Community Mediation Services: Solving Issues With Communication And Respect

CommunityMediationServices

Community Mediation Services features
the Young Men’s Initiative, which aims to
keep young adults out of the justice
system.

Since 1983, Community Mediation Services in Jamaica has been cultivating respectful relationships, fostering communication and understanding rather than intolerance within families and communities.

Mark Kleiman, founder of CMS, has instilled the philosophical approach to respect, educate and empower youth, families and communities in all of the programs at the organization.

“We help people figure out how to negotiate their lives in terms of concrete goals and become a self-advocate,” Kleiman said. “We connect them with whatever resources they might need and help them achieve those objectives.”

Kleiman said the organization diverts nearly 2,000 cases from the justice system every year and they provide mediation services for all people who are in conflict with themselves, the community, the law or even their neighbors.

One of the elements of the organization is the Young Men’s Initiative, which is a Dept. of Probation program. There are three different parts to the mentor-based program, which focuses on young men and women who are in different stages with criminal or family court.

The AIM program is for younger adults who are diverted from criminal or family court cases and has a more intensive model based around mentors.

The Archers program is for 16-to-24-year-olds who are on probation or parole, either as an alternative or to transition out of the justice system.

The Justice Scholars program is also for 16-to-24-year-olds who are dealing with recent or current court involvement and is primarily based on lawyer referrals but can be voluntarily applied too. It focuses on TASC training to get high school equivalency diplomas and move on to college.

“The mentors’ job is to help them shift their goals and figure out how to move their life in the right direction,” Kleiman said. “We want to help them get to the next stage of employment or education. We help them develop skills to negotiate into the employment arena.”

Kleiman said that the Justice Scholars program lasts about nine months, while the AIM and Archers programs are about four months long, but they are not restricted to those time frames since some people need more attention.

“It’s always easier once they’ve gotten comfortable with our mentors, the building and the program,” he said. “They seem to really connect with the mentors. We consider the programs in some respect open-ended. Sometimes they contact us or come by if they continue to struggle.”

Kleiman was a law guardian for Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Division for eight years before he began developing the programs that led to CMS, which led him to the conclusion that the adversarial process is usually inappropriate and damaging for solving most family problems.

He said he noticed a dramatic shift 40 years ago in the juvenile justice system towards treating youth as people with needs and opinions, rather than patronizing them.

“We’ve transformed the way systems operate from it being adversarial and punitive to using an approach that’s collaborative,” he said. “It’s the core formula in how to assist people. Help them think and figure out what is most important to them. We’re paying much less of a price, not only for the dollar, but for the community.”

CMS gets funding from a variety of City agencies, including the City Administration for Children’s Services, the Office of Court Administration, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the Dept. of Youth and Community Development and the Office of Child Support Enforcement.

The organization is based in Jamaica and while it supports many young adults in the area, it just started a new contract with the City Supported Training and Employment Preparation Services to work with youth who are in danger in the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City. It also provides training and mediation throughout the City, along with an international project called Mediators Beyond Borders in Israel.

“This is the field with the greatest importance and greatest potential in achieving a balance for people and communities,” Kleiman said. “It provides a healthier option that enables people to find stability and satisfaction in self-actualization within themselves and with others.”

For more information, visit www.mediatenyc.org or call (718) 523-6868, Ext. 269.

Reach Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400, Ext. 123, jgibbons@queenspress.com or @jgibbons2.

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