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Crime victims meet with offenders in new TDOC program

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ASHLAND CITY, Tenn.- There's new approach that has crime victims meeting with their offenders as a way to move forward. The Tennessee Department of Correction created a Victim/Offender Dialogue Program, similar to other states. It's centered on victims overcoming by going into where their offender is incarcerated and talking about the past.

Dillon Hammer visits Riverbluff Park often.

"A place where I can get out of my own head, " he says.

Hammer couldn't get out of his head though, the murder of his father when the 20-year-old barely turned a year old.

Dillon Hammer says, "I never really had that father figure to look up to until my mom found my step-dad. Just somebody robbing me of the chance to know my dad, it was rough. It was rough."

At 18, he decided to meet the man responsible...through TDOC's program .

The process begins with victims initiating it.. Then TDOC determines if the inmate meets the criteria.

Finally, two trained facilitators are assigned to the case, like Verna Wyatt , Co-founder of TN Voices for Victims, and Viki Matson, Director of Field Education at Vandebilt's Divinity School.

Verna Wyatt says, "Not every victim of crime wants to spend their time doing it. But there is a group of victims of want answers that only the offender can give them. This process can be an amazing benefit for the victims.."

Dillon Hammer says, "My father couldn't give me answers so he was the only one I had that could tell me exactly what happened that night."

Hammer's co-facilitators began preparing him and the offender individually.

It took nearly a year before meeting face to face due to the policies.

Viki Matson, . "This inmate just broke down crying and said I don't deserve to live. I don't deserve to be forgiven. For Dillon to say, here are the ways you hurt me. He commended Dillon on the man he's become. It's ironic they were both raised without a father."

Dillon Hammer says, "It's completely different, I don't feel any anger towards him. It really is a healing process. Filled that void I've been looking for my entire life."

Wyatt says, inmates receive no special consideration for their involvement and there's no obligation for them to participate.

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If you are a victim and are interested in the Victim/ Offender Dialogue Program contact TDOC or Tennessee Voices for Victims.

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