Group aims to give victims a voice | NevadaAppeal.com

Group aims to give victims a voice

F.T. Norton, Appeal Staff Writer

A conference Thursday in Carson City is aimed at educating the public about a program intended to give crime victims a voice and make criminals realize the error of their ways.

The Western Nevada Center for Restorative Justice, a worldwide nonprofit group, is hosting the conference and three-day mediation training seminar at Western Nevada Community College to introduce the idea that crime has its victims and jail doesn’t mean restitution has been paid, said the Rev. James Hukari, director of the program.

“There’s nothing in place now that facilitates or formalizes that process of victims and offenders meeting face to face,” Hukari said. “In the present (judicial) system, most victims feel like they are totally left out of the process. Most victims feel like they are a pain in the side to the criminal justice system, and most restitution that is adjudicated has nothing to do with the crime that is committed.”

Hukari said through restorative-justice mediation, offenders and victims come face to face in a controlled environment with unbiased mediators to discuss what brought them to that place. Together, they agree on appropriate restitution.

The outcome, Hukari said, is that offenders will take responsibility for their actions and victims will feel that they have had their say.

Hukari hopes courts will eventually offer the program as a diversionary sentence to juvenile offenders who are willing to confess their crimes, and will refer adult cases to the program that are receptive to a face-to-face meeting with both sides.

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Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, is the keynote speaker at Thursday’s daylong conference, beginning at 8:30 a.m. in Marlette Hall. The conference is free and open to the public.

Mediation training will be offered Friday, Saturday and Sunday for those who want to learn more about the program or who would like to volunteer as mediators. The cost for the training is $165.

IF YOU GO

What: Community Conference on Restorative Justice and Victim-Offender Dialogue

When: Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m.

Where: Western Nevada Community College Marlette Hall, 2201 W. College Parkway

How much: Thursday’s seminar is free; mediation-training sessions are $165