Mediation and Restorative Justice programs celebrate 20 years
- Kailee Melendez, Program Assistant, 970-416-2290, a21lbGVuZGV6QGZjZ292LmNvbQ==
This month, the City of Fort Collins’ Mediation and Restorative Justice Programs (MRJ) are celebrating 20 years of service to the Fort Collins community, having assisted thousands of City residents since October 2000.
The City’s Mediation program has helped hundreds of residents address community conflict situations in ways that avoid going to court as well as help repair broken relationships. Typical conflicts can include neighbor-neighbor disputes, animal control issues, and landlord-tenant disagreements. The program began as a Vista volunteer start up in 1997, and it was incorporated into the City’s municipal budget in 2000. During 2018-2019, the Mediation Program responded to 638 conflict situations and held 39 mediations. More than 94 percent of people who participated in mediation told the program that think it is a beneficial service for the City to offer.
The City’s Restorative Justice (RJ) Program helps provide court diversion for youth who commit crimes in our community and began in 2000 as a Fort Collins Police grant-funded program. Typical criminal incidents include shoplifting theft, other theft, harassment, assault, trespassing, criminal mischief, and other offenses. The RJ process helps most youth make positive changes in accountability, self-esteem and connection to adults in their families and community. Since 2000, the RJ program has served more than 3,000 young people, their families, the victims of their offenses and impacted community members. Over time, 98 percent of participants report being happy with their restorative justice experience.
The Restorative Justice program combined resources with the Mediation program under the City’s Neighborhood Services Department in 2013. Since then, both programs have cross-trained their volunteers and staff and developed new services to provide the most effective process for any given situation.
Today, the Mediation and Restorative Justice Programs are supported by more than 60 trained, skilled volunteers who donate 2,500 hours per year of time to the combined programs. The demand for services has increased dramatically during 2020 due to the increased stress of everyday life compounded by the pandemic and social unrest. This increased demand will likely continue. At the Mediation and Restorative Justice office, volunteers and staff are excited to offer alternatives that effectively resolve conflict without going through traditional court and law enforcement processes.