failing on top of the world.

I just returned from Tokyo, where I conducted three 5-day, intense, back to back mediation trainings, hosted by Hitotsubashi University. Learning mediation (or anything) requires the freedom to experiment — and fail — and a comfort level with vulnerability. We had great conversations about how this was challenging in a context that often values perfection and face-saving. So here’s a little collection of sketches for my students who gave themselves permission to learn by screwing up and by exposing their emotional strengths.

deep six pack.

There are actually seven drawings below, but I’m not so good with numbers. You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.  –Pablo Neruda

 It’s amazing how much you can learn if your intentions are truly earnest. — Chuck Berry, RIP

 A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions — Charles Darwin

Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole. — Derek Walcott, RIP

Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all. Peace Is dynamism. Peace is generosity. — Archbishop Oscar Romero

If you understood everything I said, you’d be me. — Miles Davis

The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks. — Tennessee Williams

Guest post: Mediating in Brooklyn Criminal Court!

Criminal Court Mediation Makes a Difference in Brooklyn  

By Michele Kirschbaum and Emily Sernaker

“It’s quite stressful living in conflict, and it would have been better to do something sooner. Unfortunately, it took an arrest to get there. It’s a really wonderful thing you offer to people.” These are the words of a Brooklyn man from a groundbreaking project at New York Peace Institute – the Criminal Court Mediation Program.

The program — a collaboration between the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, Legal Aid Services, Brooklyn Defender Services and New York Peace Institute — offers an innovative alternative for resolving misdemeanor cases. Residents with criminal court cases often want to address harm, repair relationships, and ultimately get their case out of the criminal justice system. Mediation can make this possible. 

Acting District Attorney Gonzalez meets with New York Peace Institute Staff

Mediation gives both parties a chance to discuss what happened and helps them decide how they’d like to move forward. If the parties are able to resolve their dispute, they frequently make a request to the judge about the disposition of the court case. One young person who participated in mediation said: “Without mediation, my sister and I probably wouldn’t have even been talking, and we definitely wouldn’t be as close as we are now. If we didn’t have this opportunity, I think I would probably be re-arrested and incarcerated for another domestic incident charge.” Mediation also helps parties understand one another better. As one participant explained, “The mediator broke down what the other party was saying so I could get it. I understand now where he was coming from, and why this happened.”

Over the past 5 years, the program has yielded spectacular results with an 80% agreement rate. “It’s obvious – both from our experience every day and research – that we need new ways to resolve criminal cases, in a manner that’s just and promotes public safety,” says Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “Every prosecutor has to be open to new ideas that keep moving us away from incarceration as our only response to crime. The court – not to mention the entire community – benefits from every just disposition of a criminal case. Community alternatives improve the administration of justice in every case, for every defendant, by reducing dockets, easing backlogs, and concentrating traditional resources on the cases that most need them. Mediation, and its benefits, is a particularly important tool provided by New York Peace Institute.”

Acting District Attorney Gonzalez and New York Peace Institute’s Michele Kirschbaum and Meredith Gray

“Within the last 5 years we have refined our programs to fit the needs of families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and more,” says New York Peace Institute Restorative Justice Coordinator Meredith Gray. “We know from our clients that talking face to face in a supportive environment is vital to repairing relationships. People on both sides desire empowerment within the court process.”

The Criminal Court Mediation Program is just one service that New York Peace Institute offers the community.  The organization provides restorative justice and anti-violence programing in schools, as well as mediation for Small Claims and Civil Court cases, custody, visitation, child support, Special Education, and housing disputes. New York Peace Institute serves as the primary trainers for certified dispute resolution professionals in the city. It is a leader in conflict resolution and communication skill building both domestically and abroad, and has trained organizations and institutions such as the New York Police Department, Administration for Children’s Services and the Department of Education.

Acting District Attorney Gonzalez

“I would invite anyone to see what we’ve done in Brooklyn as an example of the exciting work we can do with alternative resolutions like mediation,” says DA Gonzalez. “We are bounded only by our own creativity and our commitment to the communities we serve. I know that New York Peace Institute and others will help us continue to innovate, creating and implementing new tools for doing justice, promoting safety and making peace.”