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Jon Wilson helps victims talk with perpetrators - and find closure

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VOD brings together victims, or their surviving loved ones, and their imprisoned offenders to discuss the acts that bind them: domestic violence, rapes, and killings.

The dialogue happens in a secure setting at the inmate's prison. It's the survivor's day, Wilson says, their time to ask, to describe their loss, to speak with measured anger – whatever they want. Convicts listen, answer, sometimes try to explain.

At her first meeting, Connors brought pictures of her son, full of life. "I think for every one of us, when something horrible happens to us and so devastates our worldview, we want an explanation," Wilson says. "Almost every survivor wants to know why: 'I need to know why this violence happened, and why it happened to me.'

"Everything I do is about enabling the survivor to be heard and preparing the offender to respond in a way that's more substantial than 'I can't explain it.' "

Through his nonprofit group, JUST Alternatives, Wilson has worked with clients in Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Texas, Virginia, and Vermont. He does the work pro bono.

In many ways the VOD work is sustained by his other occupation. Along the west side of Brooklin, Maine, a tree-edged field slopes to the cold sea. Overlooking the view is an early 20th-century house, its rooms decorated with images of sailing vessels; everywhere is the grace of moving water and curved wood.

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