work from restorative justice principals.
What are the differences between SGC and FGC?
There are quite a few important differences between the SGC and FGC models. In SGC, trained volunteer mediators facilitate the conference. In FGC, law enforcement officers or school officials facilitate the process. In SGC, participation is voluntary for victim and offender, and there are no consequences if the offender is unwilling to participate. In the New Zealand FGC model (which is national policy), victims and offenders are required to participate. In SGC, teams of mediators prepare participants for the Conference by meeting in face-to-face pre-conference interviews. In FGC, preparation is mostly done over the phone. In SGC, mediators are trained to assist the participants by first explaining the format of the process. Mediators only intervene when necessary to assist the participants through the steps of the process. In FGC, facilitators are trained to use printed scripts to move through the process. In SGC, if other issues (historical, for example) emerge during a conference, mediators allow the participants to deal with them during the course of the meeting. In FGC, if other issues emerge during a conference, the facilitators require that the issues be tabled and the conference focuses only on the offense that caused the complaint. In SGC, cases can range from petty misdemeanors through felonies, including death and/or dismemberment. In the Australian FGC model, cases are referred as diversions at the police level or from schools. The New Zealand model receives referrals from any level of the justice system.
What are some of the challenges of managing SGC?
Most of the challenges of managing a SGC program are logistical. Arranging a time and place for a large number of people to get together can be difficult. Also, coordinating the team of mediators conducting the pre-conference interviews is time consuming, requiring a lot of telephone work in order to get and give feedback from and to all the mediators involved. Mediators must use a great deal of care that offenders and victims are the focus during the conference. Many times they are the ones who have the most difficulty articulating their feelings. The support people who might be present seem to have a relatively easy time saying how they feel about what happened, and also seem to find it easier to decide what the offender needs to do to make things right again. This must not be allowed.
What would you say to other communities interested in implementing SGC?
I encourage all programs to consider offering SGC when it seems appropriate to a particular case. In Washington