The guidelines for the mediation process are written on big sheets of poster paper, taped to the walls of the Neighbor-hood Justice Center on Jefferson Street.
Joe Ingle, director of the center, says the mediation techniques are ones used in many other communities. Even if they are not invariably successful, he says, they do encourage communication between the parties, and they cut quickly to the issues that have caused the controversy.
The mediation rules make certain requirements of the individuals involved in the dispute. They must respect each other, they must not interrupt one another, they may not call each other names, and they must agree to listen.
At the outset of each mediation session, the mediator begins by acknowledging that both sides have volunteered to participate in the session. The mediator also reminds both sides that they have agreed to be constructive.
The alleged offender begins first, telling his or her story. In so doing, the person who has been offended or victimized gets to hear, right away, what he wanted all alongthe reason why he was wronged. If the victim were to tell his or her story first, the situation might only get more tense.
The mediator then listens as the victim summarizes what the offender just said. The victim is then allowed to ask the offender questions. From that point, the victim moves into telling his side. The offender then summarizes what the victim has said and can ask questions.
After both sides have come to an understanding of what the facts of the disagreement are, and an understanding of why the disagreement came about, they both discuss restitutionwhat can be done to make the offended party whole again. The restitution must be detailed and clear, and it must not involve retribution. It must only make the offender whole.
Then the parties discuss their future intentions. They are allowed to make apologies. The offender is also asked if he is going to repeat his offense. The parties discuss the possibility of future meetings.
The agreement between the parties is documented in a written contract. The contract is read aloud to both parties, and then, in closing, both parties sign it.
“Many times, these mediations are emotional. There can be a lot of hugging and crying,” says Joe Ingle.
The Jefferson Street Justice Center is the only mediation center in Nashville thus far. Ingle says that after the agency has a year’s experience under its belt, there may be interest in opening another justice center elsewhere in the city.
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