Boat builder Jon Wilson of Maine runs Victim Offender Dialogue, which lets agonized victims or their surviving loved ones do something the justice system rarely lets them do: talk with the wrongdoer, the Christian Science Monitor reports. “I believe that the process of giving voice is therapeutic,” says Wilson, who is not a professional therapist. “When a survivor is able to give full voice to their feelings, they suddenly feel heard in a way they never could have in any other context.”
The program brings together victims, or their surviving loved ones, and their imprisoned offenders to discuss the acts that bind them: domestic violence, rapes, and killings. The dialogue happens in a secure setting at the inmate’s prison. It’s the survivor’s day, Wilson says, their time to ask, to describe their loss, to speak with measured anger – whatever they want. Convicts listen, answer, sometimes try to explain. “Everything I do is about enabling the survivor to be heard and preparing the offender to respond in a way that’s more substantial than ‘I can’t explain it.’ ” Through his nonprofit group, JUST Alternatives, Wilson has worked with clients in Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Texas, Virginia, and Vermont.