The 503c3 Files
By: Adam Bogle
(formerly Mediation Works)
I don’t think it matters if you are a Republican, Democrat, Socialist, or Tea Partier (calling them Partiers kinda makes me want to be one), I think one thing everyone can agree on is that the criminal justice system in this country is completely broken. With more people incarcerated per capita then almost every country in the world, this is definitely an issue this country needs to do something about. The question is what…and is anyone doing anything about it already?
The good news around here is that there is a local non-profit who is tackling this issue, and making a real difference in people’s lives. Just one part of what Resolve does is a Restorative Justice program, and when young people are involved, there is a program called Victim Assistance, Youth Accountability (VAYA). Their key goal is not to punish an individual who has committed a crime by incarceration, but instead to heal the relationships that have been harmed as a result of the crime.
As they refer to it, there is a ripple effect for every action we take…either good or bad…and when an individual commits a crime, the victim is affected in ways that the “criminal” doesn’t recognize. And when faced with the results of the ripple effect, both the criminal and the victim can come together to make things right.
One local story involves a young man named Alex. (While most everything at Resolve is confidential, Alex came forward publicly with his story) When in his teenage years, Alex had a bad relationship with alcohol, and regularly drank to the point of being disoriented and out of control. On one such evening, Alex was drinking and wandering the neighborhood with no real idea of where he was. Not being able to find his way home, he punched his arm through a neighbors window and proceeded to pass out on their couch.
Imagine the surprise and feelings the neighbor had when she found a strange man in her house. Police were called, and Alex was charged with Burglary and Criminal Mischief.
This case could have gone through the justice system, and had large impacts on Alex’s life and prospects for his future. Instead, he went through a month long program with VAYA where he learned of the ripple effect caused by his actions including the fear he had created for the victim.
Alex and the neighbor agreed to meet in person (with assistance) and had the opportunity to talk about the incident so that they could repair the harm and move forward. It was a successful and powerful meeting. The neighbor saw that Alex was not the scary criminal she saw when she found him in her house, but a kid who was going through a rough patch in his life. She also got to see that he understood the negative effects that he had caused in her life.
Four years later, Alex called Resolve out of the blue to thank them for the positive impact that VAYA had on his life. Alex said “There hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I didn’t think of VAYA, the impact it left upon me was tremendous. I constantly wonder how different my life would look behind bars in a cell in Portland.” Alex is currently serving in the Marine Corp. He says “I want my career after the military to have affiliations with restorative justice programs similar to Mediation Works (now Resolve).”
And this story represents just one arm of what Resolve does. They teach Mediation to local schools, organizations and community workplaces. In fact, I personally went through one of their training sessions just a couple of months ago. One of the volunteer jobs I have is to be an Ombudsman for the local Realtor Association, to help resolve conflict that Realtors or the public have with each other in the event of a bad real estate transaction.
Resolve also provides professional Mediation and Facilitation services in the valley. For more information, to get help or to donate or volunteer: go to www.resolvecenter.org. They are located at 1237 N Riverside Ave #25 in Medford. (541) 770-2468