Youth in Wayne County, Michigan who find themselves in trouble with the law now have a new option: mediation. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced a partnership with local mediation experts at the Wayne County Dispute Resolution Center.
This program is not open to everyone. Juveniles must be first time offenders and the offense has to be minor, such as “minor property damage, theft or simple assault.”
Mediation gives conflicting parties a chance to explore the deeper issues contributing to the conflict. For example, if a young person steals something, there is probably something going on in their life that caused them to do that. Perhaps the act was a cry for attention because the child isn’t getting enough positive attention, or maybe they have an undiagnosed mental health condition that makes it harder for them to avoid impulse-driven behavior.
In this example, if the young person charged with stealing went into the criminal justice system, they could face punishment with not much opportunity to process and learn from their mistake or get any additional outside help they may need.
With mediation, the youth could have a conversation with the person affected by their actions, which could be very helpful for their development. Additionally, youth who participate in the program will receive services such as tutoring and counseling.
An estimated 22% of Wayne County citizens live below the poverty level, which is twice as high as the United States’ rate. If a youth is getting into trouble because of underlying issues such as an undiagnosed mental health condition, these services offered through the mediation program could be their best chance to get the treatment they need. This is a better alternative than them ending up in the criminal justice system, which could become a lifelong pattern if the underlying issues are never addressed.
Worthy stated the mediation program will give “victims a voice and opportunity to impact the lives of the youth who victimized them.” Mediation is a unique way to resolve conflict in that it does give the opportunity for the victim to be heard, validated, and compensated, but it also provides a better opportunity for the perpetrator to learn from their actions and hopefully avoid similar harmful actions in the future.
Through this program, youth offenders will meet with mediators and the victim(s) to come to a resolution that doesn’t involve criminal charges.
We are excited to see more places move to mediation for their juvenile cases. Check out our article about a police department in Illinois which introduced mediation to handle some of its juvenile cases.