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Victim Offender Education Groups at Pelican Bay




























The Victim Offender Education Group (VOEG) program supports incarcerated individuals in the process of understanding and developing insight into the underlying circumstances of their lives and the choices that led them to come to prison. The process utilizes a Restorative Justice philosophy to help individuals to address memories and feelings connected to traumatic and unresolved events in their lives in an effort to integrate these experiences into their lives and experience a renewed sense of wholeness, authenticity, emotional well being and positive behavior.Specifically, the VOEG process recognizes that many incarcerated individuals have experienced unresolved traumatic events in their early lives which have contributed to their offending behaviors. The facilitators work to help identify and repair as much as possible the trauma by creating an environment of trust, safety, inclusiveness, acceptance and compassion and where issues of abuse, loss, thinking errors and transference can be acknowledged and addressed. We have found that in this environment, participants in the VOEG process are often able to self‐identify patterns of negative behaviors and begin to replace them with healthier ways of thinking and behaving.The program is divided into three main areas:


  • Offender Education and Accountability/Self as Victim

  • Victim Impact and Sensitivity

  • Relapse Prevention and Victim/offender Dialogue with a Surrogate Panel

  • The predominant themes of focus in the VOEG experiential group process include:

    • identifying and addressing unresolved trauma

    • understanding issues of attachment

    • connecting feelings/emotions with real stories

    • the experience of being witnessed in their truth and bearing witness to others

    • understanding the impact of their actions on all their victims

    The VOEG model encompasses an initial 8‐month intensive program, which is followed by an advanced program called the NEXT STEP, where prisoners commit to participating in a 1 year curriculum, applying and integrating the tools they have learned. Graduates of the NEXT STEP are considered “Stewards” of the VOEG program and are encouraged to initiate ways of giving back to their prison community. Currently at San Quentin, the Stewards run a successful program for Reception Center prisoners, introducing them to the principles and practices of the Restorative Justice circle process, the concept of personal accountability and understanding the impact of their actions.Expected Benefits for VOEG Participants

    • Increase in insight

    • Improvement in critical thinking

    • Increased Emotional Intelligence

    • Decrease in violent or negative behavior and acting out

    • Better understanding and experience of the mind/body connection

    • Improvement in impulse control

    • Increased empathy and compassion

    • Conflict resolution skills

    • Improved communication skills

    • Healthier relationships with family members and friends


The Insight Prison Project is offering a multi-phase Facilitator Training, based on our Restorative Justice Victim Offender Education Group (VOEG) model of group facilitation successfully started at San Quentin State Prison. Click here to learn more. 


Or contact Catholic Restorative Justice Ministries.

VOEG Groups One of Four Insight Prison Project Groups Shown to Reduce Recidivism


In 2013, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) performed a pilot exploration of five of the 19 classes offered by IPP at San Quentin.  NCCD's project had two modes: qualitative, semi-structured individual interviews of class participants; and a quantitative survey of participants, which included some demographic information and several scales derived from published psychological measures. NCCD concluded that these course offerings represent promising rehabilitation tools that may lead to a reduction in recidivism. Prisoner interviewees consistently reported a high regard for the course content and course facilitators, and reported receiving a range of benefits from participation. Survey results suggested that participation in IPP may be associated with higher scores on cognitive behavioral measures, although further study is required.


Click here to read the complete NCCD Evaluation of the Insight Prison Project


The study was highlighted in the February Issue of the San Quentin News - Click here to read the complete article, Study Identifies S.Q. Groups Shown to Reduce Recidivism - Four Programs from the Insight Prison Project Offer Offenders a Transformative Experience. 

Interested in becoming a VOEG facilitator?
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