In this study of criminal misdemeanor cases in Maryland, mediated cases in one county were compared to non-mediated cases in a similar county. The study of 206 cases examined the impact of mediation on later judicial actions in the case, as well as whether the parties returned to court within a 12-month period. The study also included interviews with the parties at the outset of mediation and three months after the case concluded in order to find out their perceptions on whether the issues involved in the case were resolved and to determine whether they experienced attitude changes as a result of their experience with mediation or court.
The study found that mediation reduced later court activity in the case, as well as the probability that the parties would return to court. Parties who mediated were also more likely to believe that the issues were resolved and to be satisfied with the process. There was no difference in attitude changes.
Description of Study: Comparison study of criminal misdemeanor cases in Maryland in which parties had an ongoing relationship. The study examined the effect of mediation on later judicial action and return to court, as well as participant perception of whether the resolution worked long-term and resolved the issues.
Method: In order to create a comparison group a profile for referrals was created from the mediation group and then used to select cases for the comparison groups. Participants were interviewed for both mediation and comparison groups. Mediation group participants were interviewed by phone when they arrived for their mediation. Comparison group members were interviewed by phone soon after their case was opened. Both groups were interviewed again three months after their case concluded. Court records were used to determine the final disposition of the case, any sentencing that resulted from the case, as well as if the same participants returned to court for subsequent criminal or civil cases in the next 12 months.
Comparison Groups: Cases referred to mediation by the Washington County State’s Attorney Office (SAO) and a comparison group of similar cases from the Frederick County SAO.
Sample Size: 78 mediated cases and 128 comparison cases were used for short-term and long-term impact on later actions.
Variables Examined: Cost to court system, satisfaction with process, resolution of issues
Program Variables: Cases are screened by SAO staff for appropriateness for mediation. These generally involve an ongoing relationship between the participants. Mediations are conducted by community mediation center mediators.
Findings: Mediation had a statistically significant impact on the likelihood of any judicial action, the likelihood of a request for jury trial, and the likelihood of supervised probation or jail-time. The predicted probability of a mediated case resulting in judicial action was 5.3%; for a non-mediated case, it was 29%. The predicted probability of a mediated case resulting in a request for jury trial was 2.4%. For a non-mediated case it was 13%. The predicted probability of a case resulting in supervised probation or jail-time is .9% for in the mediation group and 8.3% in the comparison group. In the long term, the predicted probability of returning to criminal court in the subsequent 12 months was 1.7% for cases that went to mediation and 8.2% for non-mediated cases. This means that cases that were not mediated were almost five times more likely to return to criminal court in the subsequent 12 months than those that were mediated.
In the analysis of participant data, participating in mediation has a positive and significant impact on participants reporting several months after the intervention that the outcome is working, the issues have been resolved, and they are satisfied with the process.