The Brooklyn mediation field test
Abstract This paper describes an experiment in which 465 felony arrest cases in Kings County, NY, USA, were, randomly, either filed in court and prosecuted or sent to a dispute resolution center for adjudication. The cases all involved persons who were acquainted, and nearly half were either intimate partners or in other immediate family relationships. The results indicated that the mediation process was perceived more positively by complainants than was prosecution and that going through mediation enhances complainants’ perceptions of their relationships with defendants to a greater degree than going through the court process. However, there was no evidence that mediation was no more effective than prosecution in preventing recidivism. Not surprisingly, in cases involving intimate partners or immediate family members, the offenders were most likely to experience continuing problems whether they were sent to mediation or were prosecuted. One of the values of this study is that, in the late 1970s, when this research was conducted, mediation was considered by many to be a legitimate alternative to prosecution in family violence cases, including cases arising from intimate partner violence. The data that we collected would be difficult to replicate in today’s political climate. While our study did not find that mediation reduced the odds of recidivism in these cases, neither did we find that mediation made victims less safe. Thus, it partially supports the sentiments of researchers such as Braithwaite and Strang (Restorative justice and family violence. In Strang H, Braithwaite J (eds) Restorative justices and family violence. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp 1−22; 2002), who argue that—given the evidence for success of restorative justice in reducing re-offending in cases other than family violence—it is worth testing whether similar beneficial effects could be found in applying restorative justice approaches to family violence cases.