Wayne County prosecutor announces diversionary program for youth offenders

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Youth offenders who commit lesser offenses will have the opportunity to go through mediation under a partnership program announced Monday by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy

The new juvenile mediation program will allow participants to avoid incarceration under a partnership with the Wayne County Dispute Resolution Center.

Worthy announced the Talk It Out program during a news conference Monday at her downtown Detroit office.

"Together we will offer through mediation an alternative to charging adolescents and teens with certain offenses," said Worthy. "Instead they will meet with stakeholders, including the crime victim, to craft a solution short of formal charges."

Worthy added the program aims to get youth offenders to take responsibility for their offenses and to make amends. She said the initiative also is aimed at trying to keep some of those defendants out of the criminal justice system.

"It is a bold step for us," Worthy said about the program, which is already underway. 

Only first-time youth offenders with minor offenses are eligible, Worthy said. The mediation program will give "victims a voice and opportunity to impact the lives of the youth who victimized them," she said.

According to a news release from Worthy's office, delinquency offenses that would qualify a youth for participation include minor property damage, theft or simple assault.

The victim must approve the youth offender's participation in the program as well as the youth's parents, said Worthy. There is a $50 fee, payable by the offender.

David Robinson, interim executive director of the Wayne County Dispute Resolution Center, said "a positive resolution in cases involving juveniles is a perfect fit with our mission and values as a community service provider. Finding peaceful resolution and protecting the future and opportunities of our youth is the purposeful focus of the Talk It Out Initiative."

Youth offenders who participate in the mediation program will get "wrap around" services such as tutoring and counseling.

Program organizers are also seeking mediation counselors. Those interested can call (313) 561-3500 for more information.