This study evaluated in depth three of the nineteen community mediation programs in North Carolina. It focused on misdemeanor cases involving court-referred interpersonal disputes. It found that participants were very satisfied with the mediation process in these cases, and recommended that intake procedures were improved in order to increase program usage.
Description of Study: Evaluation of the mediation of misdemeanor cases in community mediation programs in Durham, Henderson, and Iredell Counties.
Method: Compared three counties with programs to three corresponding counties without programs. Examined all cases that were eligible for mediation in both program and non-program counties. Data was gathered from court records, mediation program records, and phone interviews of complainants (1 month and 6-10 months after court disposition).
Comparison Groups: All cases eligible for mediation in program counties and all cases that would be eligible for mediation in matched non-program counties
Sample Size: 237 of 810 complainants contacted from all six counties were interviewed. Data was collected from 1421 court cases and 544 cases selected for mediation.
Variables Examined: Time to disposition, reduction in trials, satisfaction of complainants with the outcome and process, compliance
Program Variables: Voluntary, free program mediated by volunteers.
Findings: Disposition time for all cases increased in two of three program counties and stayed the same in the third. The trial rate was not affected in two of three program counties and decreased in the third. There was a high rate of satisfaction over all with both mediation and litigation. There was also a high rate of compliance with both mediated and informal agreements. Complainant satisfaction with the case was negatively related to his or her commitment to solving the problem. Complainant satisfaction with the outcome was negatively related to the amount of money he or she spent prosecuting the defendant and was positively related to reaching agreement.