Et Magtfuldt Møde - diskurser i egnethedsvurderingen til konfliktråd

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Signe Mia Hansen
The purpose of this masters thesis is to examine the discourses that coordinators use in their qualification evaluation of participants for victim-offender mediation (VOM), as well as how these discourses help coordinators understand ’suitability’ in relation to VOM-meetings. From semi-structured interviews with eight coordinators from seven dif- ferent police districts, two discourses are identified.

On the one hand, coordinators used a VOM-discourse, that is a mixture of perspecti- ves from restorative justice and from neo-liberal rehabilitation perspectives. The basic premise of the discourse is empowerment, and therefore assumes that the individual is better off when its human capacities for acting on him- or herself is realized, in that this strengthening of the self helps the individual in meeting future problems and challen- ges. The two perspectives differ in their approach to evaluating the individual, in that the rehabilitation perspective assumes that the individual in contact with professionals can evaluate and meet their true ‘inner selves’. Coordinators that use this perspective therefore seek to identify future participants’ ‘real needs’, motivations and abilities using special questions. Future participants are to demonstrate that they have the ability to engage in a constructive and orderly dialogue about the incident, and be motivated to see things in another perspective, or willing to cooperate with the other participants to achieve a better future. Coordinators that used the restorative justice-perspective in their assessment did not consider participants motivation before VOM, but rather focused on the positive effects of the process, regardless of parties’ motivation. Different from the rehabilitation perspective, this was based on the idea that coordinators could not ‘reach’ behind and uncover the participants motives. Hence coordinators did not position them- selves as ‘experts’ in the assessment of the participants, from the premise that in most cases participants would get something out of their participation.

On the other hand, coordinators used a criminal justice-discourse, where crime is con- sidered to be a matter between the state and the offender. Criminal justice is exercised ’top down’, and the criminal justice-discourse is based on neo-classic assumptions of ge- neral preventive justifications for punishment. In this, the perpetrator is seen as a rational actor, calculating risk in relation to his or her actions. At the same time the discourse is characterized by a dichotomous division of the parties into categories such as guilty /not guilty. Coordinators who used this discourse therefore categorized the parties in the same dichotomies, and on the one hand assessed the perpetrators qualifications for VOM from his intent with the crime and his crime history. At the same time the perpetrators qualification for VOM was assessed from his motivation to take full responsibility and repent his guilt to the person wronged by the crime. Perpetrators not willing to repent or offer the victim an apology did not qualify for VOM. This was based on the notion that the victim, on the other hand, did not experience re-victimization in VOM, and coordina- tors were concerned with protecting the victim from this. Thus, coordinators positioned themselves in the same position as the state in criminal law proceedings, where govern- ment act on behalf of the victim in order to protect them from future harm.

Finally this master thesis illustrates that my own discursive truth had an impact on the coordinators use of discursive resources, in that my responses and questions directed co- ordinators to use certain information from these. During the interview consensus appea- red to occur between my discursive ‘truth’ and coordinators ‘truth’ in relation to suitabili- ty for VOM, when coordinators used the VOM-discourse. Conversely, discursive conflict seemed to appear when coordinators used criminal justice-discourse. This illustrates a discursive struggle to define ‘truth’ and that there is no single truth of ‘suitability’, but that knowledge is constructed and negotiated through social relations. At the same time it illustrates that ‘truth’ is based on certain notions of right and wrong behaviour that others — for example future participants -– might not agree with. As coordinators are positioned in an important position to exercise power from these contrived — normative — ‘truths’, it is important to emphasize that knowledge is not ‘neutral’ or naturally given. This master thesis therefore highlights coordinators discourses in order to focus attention on the invisible, normative powerful processes, through which these ‘truths’ are created, negotiated and maintained in our social relations.
Publication date9 Feb 2016
Number of pages88
ID: 227617843