Several years into a program that takes young offenders out of Illinois’ Cook County Juvenile Court and into mediation, a study has found that the effort is helping its participants avoid getting rearrested, reports the Chicago Tribune. The DePaul University study looked at a sample of 386 juvenile offenders beginning in 1999. Among the 157 in the study sample who completed mediation, nearly 70 percent had not been arrested by the end of 2003. That suggests that mediation in the Balanced and Restorative Justice Program can significantly reduce recidivism, researchers said. “It has great promise for helping offenders to cease offending,” said Rosemary Bannan, a DePaul sociology professor.
The Cook County state’s attorney’s office screens incoming juvenile cases for good candidates, typically young people who have committed a first or second crime, usually non-violent. If the victim is willing to participate, community mediators lead a conference conducted by the Center for Conflict Resolution, where victim and offender and their parents discuss the situation. Both sides must agree on a solution, which can include restitution. “I think that the offender is given some appreciation for what happened to the victim,” Bannan said. In the first year, 61 percent of those who had completed mediation had not been arrested, compared with 35 percent of those who were not in mediation, the study found.