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Q&A with Community Mediator, Justin R. Corbett, MPA, MDR

CriminalJusticePrograms.com recently spoke with Justin R. Corbett, executive director of the National Association for Community Mediation, Associate Professor of Negotiations and Alternative Dispute Resolution at Indiana University, founder of Indyspute Resolution and Dialogue Center, and the former project manager for the Indiana Supreme Court's Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program.

Below he shares his thoughts on his experiences in mediation and what it takes to be successful in the field.

Q: How did you get started in mediation?

A: My personal interest [Short Code Error: type value must be either online or ground], on the market side, hiring mediators for a dispute is usually cheaper than progressing that same dispute through the entire litigation process.

Q: What do you see for the future of mediation?

A: I think there will be increases in the number of practitioners, the number of cases and in the diversity of cases. Each year, there is usually some new development in an area in which mediation traditionally had not been used. This past year, foreclosures have risen and people can't afford to take these cases to court. Mediation has become a very successful alternative in a lot of different states. Before that, it was the formalization of what's now called Elder mediation. Years back, when farmers were defaulting on loans, it was agriculture mediation. In addition, the professionalization of the field is ongoing. It manifests in the number of college/university programs for mediation/dispute resolution, the number of professional associations and the number of accredited trainers out there.

Q: What is the relationship between mediation, law and law enforcement?

A: There are a few connections-one is this concept of victim-offender mediation. It can be part of a diversion program, in which in turn for a modified criminal sentence, the offender meets with the victim, acknowledges personal responsibility for the crime, and oftentimes develops a personalized restitution agreement. It can be just the two parties (victim and offender) or more of a community event, such as community impact panels. In severe victim-offender mediation settings, somebody accused and convicted of murder might have a sit-down years into his/her sentence with the victim's family members. These sessions are facilitated by a victim-offender mediator and can help the victim's family express how the crime has affected them, gain a better understanding as to what happened, and learn the offender's rationale. Those experiences can provide a level of closure not usually achieved through a traditional criminal case.

Q: Any other advice for aspiring mediators?

A: Be humble and ambitious. If you're looking to make a career of mediation, be humble enough to know that you will likely not be able to graduate from a 40-hour program or even a master's program and be able to immediately command market rate. It takes a lot of time to build a practice and a reputation. On the flip side of that, be very ambitious. There are an increasing number of people out there who want to start mediation careers. Have the initiative to try new things and put yourself out there.