Defense Initiated Victim Outreach (DIVO): A Pilot in 2 States is a restorative justice project that seeks to promote systems change in state level capital trials by insuring that victim-survivors (hereafter called victims) in capital cases in Texas may, if they so choose, have a link to the defense team.

For years, contact with victims has remained within the province of prosecutors thereby limiting contact with the defense who may be able to answer questions about the capital proceedings or their loved one’s death or provide an opportunity for victims to talk with the defense about the impact of their losses. This contact is predicated on the belief that receiving information or humanizing the process might assist the victim’s healing and reduce some of the “secondary victimization” associated with the judicial system. The bridging process relies on a Victim Outreach Specialist who can offer victims access to the defense team.

DIVO was introduced at the federal level in the late 1990s in the aftermath of the Oklahoma bombing which exposed the unmet needs of the victim survivors. Subsequent to that national tragedy, the federal defender system institutionalized DIVO in federal capital cases. Georgia is the first state to implement DIVO at a state level. The Georgia Council for Restorative Justice in the School of Social Work at Georgia State University was awarded a three-year grant in 2006 from the JEHT foundation to train and mentor Victim Outreach Specialists in capital cases, educate community and legal personnel, and increase state support in Georgia for the DIVO project.

Georgia State University has been awarded a grant from the Bureau of Justice Asssitance (BJA) to expand its program by replicating DIVO in Texas and Louisiana. Dr. Marilyn Armour, under subcontract to GSU, will develop and manage the project in Texas.

Georgia State University / US Bureau of Justice Assistance