At CORA Good Shepherd Mediation, we empower youth to navigate conflict, decision-making, healing, and accountability through restorative justice models designed for each stage.
CORA Good Shepherd Mediation offers a range of training and implementation packages to support schools in establishing and maintaining Peer Mediation programs. Peer Mediation is a student-led approach to resolving conflict and enhancing school climate that has proven to decrease youth-related violence, suspensions, truancy, and increase positive relationships amongst the student body and staff. CORA GSM has provided training and implementation for over 60 schools in the Greater Philadelphia Area. Our packages are customized for Elementary, Middle, and High Schools. We conduct a comprehensive needs assessment; facilitate a robust mediation training for student leaders and their support staff; assist the administration with policy making; and offer additional consulting as needed.
Circles are an indigenous tradition of community dialogue in which everyone involved and immediately impacted by a situation comes together to seek a resolution. The dialogue is led by trained facilitators called Circle Keepers and a set of collective agreements created by participants. A Circle Keeper offers questions to the group. A talking piece is passed around to each member in the Circle. The person holding the talking piece has the floor to speak uninterrupted. Members of the Circle may choose to speak or pass their turn. Through this intentional process of sharing and listening, participants are invited to be vulnerable and get to the root of the issue at hand. In a Restorative Circle, the dialogue invites people who were harmed to voice their experience and ask for support; helps those who caused harm to identify what triggered their behavior and decisions and reflect on what impact it had on themselves and the larger community; asks the community how they can prevent this dynamic from occurring again; and explores what actions can be taken to repair the harm to the greatest extent possible. Once consensus about how to repair the situation has been reached, the Circle Keeper drafts a written resolution for each participant to sign.
Youth Diversion Programs
We’re on a mission to replace the school-to-prison pipeline with a pathway to youth leadership. Our diversion programs are more than just a way to protect children from criminal records, they’re also an opportunity for young people to become experts of their personal conflict style and management. Our six-hour Restorative Justice workshop uses cognitive behavioral therapy exercises, circle practice, and popular education frameworks to guide participants through deep self-reflection and transformation. Through these trauma-informed models, youth learn to identify what caused them to commit an offense, take responsibility for the harm caused by their act, self-advocate for their needs, manage and de-escalate conflict, and practice healthy decision-making skills. 82% of participants avoid reoffending after taking our course.
Victim-Offender Conferencing for Youth
Victim-Offender Conferencing for Youth (YVOC) provides diversion participants, between 10 and 18 years old, an opportunity to take responsibility and be held accountable for their actions within a framework that balances the needs and responsibilities of victims, offenders, and the community. Restorative Justice, from which YVOC was born, recognizes that most youth who have caused others harm have also been harmed. Therefore, YVOC is a diversion model that offers participants the opportunity to engage in a trauma-informed dialogue with their victims in hopes of finding a creative solution that supports the healing and transformation of both parties as a way to prevent further cycles of violence. During a YVOC, parties meet face-to-face in a structured, secure environment to establish recognition and understanding of the events that transpired; promote accountability on the part of the diversion participant; transform the diversion participant’s behavior; and negotiate restitution or symbolic restitution. If the victim declines the invitation, the diversion participant attends a parent-youth conference where the discussion centers on the consequences of the youth's actions to themselves, the victim, the family and their community.
A 2008 recidivism study of the 98 youth who participated in CORA GSM’s YVOC Program over a 2.5-year period, revealed that only 10.2% committed a new offense. Whereas 44.4% of youth who did not participate in VOC reoffended. This demonstrates the YVOC model’s potential for helping to curb the cycle of violence in our community.
Family Group Conferencing
Family Group Conferencing is a facilitated decision-making process designed to support families and youth in crisis. The process has been used successfully in many areas, including child welfare, school discipline, and juvenile justice. The participants include the family or care-givers, extended family members, representatives from the court and social services, victims (in juvenile justice situations), and other community resources (e.g., teachers, faith leaders, friends). The process engages participants to express their concerns, hopes, and ideas for change by promising confidentiality; empowers families; and values their input. Family Group Conferences are family-centered; the process adapts to the unique needs, perspective, traditions, and culture of the family, rather than forcing the family to fit into a scripted, generic model created by the system. Decisions are reached by consensus of all the participants; not by a majority or official decree.
The Transforming Justice Hub
CORA Good Shepherd Mediation is launching a two-tiered program that mitigates gun and group violence by empowering neighborhoods most vulnerable to gun violence to interrupt deadly cycles of violence, and the systems of oppression that fuel them, through community organizing and community dialogue.
The recurring program is a stipended opportunity for youth to attend a 6-month Popular Education course that prepares them to become mediators, restorative justice practitioners, and community advocates through 40 hours of facilitator training, 10 hours of political education, and 10 hours of hands-on practice applying these new skills in their own neighborhoods.
The course objectives are:
A) for youth to develop a critical analysis of the systemic conditions that lead to intercommunal violence
B) for youth to become proficient circle keepers who are able to independently host healing processes?
C) for youth to become proficient mediators who are able to independently host conflict resolution processes
D) for youth to develop an introductory comprehension of community organizing strategies and to plug into community organizing initiatives of their choosing across our city