Comparing the impact of community-based mediation vs. prosecution on assault recidivism among adults
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AbstractAlthough violence continues to damage community and family life, crime reduction victories over the past 30 years have come with the cost of expanding criminalization of human life, especially in communities of color. Solutions that reduce both violence and over-criminalization are urgently needed. Community-based mediation for diversion of misdemeanor assault cases has been practiced around the country since the 1970s, but little is known about its ability to prevent further violence between participants or reduce assault recidivism. Secondary analysis was conducted with assault cases (n = 162) within a Maryland Judiciary dataset from a quasi-experimental longitudinal comparison group study of criminal court mediation recidivism. Bivariate analyses and logistic regression with inverse proportion of treatment weighting were conducted. Semi-structured qualitative phone interviews (n = 19) were conducted with mediation participants in three counties of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Baltimore City. Community-based mediation for misdemeanor assault had a small and statistically non-significant association with return to court at six months, versus usual court processes. Had assaults between couples been excluded, recidivism for mediation cases would have been one third of those treated as usual. For interviewees, the justice system was capable of protection and of worsening the danger and damage, and in mutual cases, respondents wanted to cut ties with it. Mediation could only resolve the conflict if participants were offered: safety; free expression; clarity about the incident; solutions; and active, neutral mediators. Outcomes included no further violence or court charges between participants, little interaction, and for some: loss of housing and livelihood, emotional closure, or endings that needed to happen. Mediators, community mediation centers, and local prosecutors’ offices could improve screening for intimate partner violence and work together to divert more mediatable cases earlier in the process via police officers and court commissioners. Future studies of mediation recidivism should consider comparison groups of people who chose to use the service but their fellow participant declined, and mediation evaluations with a dependent variable of self-reported violence would be best suited to understanding community mediation’s ability to meet its founding mission of community-created peace.
University of Maryland, Baltimore
Keywordalternative dispute resolution
Dispute resolution (Law)
Mediation and conciliation, Criminal