The Neighborhood Justice Center
The Neighborhood Justice Center (NJC) was developed to help citizens peacefully resolve disputes through mediation. It offers an alternative to traditional court hearings. The Neighborhood Justice Center has been providing mediation services in the District Attorney’s Office since 1980. Statistics have shown that disputing parties can successfully resolve their own disputes with the assistance of a mediator 80-85% of the time. Allowing disputing parties to mediate saves the taxpayers thousands of dollars and leaves the courtrooms open for more serious crimes. In 2017, the Neighborhood Justice Center received 786 referrals. Of those cases, 325 participated in mediation and 269 were successful in reaching an agreement. $14,031.27 in restitution was collected and returned to victims.
The mediations that occur in the Neighborhood Justice Center fulfill two very important goals in the criminal justice system. First, mediation can provide creative solutions to problems which may not be available in the standard court setting. Second, mediation is an efficient and economical use of resources for minor disputes that tend to receive little time or attention in an already overburdened court system.
What is Mediation ?
A trained and neutral mediator will facilitate a meeting between the involved parties in the dispute with the goal of resolving the issues in a way that is agreeable to everyone. The mediator will explain the process, establish ground rules and ask the parties to share the situation and their perspective. Once the problems are identified, the mediator will assist the parties in developing mutually agreeable terms for resolving the issues that are creating conflict. Mediation can often successfully resolve issues that have been present for long periods of time and create outlines for how to ease or confront future problems before they get out of hand.
Why Mediation ?
Mediation allows everybody involved a chance to express their role and perspective in detail, to brainstorm solutions jointly and find resolutions that will truly address each person’s issues and concerns. One of the major benefits to mediation is that time is given to hear and resolve the issues that the courts are not able to provide. Victims and defendants are given the opportunity to come together, in a safe place, to discuss and fix the issue to the best of their ability. Mediation allows for the victim to have more of a say in the outcome than what they would otherwise get in court and allows the defendant to take responsibility, offer an apology or offer resolutions that they can follow through with. Mediation is also successful in lowering the recidivism rate.
Referrals can be made through:
-Law enforcement agencies
-Prosecution or court referrals/orders
Regardless of the referral source, in the majority of cases both parties must voluntarily agree to participate in the program. Occasionally, the courts will require one or both parties to participate. Mediations are scheduled Monday-Friday during normal business hours.