We initiated the Global Giving campaign to raise funds in support of our juvenile victim-offender mediation work at the start of the 2013 Holiday Season. With your support, we have opened 23 new juvenile cases since December 1, 2013.
Here is a story to illustrate our services during this time period:
"Shanice grew up with a large family in a loving home, but she still felt like something was missing because she couldn’t afford all the things her peers could. While spending time with her older cousin, she was exposed to an alternative option: shoplifting. Based on the conversation with her cousin, Shanice felt that this was her only solution because she knew her mother could not afford to get her all the things she wanted. After begging for weeks, Shanice finally got her Mom to take her to one of her favorite stores. At a store filled with trendy fashions, Shanice decided to attempt shoplifting for the first time. Before Shanice could leave the store, a store clerk caught her and she was arrested.
Shanice was assigned a probation officer and she was placed in the Diversion Program with the Center for Conflict Resolution, where she was offered the chance to have mediation with a store manager. While in mediation Shanice was able to sit with her mom and the Store Manager to explain why she would attempt to shoplift. Shanice’s Mom was shocked at her behavior because Shanice was a good student and had never been in real trouble before.
After speaking with the mediator, Shanice was able to apologize to both her Mom and the Store Manager. With the help of the mediator Shanice discussed her goals for the future, and came to an agreement with the Store Manager about returning to the store to find clothing that matched her aspirations. So moved by the session, the Store Manager agreed to assist Shanice and her family whenever they came back to her store location."
As this story illustrates, mediation is an environment in which everyone present is invited to share the impact the offense had on them. Most often, an offense doesn't hurt only the victim -- sometimes community members have been harmed, or perhaps the offender's own family. Perhaps one or more of the participants have incurred a financial burden, perhaps the victim has been physically injured, or perhaps someone involved in the mediation has experienced emotional trauma.
When a young offender is given the opportunity to hear these stories, s/he is invited to talk about their own life experiences, and the events leading up to their committing the offense. S/he has an opportunity to face those affected by their offense, and everyone has an opportunity to come up with ideas for repairing the harm.
This experience might be vastly different than going through a court proceeding, in which there is little or no opportunity to address the needs of victims, and offenders have little opportunity to repair harm to the victims and their own communities.
Since December, we have served over 75 clients through this program with intake, screening and mediation services. We look forward to working with more people throughout the year.