Mediation for teenage offenders?

June 27, 2007

I came across this article in Haaretz today, just after I was explaining to a colleague where mediation currently and potentially fits into Israeli society. Seems like the government has thought of one I had missed:

Teenage offenders may get mediation, not jail

The issue:

“A majority of teenagers who commit minor crimes will no longer be arrested or sent to jail, but will be dealt with through alternative means, if a revolutionary bill approved this week by the government receives Knesset approval.”

The existent problems:

1. “There are several mediation projects for teenage offenders in Israel, but the proceedings are not anchored in law, so they are often unrecognized by the courts.”

2. “The existing law recognizes only one alternative proceeding – non-prosecution, in which a teen pleads guilty, receives a warning, and the case is closed. But not only is this avenue devoid of any rehabilitation process, it is used in a discriminatory fashion…”

The plan:

“Under the bill, a teenager who has committed a crime would meet with the victim of the crime, if both agree to this, and hear about the damage caused, try to understand, ask forgiveness, and even pay compensation. Family and community members are usually brought into such mediation proceedings to support both sides.”

Why it would help:

1. The bill sets clear, uniform criteria for eligibility for either non-prosecution or mediation.”

2. “Besides mediation costing a great deal less than the cost of going to trial… the proposed law as a crucial tool for reducing crime in Israel.

3. Long term solutions aimed at solidifying the result! Or at least, we have to hope so.

I’m more than glad to see mediation becoming a more realistic option in Israeli law and society. Let’s hope the people are into it; this isn’t an easy culture in general.