In State-Sponsored Dialogues, Inmates Help Victims

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Every other Friday, Peggy Steele picks up the phone and talks to the man who murdered her son more than 20 years ago. Bryce Todd Brosier, who was convicted of killing 25-year-old Jimmy Steele in 1995, talks to Steele from a Colorado prison where he is serving time, reports Stateline in the second article in a series on restorative justice. Colorado is one of 31 states that offer victim-offender dialogues that encourage both sides to talk about how they were affected by a crime and offenders to take responsibility for their actions.

In many states, offenders serving time are barred from contacting victims. The prison-based programs give victims a chance to ask questions in ways they weren’t able to in court. Prisoners get a chance to do something positive for those they’ve harmed. In Texas, which has one of the nation’s largest prison dialogue programs, the focus is entirely on the victim rather than rehabilitating the offender. The victim must initiate the process, and each has his or her own reasons for doing so, said Lauren Bledsoe, who supervises victim-offender dialogues. “Some of them have questions about the crime, about what happened. Or in the case of a homicide, some want to know why or what their loved one’s last words were. Some want them to hear the full impact of the crime, and others feel very strongly about offering forgiveness,” she said.

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