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Making space for contending moral talk in criminal matters. Criminal court mediation in Brooklyn, New York

Making space for contending moral talk in criminal matters. Criminal court mediation in Brooklyn, New York

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Peter Miller, Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation
Rochelle Arms, AlmengorJohn Jay College of Criminal Justice – CUNY
Jessica Goldberg, Longmont Community Justice Partnership
Keywords: criminal mediation, moral discourse, mediation models, agency, self-determination

Abstract: This article describes in detail the rationale behind the evolution of the mediation process used in the Criminal Court Mediation Program in Brooklyn, New York. The process developed as a response to high emotion contentious conflicts in misdemeanour cases that came through the programme, in which defendants unexpectedly insisted on countering complainants’ moral assertions about fault and harm. Through the story of one case, characteristic of many that come through the programme, we describe stages of the process from intake through mediation, and highlight key components: separate, pre-mediation sessions; regular opportunities of choice for all parties; and no promises about what will be discussed in mediation, in order to support agency and bilateral moral discourse. The programme’s success is evinced by highly positive feedback from both defendants and complainants, including increased feelings of safety. We hope our experience will serve as a reference for programmes receiving similar types of cases.

Author Biography: 

Peter Miller has been a mediator since 1986. Since then, he has conducted over 2,500 mediations. Since the 1990s he has worked exclusively within the transformative frame. He mediates and trains primarily in the family, workplace and community arenas. He has worked for numerous government agencies with workplace mediation programs. From 2014 through 2017 he directed the Mediation Externship program at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. His recent publications include 'Transformative mediation and lawyers: insights from practice and theory', co-authored with Robert A. Baruch Bush, which appeared in Transformative Mediation: A Sourcebook: Resources for Conflict Intervention Practitioners and Programs, and 'Doing something', which was included in The Stories Mediators Tell, a collection of reminiscences by mediators, edited by Eric R. Galton and Lela P. Love.

Rochelle Arms Almengor is assistant professor of dispute resolution in the Sociology Department of John Jay College. She received her PhD from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution in George Mason University, focusing on the use of reflective practice as a learning method for conflict resolution practitioners. Prior to this, she served as the restorative justice coordinator of the New York Peace Institute where she managed mediation and restorative justice initiatives with the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, juvenile justice courts, schools, and community agencies in Brooklyn and Manhattan. In 2018, Conflict Resolution Quarterly published her article, 'Reflective practice and mediator learning: a current review'.

Jessica Goldberg joined Longmont Community Justice Partnership as the volunteer and training coordinator in 2015. At LCJP, she has delivered training in restorative conversations, restorative practices in the workplace, restorative mediation and restorative group facilitation. Before LCJP, Jessica worked for the New York Peace Institute as a mediator and senior case coordinator, and this is where she first witnessed the power of dialogue through transformative mediation to help people address criminal matters outside of the court system. Jessica has an MA in conflict transformation from the SIT Graduate Institute (2010).

Publication Date:  22 October 2018

Citation: Miller, P., Arms Almengor, R., & Goldberg, J. (2018). Making space for contending moral talk in criminal matters Criminal court mediation in Brooklyn, New York. Mediation Theory and Practice3, 1–18.

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