1992 Finalist
City of Dayton, Ohio
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

In the early 1990s, a new kind of collaboration between citizens and law enforcement was initiated in Dayton, Ohio to prevent interpersonal conflicts from reaching the judicial system. The Dayton Mediation Center establishes a partnership between the Dayton Police Department and volunteer citizens trained in conflict resolution to resolve conflicts between residents before they escalate and reach criminal levels.

The Center receives cases from individuals, police officers, the public housing authority, legal aid, social service agencies and other entities. Upon referral, case developers contact all parties involved, explain the mediation process and encourage participation in the mediation. In juvenile cases, if prevention fails and the courts become involved, defendants and plaintiffs are assigned a mandatory mediation. Attendance is required of the victim, the defendant, and their families.

Mediations are held on Saturday mornings and are led by a team of two or more mediators. Mediators, regardless of prior experience, receive sixteen hours of training in conflict resolution. Mediators work to maintain a calm environment in which all parties receive equal power and attention in order to construct a peaceable resolution. The terms of the resolution, which could range from an apology to monetary compensation, are determined solely by the participants.

The three most important measures of the program's success are the number of referrals received by the program, recidivism rates of juveniles participating in mediation and percentage of mediated cases which reach an agreement. In 1989, the Center received 388 referrals from all sources. In 1990, it received 711 referrals, with 206 from community sources, 468 from Small Claims Court and 37 from Juvenile Court. In 1991, the caseload doubled to 1,545 referrals, including 511 from community sources, 925 from Small Claims Court and 109 from Juvenile Court. The Center's special effort with the Police Department resulted in increases from four police referrals in 1989, to 32 referrals in 1990, to 87 referrals in 1991.  Juveniles who went through the mediation process between September, 1990 - March, 1991 were five times less likely to be involved in an additional assault charge within a year than those whose cases were handled by the court system. Also juveniles who experienced mediation were only half as likely to be involved in an additional delinquency charge. This is evidence that mediation is more effective at establishing new behavior patterns than the traditional court process.

The Center also a high success rate of negotiated agreements in 1990 and 1991. Of the cases which went to mediation, 85% reached an agreement For 1990, rates for mediated cases reaching agreement were: 100% for juvenile assault; 86% for community cases, and 75% for Small Claims cases. In 1991, rates were: 98% for juvenile assault, 92% for community cases, and 80% for Small Claims cases.