County “Peacekeeping Court” Gets Funding

At their Dec. 4, 2013 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners authorized acceptance of a $150,000 grant to establish the Washtenaw County Trial Court’s Peacemaking Court. The grant, awarded by the State Court Administrator’s Office, is for funding from Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014.

The state grants are intended to support creative approaches in the court system. The Peacemaking Court is described in a staff memo:

Like tribal peacemaking programs and restorative justice programs, the Peacemaking Court will provide a great benefit to youth and the community in juvenile cases by reducing recidivism and giving youth a diversionary option to avoid a record that can preclude future educational and employment opportunities. Domestic relations and other family cases will benefit from more durable and tailored solutions that result from a clearer understanding of the different perspectives or “truths” of all those involved. This, in turn, will enable the healing of important relationships, in contrast to the harm and polarization that too often results for families through the adversarial process.

The Peacemaking Court will allow the parties and those most affected by the conflict to talk about the event, its impact on them, and to look at the whole conflict in a comprehensive context that leads to understanding and meaningful solutions that address the needs of all those involved. When participants are respected and the individuals responsible for causing the problem are part of the decision process and take responsibility for their actions in a meaningful way, the resolutions are more comprehensive and address the needs of everyone involved, as well as the issues that underlie the problem. An important difference between the traditional system and the peacemaking court process is that the resolution is determined WITH the court not BY the court.

According to the grant application, key members involved in this project are 22nd Circuit Court judge Timothy Connors, 14A District Court judge Cedric Simpson, project director Susan Butterwick, and Robert Carbeck, 22nd Circuit Court deputy court administrator and budget director. [.pdf of grant application] Connors, who has spearheaded this initiative, was on hand at the Dec. 4 meeting to describe the project and answer questions.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor, where the board of commissioners holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]