Study Finds State Funding Shortfalls Limit Potential Of Community
Mediation Centers To Reduce Conflict
16, 2001-- Current funding for court-related mediation
programs is insufficient to cover the direct costs of service, according
to a recently released national study of community mediation by
University of Virginia researchers.
community mediation programs currently tackle a range of issues
involving race relations, prison life, boycotts, migrant workers,
agriculture, clean air and water rights, farm grazing rights, employment,
religious disputes, AIDS, community policing, business and corporate
disputes, and more.
study, conducted by U.Va.'s Institute for Environmental Negotiation,
concludes that the reduction of community tensions and conflict
is a vitally important goal for communities across the United States
and notes that prevention and early intervention help sustain communities
and reduce the financial costs of public conflicts.
Virginia Association for Community Conflict Resolution (VACCR),
funded by the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM),
contracted with U.Va.'s Institute for Environmental Negotiation
(IEN) to study community mediation programs across the U.S. Specifically,
the IEN was asked to identify the range of services these centers
provide and to identify funding options to strengthen community
U.Va. study began with a review of programs in all 50 states. It
found that two-thirds of the nations centers are located in
just 12 states. The study then conducted a survey and comparison
of programs in California, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, New
York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Virginia.
studys respondents included community and attorney mediators,
center and state coalition administrators, local and state public-sector
employees, advocates and academics.
the 1960s community mediation centers have established themselves
as the backbone of mediation services of all kinds throughout the
nation said Frank Dukes, director of IEN and a contributing editor
of the study. These centers have been the primary training ground
for mediators in both the private and community sectors and have
been the prime innovators in conflict resolution programs for communities.
mediation differs from other kinds of mediation in that it uses
trained volunteers who reflect the diversity of the community to
help disputants resolve their conflicts. It provides early intervention
and conflict prevention and offers mediation regardless of ability
to pay, to ensure services to all community members. These centers
are also the largest providers of mediation services to the working
poor and economically disadvantaged.
U.Va. study found a broad base of support and enthusiasm for community
mediation programs throughout the nation. Respondents consistently
mentioned the effectiveness and commitment of staff members and
volunteers, support from courts and legislatures, and measurable
results that reduce court dockets and build community capacities.
cost savings are difficult to document, some studies show that community
mediation programs do result in substantial cost savings for state
governments. In Michigan, for example, the Office of Special Education
estimated that, in fiscal year 1999-2000 alone, community mediation
services would save the state $897,700 in averted court hearings
the study also found a strong underlying concern about how community
mediation will continue to meet the growing needs of communities.
Respondents consistently mentioned that insufficient funding sources
and political roadblocks serve as substantial barriers. Early intervention
and prevention mediation programs receive virtually no state-level
funding and rely on donations, grants, fees and federal funds for
the study found that in many cases the close ties between community
mediation centers and the courts limit the community centers
abilities to reduce conflict through early intervention and conflict-prevention
is a strong sense that current court case-funding levels are insufficient
and that in many cases administrative requirements limit the community
mediation centers' capacity to develop early intervention mediation
services," said Dukes.
notable exception is North Carolina, which provided state appropriations
of nearly $1.3 million for 26 non-profit centers; the centers still
relied on outside funding sources for an additional $3 million.
North Carolina House Bill 924 emphasizes the importance of the relationship
between the courts and community mediation centers, and it provides
for referrals from "public entities." While North Carolina's
legislation does not explicitly fund non-court-related mediation
programs, its discretionary funding model enables the state's centers
to access substantial, flexible financial resources. As a result,
the study found, North Carolina's community mediation network is
one of the nation's strongest. In 1999-2000 the state centers served
58,939 clients, and managed 16,698 cases, 79 percent of which were
Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO), housed and funded
within the state judiciary, works collaboratively with stakeholders
to advance the use of mediation not only in courts, but in schools,
communities, state and local government agencies, criminal and juvenile
justice programs and business. MACRO distributes $400,000 annually
to the state's community mediation centers through the Maryland
Association of Community Mediation Centers, which in turn provides
grants to local non-profit centers.
should further develop the capacities of community mediation centers
to address disputes outside of the courts, the study suggests. Innovative
community mediation programs require additional funding. These programs
should have measurable outcomes and target specific community goals,
such as promoting civil society or reducing violence.
information about the study and a copy of it are posted on the Web
more information contact Tanya Denkla or Frank Dukes at (434) 924-1970
Jane Ford, (434) 924-4298