Archive for the ‘Top Stories’ Category

Victim-Youth Conferencing

Victim-Youth Conferencing

Healing and Hopeful

Victim-Youth Conferencing is effective, evidenced-based form of Restorative Justice

Following a harm, a victim may feel vulnerable and powerless. Concord Mediation Center’s Victim-Youth Conferencing (VYC) provides those harmed the opportunity to meet with youth who caused the harm. The goal is to hold the youth accountable for his or her behavior, while providing assistance and making amends to those harmed.

(The following is a fictional VYC case study.) The Jones’ are an elderly couple who have lived in the same house since they married more than 50 years ago. One day, the couple notices graffiti on the side of their detached garage. Curse words have been spray painted in large letters on the building. The couple contacts the police, and during the interview, Mr. Jones wonders aloud if he and his wife are the targets of a local gang. What’s next? Will the perpetrators take the next step and break into the couple’s home? The Jones feel they are at risk for more property damage, if not something worse.

Another neighbor contacts the police, noting that she saw a young man in the neighborhood the day before the graffiti vandalism was discovered. The police use this tip to arrest a teenager, who later admits to the harm.

A VYC can be requested by a number of referral resources who think the youth would benefit from the process, such as a county attorney, a defense attorney, a probation officer, a diversion officer, or community member. In this case, the referral came from a juvenile court judge.

Concord’s trained facilitators conduct preliminary individual meetings with the youth and the person(s) harmed to assess appropriateness, including the willingness of the parties to participate fully and benefit from the process.

The meeting begins with Mr. Jones describing the incident. Mrs. Jones shares how the incident impacted the couple’s lives, by living in fear, experiencing sleepless nights and wondering how, on their fixed incomes, they would be able to fix the damage to their property. They ask the young man why they were targeted for this crime and if he understood why they didn’t feel safe in their own home.

The young man is faced with the knowledge that his actions were more than a stupid prank. Together with the victims, he sees the real human costs of his actions. The victims and the offender then figure out how to make things right.

The facilitators lead the discussion between the Jones’, the youth and the young man’s parents to find the best way for him to repair the harm he caused. The young man will use the earnings from his after-school job to pay for the paint, and will arrange a date with the Jones’ to come to their house to paint over the graffiti. The teenager agrees to participate in a community-based youth group, to identify more positive peer groups. The VYC session concludes with all participants signing an agreement that specifies their expectations and commitment.

While this story is fictional, the steps are a realistic depiction of how and why this evidence-based process is an advantageous alternative to the court system.

Many Benefits of a Victim-Youth Conferencing

  • Provides youth the opportunity to take direct, personal responsibility for harms
  • Gives those harmed a voice in the process that can assist in closure and healing;
  • Providing an intervention that has a high success rate in reducing recidivism (reoffending).

Restorative Justice Recognized

Restorative Justice Recognized

Concord Mediation Center’s Restorative Justice practices were recognized statewide recently.

Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican, in his State of the Judiciary Speech on Thursday, January 17, noted the restorative justice efforts for juvenile offenders. Heavican noted, “This model is called Victim Youth Conferencing. Victim Youth Conferencing involves the convening of a meeting, conducted by a trained professional, between low-risk delinquents and the victim(s) of their wrong-doing. During this process, emphasis is placed on reparations for the victim(s), and appropriate rehabilitation for juvenile offenders. Use of the Victim Youth Conferencing program considerably reduces the odds of recidivism of juveniles and the odds of future involvement in the adult criminal system.”

“The Office of Dispute Resolution received a grant of over $1 million for a 3-year period to expand juvenile restorative justice services to interested counties statewide. Some of the early participating counties include Buffalo, Dodge, Douglas, Lancaster, Pawnee, Red Willow, Sarpy, and Scotts Bluff,” said Heavican. Concord Mediation Center serves Douglas and Sarpy Counties.

Heavican said the Victim Youth Conferencing program “has been evaluated by outside academics. These academics noted the successful rate of reparations to victims and the positive responses of both victims and juvenile participants.”

Concord Mediation Center provides Victim Youth Conferencing services. Contact the center for more information.

We invite you to visit our Facebook page for ongoing news.

The Neuroscience of Conflict

The Neuroscience of Conflict

What happens in our brains when we fight, argue and quarrel?

The Neuroscience of Conflict

Conflict exists when one person has a need of another person and that need is not
being met. Conflict between people is a normal, natural and inevitable part of life. If we
feel anxious, angry or threatened, our brains default to a “fight or flight” physiological

The study of the relationship between our nervous system and our brain is called
neuroscience. What happens in our brain when we sense conflict? When faced with
conflict, it’s good to know how the brain works so we can work to override negative
patterns based upon our experiences. (This is called “neuroplasticity,” and it’s the ability
to make new neural connections.)

When we become angry, the amyglada, part of the limbic system in our brain, is
Inundated with hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and testosterone. In effect, we
become “high” on conflict.

If we’re shown acknowledgment and feel that we’re heard, the front or neocortex part of
the brain, which is responsible for higher thinking and reasoning, is flooded with
serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine. These are hormones that are released when we
experience trust and respect.

When you recognize the initial stages of fight or flight. Dr. Kenneth Miller, Ph.D.,
suggests a pause. “Before you respond in a conversation, take a breath. Just a normal
simple breath.” Why does this work? First, Miller notes, it stops you from accidentally
interrupting whoever’s speaking. Second, the pause gives you a chance to reconsider
your own response. You might even decide to say nothing at all.

Once you have paused and taken a breath, use active listening techniques to help the
other person connect with his or her neocortex. Pay attention. Restate or paraphrase
what the other person has said. Summarize. Don’t interrupt. Empathize. Validate the
other person, indicating “I appreciate your willingness to talk about this difficult issue” or
“You seem angry about this situation.” Always respond respectfully.

Avoid fight or flight responses — genuine, active listening skills can be used the next
time you feel angry, to help diffuse conflict.