Prosecutor Worthy Announces Juvenile Mediation Program Talk It Out WCPO Partners with the Wayne County Dispute Resolution Center on New Program
Statement from Prosecutor Kym Worthy
I am pleased today to announce a partnership between the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office and the Wayne County Dispute Resolution Center. Together we will offer, through mediation, an alternative to charging adolescents and teens with certain offenses. Instead, they will meet with stakeholders, including the crime victims, to craft a solution short of formal charges. Wrap around services, counseling, and other options may be included in the solution. This program gives crime victims a voice and opportunity to impact the lives of the youth who victimized them. Collaboratively, it is our hope that if they successfully complete the recommended course of action, fewer juveniles will find themselves charged with a delinquency offense that may result in a delinquency record.
Statement of WCDRC Interim Executive Director David Robinson
WCDRC interim Executive Director David Robinson said, "To be in partnership with Wayne County Prosecutor, Kym L. Worthy, and her juvenile prosecutors, in order to find a path for a positive resolution in cases involving juveniles is a perfect fit with our mission and values as a community service provider. Finding peaceful resolution and protecting the future and opportunities of our youth is the purposeful focus of the Talk It Out initiative."
Why Talk It Out?
Every year the Juvenile Division of the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office (WCPO) handles thousands of juvenile delinquency cases. While many of these matters are set on the formal court docket of the Third Circuit Family Division, there is a new alternate path available on appropriate cases. Prosecutor Worthy, in partnership with the Wayne County Dispute Resolution Center (WCDRC), offers select youth the option to participate in a unique juvenile mediation program called Talk It Out.*
Although it is imperative that each juvenile who commits a delinquent act is held responsible for his or her conduct, Prosecutor Worthy recognizes the negative impact that juvenile adjudications may have on the future of young people. Those consequences may include: suspension or expulsion from school; the loss of college scholarships or the denial of college admission; and the required disclosure of a delinquency record on a job or military application.
The WCPO has created a program that balances the need for delinquent youth to accept responsibility for their actions and the interests of delinquency victims seeking justice. With the assistance of an experienced WCDRC facilitator, Talk It Out will bring selected juvenile offenders and their victims together with a focus on repairing the harm resulting from the minor's behavior. The goal of Talk It Out is to provide an alternative to formal prosecution that gives delinquent youth an opportunity to take responsibility and make amends, while also giving the victims a forum to be heard and healed.
Which juveniles are eligible to participate in Talk It Out?
Upon successful referral by the WCPO, participants in Talk It Out are expected to take responsibility for their delinquent behavior and take reasonable steps to repair and/or alleviate harm done to the victims of their conduct. These juveniles must also be willing to hear from victims, including how their actions have harmed or impacted the victim.
WCPO Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys (APAs) will evaluate new delinquency complaints to determine which cases are appropriate to recommend for Talk It Out. Except for a prior status or ordinance offense, only matters that constitute a juvenile's first delinquency violation will be considered. Examples of delinquency offenses to be considered for Talk It Out referral include minor property damage, theft, or simple assault. Eligible cases must have no more than one victim, and a parent/guardian of the juvenile must be willing to transport their child to all meetings scheduled as a part of the mediation process. Each victim will be contacted by an APA and must agree to the referral and mediation process before a case is accepted into the Talk It Out program. Only cases approved by both the WCPO and WCDRC will participate in the program.
How Does Talk It Out Work?
When reviewing new delinquency complaints submitted by local police agencies, APAs may recommend or deny charges, request that further investigation be completed or refer the matter to a diversion program, such as Talk It Out.
The intake, evaluation, referral and mediation process for Talk It Out cases will proceed as follows:
1. APAs screening incoming complaints for Talk It Out eligibility will look for cases that:
- Are first-time offenses (Juvenile must have no prior delinquency history);
- Involve only one victim.
- Allege a minor offense or violation of the law;
2. When a potential case has been identified, the APA will contact the victim to explain the Talk It Out diversion opportunity and program requirements. Further steps will be taken only if the victim agrees to:
Â· Have his/her case referred for Talk It Out for diversion consideration; and
Â· Participate in the mediation process facilitated by WCDRC.
3. Once the victim's consent has been obtained, the APA will contact the juvenile offender and his or her parent/guardian to explain the Talk It Out program. Special attention will be given to underscore the following requirements for program eligibility:
Â· The juvenile must acknowledge that they have made a poor decision and engaged in unlawful or harmful conduct.
Â· The juvenile must be committed to taking reasonable steps to repair and/or alleviate harm done to the victim of their conduct.
Â· The parent/guardian of the juvenile will be responsible for transporting their child to all mediation sessions. Additionally, parents must agree to participate in sessions if required by the mediation facilitator.
Â· A one-time fee of $50 will be assessed to the juvenile respondent, to be paid to WCDRC at the time of the mediation session.
4. As a part of the program overview, the APA will advise the juvenile and parent/guardian of the commitment of the WCPO to forego the option of a juvenile delinquency charge and formal prosecution if the youth successfully completes the Talk It Out program. This agreement will be memorialized in the WCPO Talk It Out contract. (see attached)
5. When both the parent of the victim and the parent of the juvenile agree to participate in the mediation program, the courtroom APA will transfer the file to the WCPO Juvenile Division Deputy Chief. The Deputy Chief will review all materials and has the authority to either forward the information to WCDRC or reject the case for mediation.
6. If the case is accepted into Talk It Out, the WCPO will forward relevant documentation to WCDRC for review and final approval. If necessary, WCDRC may contact the victim and/or juvenile when deciding which cases to admit into the program.
7. If WCDRC finds the case is suitable for mediation, they will send a notice of hearing to both parties and the WCPO. WCDRC will facilitate the mediation at the WCDRC office located at 835 Mason, Ste. C300 in Dearborn.
8. If the mediation is successful, both parties will be provided with copies of the agreement generated by the mediation.
9. The WCDRC facilitator will have the discretion to recommend when any requirements or conditions are to be met as a part of the finalized mediation session.
10. Once completed, the WCDRC will notify the parties and the WCPO as to whether the mediation has resulted in a successful or unsuccessful result.
11. Upon successful completion of Talk It Out, the WCPO will officially deny the Request for Complaint and send notice to all parties. Notice of denial of the Request for Complaint will also go to the Officer-in-Charge of the law enforcement agency that originally submitted the request.
12. Cases that are successfully diverted will be confidential and unavailable to the public. Cases that are not successfully completed will be reconsidered for formal prosecution at the discretion of the WCPO.
13. A juvenile may only be considered for acceptance into Talk It Out once.
*See WCDRC Services and How to Volunteer to Be a Mediator, brochures attached.