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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
November/December 2010

Agency committed to equal employment opportunity policies

TDCJ is committed to its policies of equal employment opportunity and zero tolerance for all forms of employment discrimination, including sexual harassment. Retaliation for contacting a TDCJ official or filing a complaint of alleged discrimination or harassment will not be tolerated.

“Behavior by any employee that violates these policies or the condoning of such behavior by any manager or supervisor may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal,” said TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston. “I am committed to the success of TDCJ’s equal employment opportunity complaint procedures and to resolving each allegation in a timely manner.”

Individuals who believe they have been subjected to any form of discrimination or harassment are encouraged to contact any TDCJ official or the Employee Relations Intake Team at (936) 437-4240, file a grievance through the employee grievance process, or contact the Texas Workforce Commission - Civil Rights Division at 1-888-452-4778, and/or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 1-800-669-4000.

 

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Taking back control through Victim Offender Mediation/Dialogue

By Janice Harris Lord, Board Member

 

portrait of Janice Harris Lord  
Janice Harris Lord  

After a crime has been committed, trying to make sense out of what happened can be daunting for the victim. Relentless brooding over why someone would choose to hurt or kill another person can haunt dreams, result in long-term sadness, anger, fear and anxiety, and even produce a sense of loss of one’s own self. The opportunity to describe the impact of the crime to the offender and to ask unanswered questions can be one component of recovery. It can mean regaining control and moving forward in life.

In 2001, the Texas Legislature made Victim Offender Mediation/Dialogue (VOM/D) a crime victim’s right by amending the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The TDCJ Victim Services Division manages the VOM/D process as a means for victims to talk with their TDCJ offenders in a safe, structured face-to-face setting.

Through VOM/D, victims can tell their offenders how the victimization has affected their lives and ask questions that only the offender can answer. In addition, the victim and the offender can develop an agreement whereby the offender accepts responsibility and demonstrates accountability.

The VOM/D process can only be initiated at the request of the victim. Requests are examined by TDCJ Victim Services on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the suitability of the process for both the victim and the offender. If deemed appropriate, the offender is informed of the request, educated about the VOM/D process and asked about his or her willingness to participate. If interested in participating, the offender must first admit guilt and accept responsibility for the crime.

Although involvement in the program is voluntary for the victim and offender, both must commit to participate in all phases of the VOM/D process with a staff or volunteer mediator. Any one of these three individuals can decline further participation at any time prior to and including the day of the dialogue if motives or behaviors of the victim or the offender are considered inappropriate or harmful.

The VOM/D process allows for the use of creative alternatives if the standard process is not acceptable. For instance, if an offender does not wish to participate or is ineligible, a surrogate dialogue allows the victim to meet with another offender who committed a similar crime. If the victim or offender wants to participate but prefers an indirect dialogue, videotaped statements or letters can be used in lieu of the face-to-face meeting.

Since each VOM/D case is unique, the preparation process usually ranges from four to six months. Once preparation is complete, a day for the dialogue is scheduled at the offender’s unit. The seating arrangements, order of entry into the room, and order of dialogue are determined by the victim and mediator, with changes only if deemed necessary for security reasons by the program’s administrator or the unit warden. During the concluding process of the dialogue, the victim and offender develop an affirmative agreement that includes actions to demonstrate the offender’s accountability for the crime. These might include the offender’s participation in victim impact panels or sessions with a chaplain to explore the crime and its impact on the victim.

Immediately following the dialogue, the mediator meets with the offender, and then with the victim. The victim’s debriefing might include hearing about the offender’s debriefing. Within two to three weeks, the mediator holds individual follow-up meetings with both the victim and offender.

During Fiscal Year 2010, 101 VOM/D cases were initiated. During that same period, 29 person-to-person dialogues and 14 creative alternative dialogues were completed. From the program’s inception in January of 1994, through September 30, 2010, TDCJ Victim Services has arranged 291 victim-to-offender dialogues and 113 creative alternative dialogues.

As a result of their participation in VOM/D, many victims report that their anger, fear, hatred and contempt decreased, sometimes in only a few hours. Some extraordinary transformations in attitude, confidence, courage and demeanor have been described. For offenders, the goal of VOM/D is to increase victim sensitivity and awareness, and many have said that, for the first time, the crime victim became a real person rather than a faint image. Some have said the process made them realize the severe impact of what they did to the victims and their families.

The VOM/D program is only one way a victim might choose to alleviate their grief and hurt. It provides a safe and structured opportunity for victims to achieve better understanding of what happened. It can help victims take back some control of their lives and open the path to recovery.


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Call toll-free to report waste, fraud and abuse of TDCJ resources

crumpled dollar billsWaste, fraud and abuse of state resources cost all taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

The Office of the Inspector General is dedicated to detecting, investigating and prosecuting reports of waste, fraud and abuse of state resources within all divisions of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

If you have any information regarding waste, fraud or abuse of state benefits, equipment, personnel or funds, please contact the Office of the Inspector General, Crime Stoppers or the State Auditor’s Office toll-free.

 

Office of the Inspector General
1-866-372-8329

Crime Stoppers
1-800-832-8477

State Auditor’s Office
1-800-TX-AUDIT
(892-8348)

 

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