Monday, November 17, 2008

Unexpected Connection

Last week, several Mediation Center staff members experienced a wonderful little moment:

The Crown Heights Community Mediation Center is working on establishing a new youth court in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg precinct. Several of our staff members traveled to the Red Hook Community Justice Center to observe Red Hook's youth court in action. After much concern about the cost of a car service, because we were running late and because there were four of us, we decided to call a car.

After a bit of wrangling, our director, Amy, talked the driver down to $17 for the fare. On the way there, she sat in the front seat and explained to the staff what we were about to see.

In four police precincts that neighbor the Red Hook Community Justice Center, if a young person commits a minor offense and is given a YD card, she or he has the option of going before a jury of her or his peers. The youth court members are made up of young people who live in the community and are interested in pursuing careers in law and criminal justice. Jury members question the young person who has committed the offense to find out more about what happened on the day of the offense and also more broadly what's going on in the young person's life and what she or he aspires to. With this information in hand, the youth court members work to craft a fair and beneficial sanction, composed of some combination of essays, workshops, community service, and social service referrals. Upon completion of this sanction, the young person's YD card is neutralized.

When we arrived at our destination, our driver said that he really supported the work that we do. He explained that when he was a young person he got himself into trouble and that there were lots of people around who supported him and helped him. He wanted our program to "spread and spread all over the city and all over the country." He said he wanted to help in any way he could and he would start by reducing our fare to $12! It is a great way to start our new program!

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