Too often people in conflict believe their conflict has to reach epic proportions before seeking a dispute resolution process such as mediation, or they believe a situation may be too far gone to resolve. However, mediation can be very helpful at any stage of a conflict. It can be used to improve communication or prevent escalation; it can be used as a dispute gets more contentious, or it can be used even in situations that have gone on for years.
Mediation has been especially helpful for people about to be released from incarceration or treatment facilities by helping them to reconnect with families and communities. These mediations range in intensity and focus, from keeping strong relationships going, to preparing for re-entry to communities and families, to rebuilding broken relationships.
One such mediation recently took place between a mother and her son who has been incarcerated for about 13 years. In the initial pre-mediation conversations, both parties felt they communicated regularly and did not feel they had any conflicts between them. Although they were unsure about the need for mediation, they agreed to move forward. During the mediation, the mother and son had a chance to update each other on their lives, family members and friends. They talked about the son’s 16-year-old daughter, her needs and the complications that may arise because the daughter lives with her mother. The son communicates regularly with his daughter over the phone and through letters and knows she is looking forward to his getting released.
In the mediation, the son had the opportunity to discuss his reasoning and plans for when he is released including where he will live, how he will get employment, which relationships he feels he needs to let go of and how he will be the father he knows his daughter needs. His mother, on the other hand, was able to talk about her many fears for him when he gets out including any future romantic involvement with his daughter’s mother. She went on to describe the things his daughter’s mother has done and said to her over the years and the things she has had to put up with in order to maintain a connection with her granddaughter. The mother wanted to make sure her son had the right frame of mind and support coming out of prison so he would never return because, as she summed it up: “For as long as you have been incarcerated, I too have been incarcerated.”
Mediation provided them with the opportunity to communicate openly and honestly about their fears and concerns for the future.
This mediation highlights the importance of relationships and is a prime example of how “It’s never too early, it’s never too late, to mediate.”
The Carroll County Community Mediation Center (CCCMC) provides no-cost services at convenient times and locations throughout Carroll County. Contact the Mediation Center at 410-848-1764 or CCCMC@carrollcc.edu for services, volunteer opportunities or information.
Patricia Ryan is the director of the Carroll County Community Mediation Center. Reach her at 410-848-1764 or email@example.com.