Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation

by Center for Conflict Resolution
Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation

Javon was 16 when his dad died. That was seven months ago; since then, he had been regularly stealing from individuals and businesses in his neighborhood. 

Javon had lived with his dad up until his death, but now he was back with his mom who would come and go without saying where she was for days at a time. She was a known drug user and Javon was essentially on his own. 

He got arrested for stealing liquor from the corner store by his aunt’s house earlier in the winter. Javon’s probation officer thought it would be helpful for him to go through mediation, so the officer referred him to CCR. Representatives from the store declined to come to the mediation; however, CCR was still able to provide a Family Mediation to Javon, his mom, Latisha, and his aunt, Rose. 

Rose was instrumental in getting both Javon and Latisha to the mediation. Once they were there, the mediator began asking some questions giving all three a chance to explain how this incident had affected their family. 

Javon explained how his dad had taught him right from wrong, but now that he was on his own, he had to take care of himself as best as he could. Since his mom wasn't around much, he figured he could do whatever he wanted or needed to do. Stealing from the liquor store was one way to make extra money for stuff he needed because he could sell it to other kids at school. 

Latisha mentioned that she tried to keep an eye on Javon, but since they hadn't lived together for years, he resisted her attempts to stay informed on what he was doing and keep him out of trouble. She wanted more say-so in his coming and goings as well as an improvement in the respect he gave her. 

Rose explained how her brother's death had left a void in the family and that he had been a strong link holding things together. She had tried to pick up this role since his death, but it was difficult with her own children and job needing much of her time. 

Throughout all of this, the mediator was able to help the parties identify the things that were most important for them and discuss some options for pursuing those interests. 

For Javon, it was important to have some autonomy to make his own decisions and prove that he could stand on his own. Even still, he was willing to have more communication with his mother about what was going on for him, and he wanted support from her, but he didn't think it was fair for her to come and go on a whim, yet still demand authority over his actions. He ultimately wanted to go to college and get a job working with computers, but he also wasn't sure how to make that happen.

For Latisha, it was important to have her authority as a mother respected, but she recognized that she wasn't always around and Javon was nearing that stage of early adulthood where he was making a lot of decisions for himself.

Rose's interest was simply to improve the dynamics of the family since her brother's death and make sure to keep Javon out of trouble so he didn't end up going down a path that so many of his contemporaries did with crime, drugs, jail or death.

By highlighting all of these interests for them and helping them think through alternatives and potential pitfalls of the kind of behavior that led them to this conversation, the mediator was able to assist them in writing up an agreement about what to do to improve things. 

Javon agreed to a typical curfew of 9:30 p.m., with the option of calling his mom to let her know if he wanted to stay out until 10:30 p.m. Latisha agreed to help Javon investigate a couple of different City Colleges and take him to the one he chose to enroll in classes when the time came. Rose agreed to be a back up support in case Javon couldn't reach Latisha, and that she would check in with both of them every couple of weeks to see how things were going.

When the mediation was finished, they all agreed that it had been helpful to talk out some of these issues which they had never sat down to discuss since the father's death. They were all certain that the thieving wasn't productive or helpful for Javon, and now they had some supports in place to help him make better decisions and pursue his goals. 

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Lucas and a friend were caught drawing in fresh cement in front of a veteran’s memorial at their local Park District, as a consequence, Lucas was arrested and his case was referred to mediation at the Center for Conflict Resolution. Since the representative of the Park District was unable to attend the mediation, Lucas and his mom ended up having a family mediation.

Lucas’s mom Susana, started the mediation by stating that what Lucas did was not a terrible thing but she did feel that Lucas didn’t take his arrest seriously. She mentioned that when she picked Lucas up from the Police station, Lucas was handcuffed and sitting on a bench smiling and talking to the officers like nothing had happened. Susana was furious that Lucas was so casual about being arrested. For Susana, seeing her son handcuffed was very upsetting. She told Lucas that she was very disappointed in him.

Lucas responded by apologizing to his mom, he confessed that being in handcuffs for hours had been an unpleasant experience. He also shared that he had been very afraid that the police would put him in a cell with dangerous people, and that he was relieved when they kept him on a bench. He told his mom that the smiling that she saw was really relief that he had not been hurt or locked up. Lucas also told her how embarrassed and ashamed he was when he returned home that evening and his grandmother wouldn’t speak to him.

Throughout the mediation Susana stated repeatedly that Lucas is a good kid and that they have a close relationship. Susana is a single mother of five boys and Lucas is the oldest and the favorite. Susana also disclosed in the mediation, that her mom lives with them and that she was worried about the effect of all this on her mother. The mediator created a space where Lucas and Susana were able to have a candid conversation and Susana shared that her brother that was in a gang and murdered when he was fourteen years old, when this happened Susana was only eleven years old. For Susana, her brother’s murder had ruined her life and it was her constant fear that Lucas might follow in his footsteps.

The mediation gave Lucas an opportunity to explain his experience and to hear his mom’s concerns and her need to protect him and his siblings. Both had a chance to express their points of view and left the mediation satisfied with the process and feeling more connected with each other.

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Joyce and her one year old daughter Anna were living with her father Keith, great aunt Claudia, and other family when things started to unravel.  Joyce was having a rough time keeping up with her responsibilities and would run away from home, sometimes for days at a time just to get away. She would run to her friends and boyfriend, leaving Anna with family in the meantime. The final straw occurred when Joyce ran to Milwaukee without telling her family where she was going. She left Anna with her boyfriend’s family and upon her return she was upset to find that the baby was not there.  When she arrived back at her familial home, she was reunited with Anna, but got into an altercation with Keith and Claudia about her recent disappearance.  Joyce was forced to move out and live with another family member some miles away.

On the day of the mediation, the mediator checked in with the family and it initially seemed that things were getting better. Joyce had recently moved back into the home with her family. However, after further reality testing, it became apparent that Keith and Claudia were still upset about the incident and Joyce’s whereabouts overall. They believed that Joyce wasn’t concerned about Anna’s safety or her care. They felt taken advantage of.  In caucus, Joyce was able to explain to the mediator that she felt like she was in the way because she moved around so much and that she had not felt wanted since her mother died tragically when Joyce was five years old.

The mediator was able to bring them back together to discuss possible solutions and Joyce made her case to the family about how she was feeling. They exchanged possible solutions. Keith and Claudia were able to explain how much they cared about both Joyce and Anna. They explained that they wanted Joyce to limit her travels in order to make sure Anna was taken care of. Joyce agreed and they worked out an agreement around daily child care and overall family schedule. The family also agreed to look into counseling for Joyce in the future.

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In the past three months, CCR has served 10 additional families through its Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation program. These 10 families have had a chance to engage in an impactful conversation about the choices made by juvenile clients and the impact these choices have on individuals and neighborhoods across the Chicagoland area. These conversations strengthen community, build communication skills, restore relationships and increase understanding. The story below illustrates CCR's services through its Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation Program:

Justin, age 14, was scared to meet with the woman whose phone he had stolen a few months earlier. Along with a friend from school, he had grabbed Cheryl’s phone while on the ‘L’ and run out of the train car just before the doors closed. Later, Justin had seen his face on the local news and been taken to the police station by his mother, Ava, who had left work in disbelief upon hearing about the situation. Ava was angry that her son’s actions had harmed someone, but thankful that he was being given the opportunity to take responsibility for his actions by meeting with Cheryl face-to-face at the mediation session. Cheryl was a stranger to Ava and Justin and had not seen them since the incident months ago but thanks to CCR, all three were able to come together for a conversation on respecting others, safety, trust, responsibility and the dreams of mothers for their children.

Through the process of mediation, the mediator was able to facilitate a discussion which brought to light the fact that Justin had never been involved in anything illegal before and had had the respect and confidence of his mother up until the incident. After Justin delivered a tearful and heartfelt apology to Cheryl, his mother nodded saying: “he knows he wasn’t raised that way.” When asked by the mediator what had happened since Cheryl filed the police report, Ava laid out the thoughtful and loving parenting actions that had been taken at home to ensure Justin “never did something like this” again, which involved being grounded from regular activities and being assigned books to read and activities to complete on educational websites. Due to the new information the mediation revealed, Cheryl shifted from her original request that Justin do community service, to sharing that she was glad to hear that his mother really cared about what he had done and that he never did it again. Cheryl, a mother herself, felt comfortable with the consequences Justin’s mother had implemented and said that she accepted his apology as “real.”

Thanks to the mediation, Justin was able to hear both his mother and Cheryl talk about how this experience had affected them and their hope that he never did this again because the incident could have ended very differently. Cheryl went on to share with Justin and Ava that when the incident had occurred, she had actually stopped a man, who she said was “shaking in anger,” from running Justin and his friend down by saying; “They’re just kids. Phones are replaceable.” The mediator gave Cheryl and Ava an opportunity to talk about what would have happened if the man had gone after the boys or if the police had shown up.  Both women explained to Justin that he could have been seriously hurt or worse. Ava explained that the anger and fear expressed at the beginning of the mediation stemmed from her hope that her son would “go to college” and how she wanted him “to be somebody.”

Through the mediation services CCR provides, Justin not only got a chance to see Cheryl accept his apology, but also to show Cheryl and his mother that he did not want this incident to define him as he “could do better.” An agreement was reached by all the parties that creatively addressed the need for Justin to take responsibility for the loss of Cheryl’s phone and provided a way for Justin to rebuild trust with his family and community.

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Juvenile Program Continues to Help Strengthen Relationships
By Rae Kyritsi - Programs Director

In the past three months, CCR has served 28 additional families through its Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation program. These 28 families have had a chance to engage in an impactful conversation about the choices made by juvenile clients and the impact these choices have on indivdiuals and neighborhoods across the Chicagoland area. These conversations strengthen community, build communication skills, restore relationships and increase understanding. The story below illustrates CCR's services through its Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation Program:

Tina and her teenage-daughter Keira had a strong relationship. They talked all the time and both felt confident that they were good communicators who knew each other well. Then, in the Winter of 2015, Keira was arrested at school for stealing from another student’s locker and the case ended up being referred for mediation at the Center for Conflict Resolution.

The other student declined to participate in mediation, so CCR staff offered Tina and Keira the opportunity for a Family Mediation.

At the beginning of the mediation both Keira and her mother found the process laughable. “We talk every day,” they said, indicating that their regular communication meant that they had nothing to discuss with the mediator. The mediator, very experienced in family cases, persuaded the women to give it a try and began a conversation with them about their relationship, their home life, and the theft incident at school. During the mediation Tina revealed that she had traveled a hard road to come to her successes. She had been born into poverty and had suffered the physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of being poor in Chicago. By the time she was in her mid-twenties, Tina had three young children and was on her own. She vowed that her children would not struggle the way that she had and Tina persevered, creating a life for her children that was secure and safer than hers had been. Tina stated that her insistence on being involved in Keira’s life is why they spoke daily and was keeping Keira safe.

After a lot of candid discussion with Tina and Keira, the mediator decided to take a break and meet with each party separately. This part of a mediation, referred to as caucus, provides both the mediator and the parties with an opportunity to discuss topics that they might not be comfortable talking about in front of the other party. And that’s exactly what happened when the mediator met with Keira.

In caucus, Keira confessed to the mediator that she was bisexual and that she had not told her mother. The private conversation gave the mediator a chance to process with Keira what that meant and why she had wanted to keep it a secret. They talked about the possible outcomes of disclosing her sexuality to Tina and what impact it might have on their mother-daughter relationship. At the end of the caucus, Keira decided that she wanted Tina to know the truth and that she would tell her at the mediation.

When the mediator brought Tina and Keira together Keira told her mother that she was bisexual. Both the mediator and Keira waited for Tina’s response. Tina merely shrugged her shoulders and said, “You can love anybody you want, I just want you to be safe.”

At the end of the mediation, as the mediator was wrapping up the discussion, both Tina and Keira told the mediator that despite their belief that they already knew everything about each other, the mediation had been a powerful experience. Keira, unburdened from her secret, was able to have a truly open conversation with her mother for the first time in months.

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Center for Conflict Resolution

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
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Project Leader:
Cassandra Lively
Chicago, IL United States
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