Report of Criminal Mediation Best Practices

The 2016 Maryland General Assembly requested that the Judicial Branch’s Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO) “study and identify best practices for criminal referrals to mediation, based on experiences across the State and research…” MACRO convened a group of stakeholders to work toward that objective. The participating stakeholders are listed in Appendix A, and include representation from the mediation community, State’s Attorneys and State’s Attorney Office staff, the Executive Branch, and Judicial Branch alternative dispute resolution (ADR) office staff, among others.

The work group created a list of issues that should be considered in developing criminal mediation program best practices. On the framework of those issues, the work group developed these best practices for criminal misdemeanor mediation programs, the first of which is to have a criminal mediation diversion program in each jurisdiction. This document seeks to provide information, answer questions, raise a few new ones, and begin to crystallize practices and procedures that may be considered best practices for developing criminal misdemeanor programs in Maryland.

Read the full report here.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

MAJR believes that community mediation, community conferencing, and mediation programs connected with the State’s Attorneys Offices are promising evidence-based practices for criminal diversion. These programs save resources for the state and local agencies and provide more holistic solutions to the community and individuals involved in conflicts.

MAJR’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) focus group recommends that the Maryland Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council propose criminal justice diversion policies that:

  • Study and document ADR practices in use in several established programs in order to facilitate replication statewide. This includes analysis of screening and referral protocols, which are critical to program success, and identification of best practices the state should support.
  • Increase the state’s investment in ADR, both through expansion of existing programs and through establishment of new programs.

Fairfax County: Diversion First Program

Diversion First offers alternatives to incarceration for people with mental illness or developmental disabilities, who come into contact with the criminal justice system for low level offenses. The goal is to intercede whenever possible to provide assessment, treatment or needed supports. People needing diversion may also have a substance use disorder, which often co-occurs with mental illness. Diversion First is designed to prevent repeat encounters with the criminal justice system, improve public safety, promote a healthier community and is a more cost effective and efficient use of public funding.

Diversion First was implemented because…

  • Too many people are in jail due to mental health issues. Jail is not the appropriate place to provide mental health treatment.
  • There is a need to prevent the incarceration of people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.
  • To intervene at the earliest point possible to de-escalate situations and avoid arrest.
  • It’s the right thing to do to offer treatment to people who need it, instead of jail being the default solution.
  • It’s less costly for people to receive treatment instead of spending time in jail.
  • Treatment offers hope by helping people recover andtake control of their lives.
  • 1 in 5 Americans has a mental illness. Having a mental illness is not a crime.

Read more about the Diversion First program