JULY 2015


In Nicaragua, Sex Workers Become Trained Mediators

In a new program in Nicaragua, 18 sex workers became accredited mediators this June. The women received several months of training through a program on judicial facilitation from Nicaragua’s Supreme Court. The program’s mediators work with low-level, non-felony conflicts, and can refer more serious cases to the courts. Some domestic violence cases including sexual harassment, intimidation and physical violence resulting in minor injuries may also be mediated. 3,500 volunteers have received training since the program began in 1998; as many as 60 sex workers are expected to receive training. Authorities hope that the new mediators can help to defend other sex workers and members of marginalized communities from abuse. Speaking of the special program, the president of Nicaragua’s Supreme Court of Justice said that since sex workers may feel discriminated against by the larger community, it was beneficial for the workers' own leaders to be empowered to address conflicts through mediation.

New Mexico Attorney General Promotes Foreclosure Mediation

In an editorial, Attorney General Hector Balderas encouraged struggling homeowners in New Mexico to participate in “Keep Your Home New Mexico,” a state program that partners with nonprofits and courts to offer foreclosure mediation, housing counseling and other services. Although foreclosure rates are in decline nationwide, New Mexico has the seventh highest percentage of homes in the foreclosure process across the country, with one out of every 47 homes in the foreclosure process. 

Texas Governor Vetoes Victim-Offender Mediation Bill

After the Texas legislature passed a bill which would have allowed pre-trial criminal mediation in nonviolent, non-sexual, non-drug-related Texas criminal cases, Gov. Greg Abbot issued a veto. The governor said that criminal mediation would not serve the broader public interest because crimes should be deterred and punished “for the good of all Texans. Making amends with the victim of a crime does not absolve the criminal of his legal debt to the State.” State Rep. Mark Keough, a primary sponsor of the bill, said the law was intended to lower recidivism, save tax dollars and “make the victim whole through recovery of losses from the perpetrator.” 


Evaluating Foreclosure Mediation

By Jennifer Shack, Director of Research, interviewed by Mary Novak, Resource Center Director 

This month at RSI, Research Director Jennifer Shack passed a major milestone. She completed the first evaluation of six foreclosure mediation programs across Illinois, all supported by a grant from the Attorney General. She spoke to Resource Center Director Mary Novak to describe her process.
Q: What was your goal when you began this project?
A: When I started out, I had two goals. First, I wanted to evaluate the programs so that the courts would know what was going on within their programs and what issues needed to be addressed. Second, the fact that there would be six programs that were all designed differently would give us insight into how the programs’ designs affected their outcomes. RSI’s evaluation was a unique opportunity to be able to compare program designs and models to see what works better in what situations.
To do this, I had to work with the programs to develop uniform definitions for each measure we looked at. For example, what does it mean when a case “enters the program”? We fashioned a way in which all the data being collected could be compared as “apples to apples” instead of “apples to oranges,” as is often the case in evaluations.
All the data was collected in an online system. As things progressed, I learned that even though we’d worked hard from the outset to collect data efficiently, we still needed to tweak definitions, data fields and methods of data collection. I had to stay in close touch with the programs to make sure I got the data I needed. I couldn’t just tell the different programs how to collect data and leave them to it. I had to stay more involved with the collection than I had initially expected to make sure it was all done correctly.
In some ways, this was made easier because I was creating statistical reports for each program every quarter. This allowed me to “clean” the data, if needed. More importantly, it helped RSI to manage our programs. By looking at the data every quarter, we were able to make adjustments to the programs in mid-stream. Our program coordinators were able to look at each other’s progress and say “Hey, they’re doing this in Kane County and it’s really working, let’s try it here!”
Q: What surprised you the most?
A: I was surprised by the stark contrasts between the program outcomes. When you look at participation rates, they were much higher for programs that had “one-step entry.” You can really see how important it was just to help homeowners enter the program.
I think a lot of the courts expected that a homeowner would learn about the program and say, “Oh, this will help me.” But in fact, they really don’t know, and many decide not to participate and self-select out. When we began designing the programs, we thought that homeowners don’t open the summons telling them the bank has filed a foreclosure on their home, so it was going to take a lot of outreach to make them aware of the program. We learned from the 21st and 6th circuits that that really isn’t the case. Homeowners look at the summons, but they don’t know how the program can help them. They’re already caught in the headlights, and because they’ve lost hope or it just seems too hard to deal with it, they don’t enter the program.
So it’s not an outreach issue, so much as it is a knowledge issue. Getting homeowners to understand the program from the outset – or just telling them they must come to court for their first appearance – will get them in. And it’s evident from what’s happening in the 20th Circuit that homeowners who decided not to participate in the program when they received the summons were not basing that decision on a clear understanding of their circumstances. There, more than half of the homeowners who participate in the program are referred into it by the judge when the homeowners arrive at their default hearing, the point at which the judge permits the bank to move forward with the foreclosure. At least as many of those homeowners are getting loan modifications as those who entered the program when they received the summons.
The evidence is that homeowners just need help to understand their situation and how mediation can help them. It’s not a question of knowing from the first that they will or won’t be helped by the program; it’s that they don’t know that they can be helped. The higher a program raises the barriers to entry, the more likely it is that homeowners will decide not to try.
Q: What would you tell someone else who was just starting a project like this?
A: To understand that if they want to get good data, they will have to be involved in data collection throughout the whole process. Data collection isn’t just a matter for the beginning and end of their evaluation process, it’s something they need to deal with at the beginning, middle and end.


Six Programs, Six Models

by Jennifer Shack, Director of Research 

When it comes to foreclosure mediation, how a program is designed has a large impact on eligible homeowners. That was the broad finding of the evaluation of six foreclosure mediation programs in Illinois I just completed. The evaluation assessed the first year of the programs funded by the Illinois Attorney General, using data from an online case management and program monitoring system that allowed all but one of the programs to collect the same data using uniform definitions for each data point.
The programs were assessed on participation rate, the percentage of eligible and participating homeowners who were able to retain their homes, completion rates, the amount of time cases spent in the program, and the experience of participating homeowners at each stage of the process. Each program was evaluated individually and all six were compared on these measures. The study found that participation is greater in programs that are easier to enter and in which the homeowners learn one-on-one how the program can help them. It also found that homeowners benefit from a second opportunity to participate, that housing counseling and legal services improve outcomes, and that all programs are providing a just process.
To learn more, read the Executive Summary or the full evaluation

Analyze Data Efficiently
Do you want to know what your participants think of your mediation program, but don’t have the time to enter and analyze all of the data? For our participant surveys, we used optical mark recognition software (OMR). The software lets you create your own fill-in-the-bubble forms and read the results with an image scanner. The software then provides reports on the responses. There are some good low-cost options available, such as Remark

RSI Board Of Directors

Hon. Morton Denlow (ret.), President
Terry Moritz, Vice President
Prof. James J. Alfini
Marc Becker
Rajive Chadha
Hon. Allen S. Goldberg (ret.)
Mitchell Marinello
Raven Moore
Hon. Stephen Pacey (ret.)
Hon. Judith Rice
Brian Roche
Hon. Karen G. Shields (ret.)
Hon. James Sullivan (ret.)

RSI Staff

Susan M. Yates, Executive Director 
Kimberly Ackmann
Bridget Crawford

Shawn Davis
Olga Kordonskaya
Kevin Malone
Mary Novak, Editor
Jennifer Shack


RSI is a non-profit organization that strengthens justice by enhancing court ADR systems through expertise in program development, research and resources. 


Welcome Kristen Sanchez

Kristen Sanchez joins us as the new 17th Judicial Circuit Foreclosure Mediation Program Coordinator. Kristen has worked as an attorney for the last six years; she graduated from Valparaiso University School of Law in 2008 and the University of Iowa in 2004. As an attorney, she worked in the areas of Bankruptcy, Workers' Compensation, Social Security Disability and Personal Injury. She has been a certified Arbitrator for the 17th Judicial Circuit Mandatory Arbitration Program since 2009. Kristen understands the importance of ADR and is excited to continue to develop the Foreclosure Mediation Program in her community. Welcome, Kristen!


In Foreclosure Mediation, Make It Easy to Participate

Jennifer Shack reviews the detailed results of the evaluation of six foreclosure mediation programs in Illinois that she recently completed. 


How Can We Help You? RSI offers a clearinghouse of information on CourtADR.org and also responds to requests for information. Do you have a question about court ADR?
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RSI thanks JAMS and the JAMS Foundation for their support of this publication.

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