Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Juvenile Mediation?

When looking at the criminal justice system, especially in terms of kids..er I mean juveniles..at least one study has shown that mediation may help. The University Of New Haven released a preliminary study in January that suggests that mediation assisted with both cutting costs and, more importantly, with recidivism rates. Mediation is increasing in popularity as a way to approach dispute resolution in a holistic fashion, but there is quite a bit to consider in terms of criminal mediation...issues of privacy, privilege, and protection of client interests.

West Haven, Conn., January 12, 2010- A preliminary study conducted by a University of New Haven (UNH) legal researcher shows a significant decrease in recidivism by Bridgeport, Connecticut juvenile offenders who participated in a mediation program involving their victims, and the implications for the state are significant.

UNH Associate Professor and Director of the Legal Studies Program Donna Decker Morris analyzed data on the effectiveness of "restorative" mediation performed by mediators from the Dispute Settlement Center with juvenile offenders in 2005-2006, and notes the program has proved to be a beneficial and incredibly cost effective alternative to traditional criminal justice processing for juveniles. Morris' findings show only 14.7 percent of the juvenile offenders who went through mediation reoffended, versus a typical recidivism rate of 33 to 36 percent for those who do not participate in mediation. The Dispute Settlement Center is a non-profit mediation agency serving western Connecticut.

In order to participate in restorative mediation, offenders must be willing to brainstorm with the mediator and the victim on how best to make reparations. "In talking directly with the victim, the offender hears the consequences of his or her actions and has to take responsibility for them," Morris says. Significantly, victims who participated in mediation noted a high rate of satisfaction with the process. "The victim, who is ordinarily removed from the judicial system, has the opportunity to make the offender aware of the harm inflicted and has input on whatever reparations are made, versus having a juvenile judge decide," she explains. "Victims note that they get a sense of closure, and feel safer and more empowered as a result of mediation." Morris adds that though the process can be emotional the rewards are far reaching and well worth the effort involved.

No comments: