Youth Mediation Program Discussed

SALISBURY – More than $24,000 in grant funding is expected to help start a new mediation program for youth who have committed a criminal offense.

On Aug. 20, Wicomico Partnership for Families and Children Director Michelle Bradley came before the Wicomico County Council with a request to accept $24,389 in grant funding from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention to launch a Youth Diversion Mediation program.

The program is expected to provide mediation services between youth who have committed a criminal offense and those affected by the offense, including family members, victims and witnesses.

Bradley said the goal of the community-based, collaborative program will be to reduce the numbers of juveniles arrested and re-arrested.

“I think it’s going to be very effective for the community, especially for those first-time offenders,” she said. “When you have to face the person you hurt and see the consequences, I think it’s going to be a very effective tool to keep those children from getting into trouble or getting referred to crime and juvenile services in the future.”

Bradley told the council this month the $24,389 in funding was considered a bridge grant that will help launch the program. She added the program is expected to get an additional $98,000 in federal funding starting in October.

“Only four jurisdictions out of 24 were awarded the larger grant …,” she said. “We were excited to be one of the four that got this.”

Bradley noted the county would not have to provide matching funds for the new program. But she noted her department was expected to generate quarterly reports and track performance measures.

“So this doesn’t really add a new position,” Council President John Cannon said. “It just helps fund your department.”

Bradley said the Youth Diversion Mediation Program would include Tri-Community Mediation, the Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office, Maryland State Police and the Salisbury Police Department. Councilwoman Nicole Acle questioned if the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office would also join the program.

“The sheriff’s department is in the schools,” she said.

Bradley noted it was something that could be explored as her department drafts a memorandum of understanding with Tri-Community Mediation.

“We can stipulate that to make sure they are reaching out,” she said.

The council voted unanimously to accept the grant funding.

“I think it’s a very good preventative action,” Bradley said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.