• September 22, 2022

Changing Trajectories Through Mediation at Centinela Youth Services

Changing Trajectories Through Mediation at Centinela Youth Services

Changing Trajectories Through Mediation at Centinela Youth Services 1024 768 Consumer & Business

Restoration. Healing. Community Accountability. Those are the some of the themes Jessica Ellis, Centinela Youth Services (CYS) Executive Director shares as she describes the Restorative Justice Mediation Program, whose services are prioritized around highly-policed communities like the Valley region of Northwest Los Angeles, and the Southern portion of Los Angeles County, like Centinela Valley, Inglewood, and Lennox.

She has seen successful mediation outcomes where participants complete their obligation. She also shares that for those that complete the restorative program and even those that do not, recidivism rates (the rate of alleged reoccurrence of harmful conduct with law enforcement contact) are lower than those with greater involvement in the justice system.

Ellis credits the success to the extensive emotional processing through an empathic lens that honors both the participant that allegedly harmed and the harmed party. In fact, any new volunteers hoping to be pretend-judges issuing sanctions and judgments are provided training to take a holistic emotions-first approach toward problem resolution and development of the restoration obligation in partnership with the harmed party. What does this look like? Where a typical justice-involved youth builds resentment toward the proceedings and people without being able to understand the connection to the harm in a seemingly never ending process, Centinela’s restorative justice participants are able to connect the

harm done and offer their own solutions to the healing process so that a reasonable conclusion is agreed to commensurate with the alleged incident.

Essentially for example, a child’s trajectory could be altered for the rest of their life if they did something at school that required a referral to the justice system. The restorative justice program is an alternative that intercedes before a child needlessly morphs into the persona of a criminal to cope with the justice system process. Ellis shared that while children under the age of 18 are their service demographic, the 12-15 year old age group are the ones that they have seen the greatest receptivity to alter trajectories. She shares that this is because youth express their pain and trauma in non-traditional and non-linear ways but that a mistake processed in a safe and supportive setting has benefits beyond that one incident where participants get a glimpse at not only their capacity to hurt, but capacity to heal and begin to harness their agency.

In addition to the restorative justice mediation component, CYS offers a robust intake process that assesses a client’s needs. Those that are found to have greater needs are partnered with a caseworker to navigate the search for services closest to the client’s home, wherever that may be.

As Ellis reflects on the next phase of the programs contributions to the community, she is proud of the reception Los Angeles County has had to the program to the extent that portions of the model are being introduced and replicated within Los Angeles County departments and facilities.

The Centinela Youth Services Restorative Justice Mediation program is a critical component of the LA County’s Dispute Resolution Program Act partner-providers. Some assist in mediating traditional disputes between adults and this program expands the unique problem-solving skill and process of mediation to a younger population that may become future trained dispute resolution mediators.

Training opportunities are made available for interested volunteers throughout the year including one this October. More information can be found at dcba.lacounty.gov/countywideDRP.

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