* Re “New Community Courts to Target Minor Crimes,” Dec. 25.
I strongly support any effort to make our communities livable. At the same time, I cannot help wondering why $1 million is being poured into a new court program when there already exist two underfunded programs that deal with community conflicts: various Community Mediation Centers and Victim-Offender Restitution Programs (VORPs).
As a volunteer mediator, I have worked for both kinds of programs and know that they currently accomplish much of what the community courts hope to achieve. Yet I have not read or heard one word of that $1 million going to support these already existing programs. Neither do I see any indication that mediation--one of the most effective methods of resolving conflicts at a low cost--will play any role in these “new” courts.
I suggest that the lawyers and judges behind this program take a moment and evaluate community mediation programs, which are doing what this “important step forward in how . . . everyone approaches misdemeanor offenses” is supposed to accomplish. If a partnership could be created that utilizes the various Community Mediation Centers and the VORP program that currently operates as part the Centinela Valley Juvenile Diversion Project, the success of the community courts will be guaranteed.
Meanwhile, some of the $1 million can be used to compensate the mediators who are looking for a way to gain a foothold in a career that needs government support in order to thrive. The end result will be a win-win situation for communities, the courts and mediation.