Mediation Works with Law Enforcement

by Bryana Nelson

Google “Mediation Programs” and a host of possibilities will appear on your computer screen. Minimal research of mediation programs will soon find you reading about the success of mediation programs throughout the nation. Why is there reluctance to use mediation here in Adams County? Do we not have people with issues that need to be resolved? Would our police and courts not benefit from having some cases alleviated? Would our citizens not benefit from a more cost and time effective way of dealing with their situation? What is holding our county back? Is it fear of loss of decision making power? Fear of keeping up with progress that other counties have made?

A successful mediation program has one major component that Adams County does not have, support from their community and local law enforcement. Why? Do we not have feuding neighbors? Noise ordinance violations? Tenant and Landlord issues? Are there crimes being committed that are better suited for our police and courts? Of course there are. The question becomes then, why does our community continue to overload our courts with lesser cases that can easily and proficiently be handled in mediation? Shouldn’t our citizens be held accountable to each other? What better way to do that than to allow them to face one another and work out their differences?

The nation and the world are moving on, and Adams County is quickly becoming a county of changing demographics. Are our county courts and police departments keeping up with this change? Mediation Services of Adams County offers services that can work in conjunction with other community institutions to better serve the needs of our changing population. Those needs can no longer be addressed in traditional cookie-cutter fashion. Community mediation is the wave of the future, helping to increase the peace by giving citizens an alternative means to solve conflicts easily and inexpensively.

Where community mediation is frequently used, the recidivism rate of juveniles declines, neighborhoods have fewer issues and noise complaints are routinely channeled to mediation. Disputants whose incomes are too high to qualify for help from Mid-Penn Legal Services — but too low to pay for a lawyer — find mediation completely affordable. Others who simply want to solve their problems in a friendly way turn to mediation to avoid long-term hostility.

But unlike Maryland and Harrisburg, the justice community in Adams County has not seen fit to incorporate community mediation into its work. A county that does not work in conjunction with viable community programs lacks functionality, as existing practices do not adequately address everyone’s needs. What if the casino comes to Adams County? Not everyone wants it, but what if it does? It’s inevitable that it will attract people from out of town. Moreover, it’s likely that a heavy load will fall on our police departments. Wouldn’t it be wise to put a system in place now that will help to alleviate that demand?

Using trained mediators, MSAC offers conflict resolution, training and education. For more information, please visit our web-site www.mediateadams.org or call 717-337-7312. Se habla espanol.

Bryana Nelson has a master’s degree in Conflict Negotiation and Conflict Management and is a board member for MSAC.