Sorting It Out: A Community Mediation Training Program at a Therapeutic Prison

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Journal Article
The Sydney Law Review, 2015, 37 (1), pp. 69 - 88
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A pilot study was conducted to assess the feasibility and effect of a community mediation program (‘Sorting It Out’) in a therapeutic prison (the Compulsory Drug Treatment Correctional Centre, or CDTCC). The program is unique as both staff and inmates were trained together. Also, in contrast to traditional dispute resolution, which is invoked after conflict has progressed, the program, which is based on therapeutic jurisprudence principles, trains participants in mediation to constructively address issues at the point of identification, prior to escalation. Measured outcomes included pre- and post-program questionnaires incorporating a social climate scale (EssenCES©), qualitative interviews and researcher observations. The participation rate was high, with all participants recommending the program. The outcomes included an enduring improvement in social climate and improvement in the CDTCC operation. Staff reported increased feelings of safety and support, and inmates reported increased understanding of staff and their roles. A large majority reported benefits to themselves and the community, including adoption of attitudes and behaviours learned in the program, improvement in staff–inmate interaction and a positive effect on staff work.
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