Contact between victims and offenders in forensic mental health settings: An exploratory study

Authors Mariette van Denderen , Nienke Verstegen , Vivienne de Vogel , Leida Feringa
Published in International Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Publication date 2020
Research groups Working with Mandated Clients
Type Article

Summary

Victim-offender contact has been studied extensively in prisons, but research on contact between victims and mentally disordered offenders in forensic mental health settings is lacking. Therefore, an exploratory study was conducted on contact between victims and offenders in four Dutch forensic psychiatric hospitals. These offenders have committed serious (sexually) violent offenses, for which they could not be held fully responsible due to severe psychopathology. During the mandatory treatment, it is possible for offenders and their victims to engage in contact with each other if both parties agree to this. To explore the conditions under which this contact is suitable, we interviewed 35 social workers about their experiences in 57 cases from four Dutch forensic psychiatric hospitals. Findings demonstrated that, according to the social workers, no type of offense or psychopathology were obvious exclusion criteria for victim-offender contact. Social workers described offenders' problem awareness, stable psychiatric condition, and ability to keep to agreements as important factors that enable victim-offender contact. Implications and suggestions for future research are provided.

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Language English
Published in International Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Year and volume 73 nov-dec
Key words Victim-offender contact, Restorative justice, Forensic mental health, Victims, Mentally disordered offenders, Mediation
Digital Object Identifier https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijlp.2020.101630
Page range 1-7