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Evaluation of Community Conferencing Programs

Researcher(s): (Douglas Young)

(2016)

Community conferencing (CC) is a conflict resolution and restorative justice process in which people involved in a conflict participate in a facilitated meeting to discuss the conflict and reach an agreement that will repair any harm that is done. In Maryland, CC is being used in lieu of the traditional court process to bring together youth involved in conflicts that may involve or elevate to crimes such as assault or theft. Researchers at IGSR, in collaboration with the Maryland Judiciary, Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), investigated how CC is being used for juvenile cases in programs in Baltimore City and Baltimore County and outcomes for youth who participated in the CC process. The study employed interviews with the directors, staff, and stakeholders of CC programs and analysis of program and delinquency data, including a comparison of CC participants with juvenile justice-involved youth who did not take part in community conferencing. IGSR researchers found that CC helped impede youths’ deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system and that participation was associated with lower rates of recidivism, particularly for females. Findings also showed the program has promise as a means of addressing the extensive racial disparities evident in the juvenile justice system. The study report documents these findings and concludes with recommendations for continued analysis and support of CC for youth who are or may become involved in the state’s juvenile system.