Court-Connected Mediation/Restorative Justice Service Overviews

Court-Connected Mediation/Restorative Justice Service Overviews

Friday, April 22, 2022

A critical component of the 1991 Dispute Resolution Act (DRA) is the system design for access to mediation. It is important that mediation and restorative justice be accessible to the courts, communities, and all Nebraskans, with services provided both effectively and efficiently. To achieve that, the DRA provides for the approval of non-profit mediation centers as service providers. The approved centers receive oversight by the Office of Dispute Resolution and the Supreme Court’s Dispute Resolution Advisory Council. Other states have a similar structure of providing services through mediation centers, including Michigan, Oklahoma, and New York. 

The approved centers provide similar services, each within their respective service area. Combined, the approved centers provide a multitude of services in all 93 counties and 4 tribal nations. Since the passage of the DRA, the mediation centers have increased the types of services available. With the expanded service options, the centers routinely present to groups and at conferences to provide information on the various mediation and restorative justice services.

On April 26, two center executive directors, Michele Lueders at Nebraska Mediation Center and Dan Bechtol at Concord Mediation Center, presented at Practice Pointers and Marshaling Resources for the Benefit of Children in Juvenile Court, a training for Guardians ad Litem (GAL). For that presentation, the ODR and centers prepared a Child Welfare, Family, Juvenile Restorative Justice Overview listing services available, a brief description of each, how to initiate a case, and funding for the case. 

Restorative practices are also expanding under the Juvenile Restorative Justice & Family intervention Initiative, a statewide “upstream” program geared at diverting youth under the age of 18 from the court system. This expansion is possible due to a 3-year, $1M grant awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. At the upcoming Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association (NJJA) conference, Kelly Riley, ODR Director, and Dr. Anne Hobbs, Director of the Juvenile Justice Institute at the University of Nebraska – Omaha, will share information on the initiative, including providing an overview of the initiative. The overview outlines referral sources and the available restorative processes, including what each process addresses, who is engaged in the process, and the collaborative outcome of each.