SACRAMENTO— CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OVSRS) has awarded more than $1.3 million in grant funds to vital community partners to empower restorative justice practices across the state.
The funds were awarded to community organizations Re:store Justice, Ahimsa Collective, Healing Dialogue and Action, and Restorative Justice Mediation Program.
The grants were presented at the first-ever Victim Offender Dialogue Program (VOD) Grantee Conference in Los Angeles in December, using funds that California Governor Gavin Newsom dedicated to restorative justice programs from the Inmate Welfare Fund. The fund is a trust where all proceeds from institutional canteen and hobby shop sales are deposited and spent for the benefit of inmates, including on education and welfare.
Restorative justice programs share a common goal of giving victims the opportunity for their voices to be heard and for incarcerated men and women to fully understand the consequences of their actions.
“This is a very historic and exciting day that victims have long waited for,” OVSRS Assistant Chief Katie James said to open the conference. “To see this program come to fruition and for the support of both CDCR Administration and the Governor’s office confirms the Department’s desire and commitment to restorative justice, growth and healing for the victims.”
The VOD program is a victim-initiated process, which allows the victims of crime or surviving family members and the incarcerated person who committed the offense to meet face-to-face in a safe and secure environment.
Though this may not be for every survivor, the experience of talking directly with the person who committed the offense can enable survivors to give full voice to some of the pain and trauma they have experienced. At the same time, when incarcerated people are able to listen and respond to them, and to give voice to the complexity of feelings about what they have done, they can better understand the devastating effects of their crimes, and how they came to be capable of such behaviors.
OVSRS awarded $643,595 to the four organizations for the first round of grant funding (from Dec. 1, 2019, to Nov. 29, 2020) and another $676,827 in the second year (Dec. 1, 2020, to Nov. 29, 2021). The funds allow them to secure and train more facilitators and travel to assist more victims and offenders. The VOD facilitators travel throughout California to work with both parties to help them navigate the healing process in hopes to one day have a dialogue.
Formed in 1988, the mission of OVSRS is to give crime victims and their families a voice. The formation of the office has laid the groundwork for enforcing victims’ rights and providing services. Read up on the bevy of services provided by OVSRS and learn about partnering state, federal, county and community resources by visiting https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/victim-services/.
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