller
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    After the Crime
    Book Description:

    Too often, the criminal justice system silences victims, which leaves them frustrated, angry, and with many unanswered questions. Despite their rage and pain, many victims want the opportunity to confront their offenders and find resolution. After the Crime explores a victim-offender dialogue program that offers victims of severe violence an opportunity to meet face-to-face with their incarcerated offenders. Using rich in-depth interview data, the book follows the harrowing stories of crimes of stranger rape, domestic violence, marital rape, incest, child sexual abuse, murder, and drunk driving, ultimately moving beyond story-telling to provide an accessible scholarly analysis of restorative justice. Susan Miller argues that the program has significantly helped the victims who chose to face their offenders in very concrete, transformative ways. Likewise, the offenders have also experienced positive changes in their lives in terms of creating greater accountability and greater victim empathy. After the Crime explores their transformative experiences with restorative justice, vividly illustrating how one program has worked in conjunction with the criminal justice system in order to strengthen victim empowerment.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7038-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Kim Book

    • 1 Introduction
      (pp. 3-8)

      We are a country fascinated by the minutiae of movie stars’ glamorous lives and scandals. We are glued to news and TV shows about crime, eager to digest the gory details. Newscasts and magazines understand this fascination, responding with daily stories of mischief, mayhem, and murder. We love to consume other people’s troubles and embarrassments, and this makes sense because hearing about other people’s problems makes us feel better about our own. Since we do not know these people, we live vicariously and judge them with no strings attached. We become armchair quarterbacks—deciding what people ought to do or...

    • 2 Tossing Turkeys and Other Stories: What Do They Say about Crime and Punishment?
      (pp. 9-21)

      A flying frozen turkey careened out of a speeding car, hitting a woman’s windshield, bending her steering wheel from the sheer force of the blow and then shattering every bone in her face, nearly killing her. A teenage kid out joyriding with his friends had thrown the turkey out a car window as a prank, an unprovoked, thoughtless act for which his victim paid dearly. Despite all odds and following many, many hours of surgery, she not only lived but also avoided almost inevitable brain damage. Yet rather than expressing anger and a desire for revenge at the teenager’s sentencing...

    • 3 Getting Personal: The Power of Storytelling
      (pp. 22-36)

      One of the best parts of university teaching is when I get to witness students’ epiphanies—those “Aha!” moments when something clicks in their mind or touches their heart, leading them to see the world in a different way. Since I routinely teach classes about child abuse, sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and other kinds of victimization, it is very easy for the students (and for me) to become overwhelmed. The social and cultural patterns and institutions that contribute to these problems, the consequences of crime for victims, and the fears it raises—particularly for women—very easily give rise to...


    • 4 Donna and Jamel: Living in Different Prisons
      (pp. 39-55)

      Facts of case: In 1996, while on probation from a juvenile facility, seventeen-year-old Jamel forced his way into Donna’s home with the intent to commit burglary. He assaulted and raped Donna, who was forty-nine years old. Jamel was caught quickly, and he confessed. He was initially charged with kidnapping, unlawful sexual intercourse, robbery, burglary, assault, and criminal mischief; he pled guilty and received a twenty-three-year sentence. Ten years after the rape, Jamel and Donna met through VVH while he was still incarcerated. This chapter reflects my interviews with Donna and Jamel, access to their case file and letters they exchanged,...

    • 5 Allison and James: From Horror to Gratitude
      (pp. 56-67)

      Facts of case: In 1981, twenty-one-year-old James broke into a family’s home with the intent to commit burglary. He raped one of the daughters, nineteen years old, and almost killed her (by choking) during the assault. James was caught within a month, and he confessed. He was sentenced for second-degree rape and second-degree burglary and received a forty-five-year sentence. Twenty-five years after the rape, James and his victim met through VVH while he was still incarcerated. James was released from prison in 2007, having served twenty-six years of his sentence. This chapter follows a slightly different format because of extenuating...

    • 6 Laurie and Paul: Emerging from a Cocoon
      (pp. 68-82)

      Facts of the case: Paul battered and sexually abused his wife, Laurie, throughout their ten-year marriage. He was arrested for raping her at knifepoint and sentenced to serve fifteen years in prison. Laurie also suspected him of sexually abusing one of their daughters and possibly their son. Their youngest daughter—their fourth child—was conceived from the rape. I interviewed both Laurie and Paul and had access to their case files, the letters they exchanged, and the videotape of their dialogue.

      Laurie loves butterflies. She loves their colors and their graceful flight, but most of all she identifies with them...

    • 7 Melissa and Steven: Losing Innocence
      (pp. 83-96)

      Facts of the case: When Melissa was seventeen, she told her mother that her father had molested her from the age of ten until she was fifteen years old. When her father was confronted, he confessed and was ultimately arrested. He was given a prison sentence of seventeen years, which he began serving in 1999. When Melissa was twenty-two years old, she sought out the VVH program, making her the youngest victim to participate in a dialogue. I had access to Melissa and Steven’s case files and the letters they exchanged. I interviewed both Melissa and Steven, though initially Melissa...

    • 8 Scott and Bruce: Thou Shalt Not …
      (pp. 97-109)

      Facts of the case: When Justine was twelve years old, she told her parents that her grandfather was “touching” her. Her grandfather, Bruce, was charged with rape in the fourth degree (sexual penetration of a victim less than sixteen years old) and continuous sexual abuse of a child. He also molested Justine’s female cousin. He served two years in prison for these offenses, followed by house arrest. He was released under the probation department’s supervision and is registered in Delaware as a sexual offender. Justine’s father, Scott, sought out VVH; Justine herself did not participate. I interviewed Scott about his...

    • 9 Leigh and Jenny: Lives Interrupted
      (pp. 110-121)

      Facts of the case: In May 2001, a drunk driver killed eighteen-year-old Cameron. Jenny, the driver, was nineteen years old when she crashed into Cameron’s car, having run a red light at eighty-two miles per hour. Her blood-alcohol concentration was 0.14. She pled guilty and was convicted of first-degree vehicular homicide (which carries up to five years of imprisonment). She received three years in prison and two years of house arrest, though she served less because of good-time credits earned. I interviewed Cameron’s mother, Leigh, Kim, and Debbie (the volunteer facilitator who worked on the case with Kim) and had...

    • 10 Julie and Kevin: In Memoriam
      (pp. 122-133)

      Facts of the case: In late 2000, Kevin was driving under the influence of alcohol and crashed into the car in which Lisa and Keith, Julie’s mother and younger brother, were riding. Kevin, age forty-two at the time of the crash, eventually pled guilty and was sentenced to serve eleven and a half years in prison. Julie and Kevin’s dialogue occurred on September 9, 2004. I interviewed Julie, Kevin, and the VVH coordinator and had access to their case files, letters exchanged, and the videotape of their dialogue. I have also corresponded or talked with both Julie and Kevin since...

    • 11 Kathleen and Wayne: A Mother’s Love
      (pp. 134-145)

      Facts of the case: In November 1983, when Wayne was almost thirty years old, he murdered Judy, forty-six, an acquaintance he met at a bar. Judy had left the bar with him but refused his sexual advances. Angry at her refusal, he murdered her with a fifty-three-pound boulder. Although he maintained his innocence at the time, he was convicted and received a life sentence. The dialogue between Wayne and Judy’s daughter, Kathleen, took place in late January 2007 when Wayne was fifty-three years old. The VVH process was conducted primarily with Debbie, the volunteer facilitator. I interviewed both Kathleen and...

    • 12 Chris and Brett: Misguided Chivalry
      (pp. 146-156)

      Facts of the case: Twenty-nine years ago, Chris and two codefendants plotted to murder Greg, who they believed was abusing his second wife and their disabled child. Chris committed the actual act of murder. The victim’s son, Brett, requested a dialogue with his father’s murderer but started and stopped the VVH process many times over several years. Chris and Brett finally met face to face in the prison where Chris was serving time. Although Brett was initially intrigued about participating in my research for this book, he eventually declined to be interviewed. This chapter is based on an interview conducted...


    • 13 The Importance of Storytelling for Restorative Justice
      (pp. 159-184)

      It has become common for advocates of restorative justice programs to highlight emotionally gripping stories of transformation to demonstrate its qualitatively distinctive approach to healing and justice.¹ Like the pairings provided in this book, the stories are compelling. They are powerful and evoke fascination and curiosity. They also reassure us that the justice system is not inherently flawed but that justice can be cause for celebration when healing and growth occur for victims and offenders. To fully explore the potential of RJ programs for responding to crimes of severe violence, however, one must move beyond the powerful storylines toward an...

  7. 14 Conclusion
    (pp. 185-202)

    Restorative justicemeans many different things. Its position in the cultural lexicon demonstrates its versatility, with restorative justice practices operating under many different models as part of conflict-resolution strategies in schools, workplaces, and juvenile and adult criminal proceedings. On the larger political stage, restorative justice methods played a central role in South Africa’s postapartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in negotiations in postgenocide Rwanda, and in postsectarian Northern Ireland.¹ The popularity of such programs demonstrates a widespread interest in more fully incorporating the needs and voices of victims into justice-system processes as well as fostering greater accountability by offenders. Restorative justice...

  8. Appendix A: Restorative Justice: Theoretical and Empirical Studies
    (pp. 203-213)
  9. Appendix B: Methodology
    (pp. 214-225)
  10. Appendix C: Victims’ Voices Heard Program Structure
    (pp. 226-234)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 235-262)
  12. Index
    (pp. 263-266)
  13. About the Author
    (pp. 267-267)