The DSC has done a lot of great work with their educational efforts. As a juvenile justice reform advocacy organization, we look at effective programs in the state that divert youth away from the justice system. We have found DSC’s mediation practices to be really effective in resolving issues that would have otherwise resulted in a suspension or expulsion. The proof is in the numbers; for instance, in Danbury suspensions declined by almost 60% from 416 to 169. The Dispute Settlement Center is a well-respected organization in the communities it serves from Hartford to Bridgeport and from Stamford to Danbury. We have seen programs that do a good job of trying to prevent youth from offending, but mediation is, by far, one of the best tools for reducing re-offenses.
The Dispute Settlement Center (DSC)has been a partner with RYASAP for the last 7 years both through our Juvenile Review Board (JRB) as well as our Juvenile Justice Task Force (JJTF). With the JRB, DSC has provided mediation services to young first time offenders and their families who are being diverted from the juvenile justice system. The services are particularly effective where there is conflict between family members and with the community in which the young person ahs committed their offense. The model balanced and restorative justice is consistent across both the JRB and DSC. With the JJTF, DSC has been a ongoing member for the last 7 years and has contributed vital services to building a continuum of care for young people in the juvenile justice system in teh greater Bridgeport, CT area. The JJTF consists of over 40 area providers representing law enforcement, probation, detention, education, parent advocacy and children's advocacy and legal services. The DSC has been a very involved partner in the work of making major improvements in increasing services to young people and diverting a large number of young people from the JJ system.
The Dispute Settlement Center worked extensively with our high school staff and students to develop a mediation and a peer mediation program. The best part of the work their trained professionals did, was help empower us to sustain these programs on our own and to integrate these methods into the daily practices of school life. Since the development of our mediation programs, we have seen a marked decrease in behavioral incidents and suspensions. We are also pleased that the Dispute Settlement Center helped us to develop more leadership opportunities for high school students by training them to become peer mediators.