UT and UM start joint research project into recidivism after victim-offender mediation

A team of researchers from the University of Twente (UT) and Maastricht University (UM) will test an innovative model to explain why mediation in criminal cases helps to reduce criminal recidivism.

It is still unclear why and how mediation reduces the chance of re-offending among offenders. The model is based on three factors that look into three stages of mediation: before, during and after victim-offender mediation. This PhD research is made possible by funding from the talented researchers programme of NWO.

In Europe, victim-offender mediation in criminal cases is becoming increasingly important. At the end of 2016, the Dutch House of Representatives decided to employ mediation in criminal cases nationwide. Mediation contributes to the well-being of victims: it allows them to express emotions, ask questions and come to an agreement regarding compensation with the perpetrator. Research also shows that mediation leads to less recidivism (re-offending) than criminal cases that are handled in a traditional manner without mediation. However, there is still no answer as to why and how mediation reduces the risk of recidivism. This research project attempts to answer this question.

Theoretical model

The first phase of the model of victim-offender mediation attempts to tackle the question why perpetrators participate in mediation. Do they feel guilty or ashamed? Are they afraid of being branded a ‘criminal’ or do they fear social exclusion? During the second phase, the implementation phase, victims get the chance to talk directly with the offenders about the harmful effects of the crime. This may cause the offenders to develop empathy, as they start to realize what they subjected their victim to. In the third and final phase, it is investigated whether perpetrators take more responsibility for their actions and become more aware of the negative consequences of their actions after mediation.

The model will be tested over the next four years alongside the existing practice of mediation in Dutch and Belgian Limburg. The project is part of a larger UT programme investigating victim-offender mediation. This also includes the PhD project ‘Design and implementation of ICT-based communication systems in victim-offender mediation’, an interdisciplinary project funded by the Tech4People programme.

More information

UT BMS alumna Jiska Jonas-van Dijk will conduct the research under the supervision of principal applicant Dr. Sven Zebel (Department of Psychology of Conflict, Risk and Safety / UT), in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Hans Nelen and Dr. Jacques Claessen (Department of Criminal Law and Criminology / UM). 

Janneke van den Elshout
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