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Professionals Need Not Apply

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 59 Issue: 7 Dated: (December 1997) Pages: 104,106,108
S Alford
Date Published
3 pages
Lexington County, S.C., uses its Juvenile Arbitration program to divert juveniles from formal juvenile justice processing; this program uses volunteers to resolve nonviolent incidents at the neighborhood level.
In operation for 13 years, the program's guiding philosophy is that it is possible for first-time, nonviolent criminal offenders to sit down with all of the parties affected by their crimes and restore, if only partially, all parties. The types of contracts that are developed in arbitration hearings reflect the full implementation of the restorative justice philosophy; juveniles are required to pay restitution or do community service, but they also are asked to take action to make up for the intangible losses, such as the fear experienced as a result of victimization. Victims might ask juveniles to visit a local crime watch meeting, or police might ask juveniles to make up for the time spent processing the case by assisting an officer in the filing of arrest documents. One of the elements of the program that makes it rare among pretrial diversion programs is the absence of fees for participation. The arbitrator is a volunteer who has had 21 hours of training in a variety of topics, including the retribution model, adolescent issues, mediation skills, legal issues, and program mechanics. The program manager, who is paid, provides a support system (infrastructure, training, and quality assurance) for volunteers that promotes the efficient operation of the program. During its first 8 months of operation, the program used 41 arbitrators to divert 129 cases from the family court (approximately 45 percent of new criminal referrals). Not a single juvenile who went through the program during its first 3 years committed another crime.