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Mediation can reduce juvenile delinquency


Encounters between victims and offenders are an untapped resource that could prevent young people from falling into a criminal lifestyle. So says Lottie Wahlin, a senior lecturer in social work, who focuses on mediation in her research. In her contributions to a new book, she questions why the method is not used more.

Lottie Wahlin, universitetslektor i socialt arbete.

Lottie Wahlin. Photo: Anna Sällberg

A meeting between the offender and the victim after a crime has been committed is a delicate situation. Still, it can generate several positive effects.

“Mediation is an untapped resource that seems relevant today, as very young people are drawn into crime. In schools, where the children spend their days, mediation could be a great method. Here, they could be taught conflict management at an early age”, says Lottie Wahlin.

Mediation has been used less and less

For 20 years, she has been working with mediation in various ways, both in practice and in research. For example, for five years she worked at the Swedish Crime Prevention Council on a government assignment aimed at implementing mediation and at training mediators throughout the country.

“Since then mediation has been used less and less. Nonetheless, police and prosecutors are obliged to consider mediation, and municipalities are obliged to offer mediation to all young offenders under the age of 21 as well as cooperation talks or mediation in custody disputes. Importantly, the method builds on voluntary participation”, Lottie Wahlin says.

"The victim may feel better"

As a rule, mediators have a degree in social work. In preparation for a mediation between offenders and victims of crimes, there are separate meetings where one talks through what happened to avoid surprises at the final meeting between offender and victim.

“In the joint meeting, no abuse, violence, or threats are allowed. Participants must not interrupt each other, and both are allowed to finish even if their versions of the events differ. The mediator must remain impartial and help with communication”, Lottie Wahlin says.

International research shows that mediation can have beneficial effects as it can, for example, reduce recidivism.

“Moreover, many studies have shown that there are positive effects for the victim who may feel better, feel less angry and afraid, and have an easier time moving on. Studies also show that both parties gain more confidence in the justice system, which is a good thing because young people in vulnerable areas rarely have confidence in the justice system or in the authorities”, Lottie Wahlin says.

Lottie Wahlin, universitetslektor i socialt arbete.

Photo: Anna Sällberg

Most commonly, mediation is used for “typical juvenile crimes,” such as theft, vandalism, assault, unlawful threats, burglary, and robbery. Importantly, as mediation can be a very delicate situation, it is not always appropriate. Participation in mediation is always voluntary, for both parties.

“It is the mediator who decides whether mediation is appropriate in the individual case. In cases of domestic violence, intimate partnership violence, or serious sexual offences, mediation may be inappropriate; such mediations require much more from the mediator and, moreover, in-depth knowledge is needed in determining if mediation is appropriate or not."

"We question why mediation is not used more"

The book Lottie Wahlin has co-authored and co-edited is called Medling i konflikter som rör barn och unga: i familjen, i skolan och vid brott.

“We question why mediation is not used more. In addition to spreading knowledge about mediation, the book aims to stimulate debate in a society where the current focus is on repression: on stricter punishments and on lowering the age of criminal responsibility. Today, we are facing a problem with young people who are drawn into crime at an early age and start shooting. At the same time, there are methods we do not use", Lottie Wahlin says.

Text: Anna Sällberg

Published by: Anna Sällberg Page responsible: Anders Munck Updated: 2023-02-27
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