Juvenile Mediation Clinic Receives National Recognition
The Juvenile Mediation Clinic was one of 26 organizations recently honored by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) for its work with area youth. According to NCCD officials, the 5th Annual New American Community Awards honored media representatives, individuals and community groups that “embody the concept of the New American Community – citizens coming together to inspire hope and participation, working to find solutions to social justice problems in their communities.” The Juvenile Mediation Clinic, honored as a community group, is funded in part by a grant from the Jesse Ball duPont Foundation. It is a training program for law students who, after intensive instruction and completion of the Florida Supreme Court County Mediator Certification Program, carry out mediations and provide training to youth in schools and juvenile justice programs. The Clinic’s students teach conflict resolution skills to girls incarcerated at Halfway House, and to students at PACE and Horizons/New Pathways. In addition, the program utilizes community volunteers and law students to mediate property crimes. Youth who are first-time offenders in a property-related crime are given an opportunity to “work out” their punishment with the crime victims. Using techniques of mediation and restorative justice – which promotes opportunities for those affected by a crime (victims, offenders and their communities) to be involved in its resolution – the program’s goal is to force the offender to face the consequences of his or her actions by interacting with the victim. Also, by participating in the resolution (often helping to decide their own punishment), offenders learn more constructive ways of handling conflict. “This approach stresses accountability with the offenders. It gives their crime a human dimension, and shows them that thoughtless acts can hurt another person,” says Associate Clinical Professor Alison Gerenscer, Supervising Attorney of the Juvenile Mediation Clinic. “At the same time, it empowers the victims by giving them a voice in the process of restitution.” Currently, there are eight law students, the maximum number, enrolled in the one-semester program. “But we have a waiting list of about 30 students,” Gerenscer said. “Our clinic is always very popular.” Gerenscer said the program is valuable to law students because it provides them with an opportunity to practice legal techniques while gaining insightful community service. “The award-winners see solutions and get involved,” said NCCD president Barry Krisberg. “This award honors their courage and perseverance. They hold the key to safer futures for our communities.” NCCD is the nation’s oldest private organization working to attain responsive and effective criminal and juvenile justice systems. It has been committed for more than nine decades to promoting justice strategies that are fair, humane, cost effective and uncompromising in public safety.