The Clark County Social Service Neighborhood Justice Center (NJC) in Las Vegas was created through legislation approved by the Nevada State Legislature in 1991 to provide citizens a wider access to justice and an alternative to the court process for conflict resolution. The NJC is unique as the only community mediation service in the country that is part of a social service agency. In 1999, NJC volunteer mediators contributed a total of 2,661.75 hours of service to the Neighborhood Justice Center.
The NJC currently has more than 100 volunteer mediators who conduct approximately 500 mediations per year. They mediate cases involving disputes between neighbors, consumers and merchants, employers and employees, landlords and tenants, families, doctors and patients, and parties involved in business transactions. The mediators assist the parties in coming to their own agreement by reducing the obstacles to communication, maximizing the exploration of alternatives, and addressing the needs of those involved.
The program is highly successful in that approximately 72% of the mediations end with a formal agreement between the parties, ending their dispute in a non-adversarial and private way. Mediation is provided in the main center, satellite offices, and in five Justice Courts in Clark County. In addition to providing mediation services in small claims courts, NJC volunteer mediators now mediate cases referred by Henderson Municipal Court.
The NJC has developed several specialized mediation programs in which volunteer mediators actively participate. The Victim Offender-Reconciliation Program (VORP) provides mediation between youth first-time offenders, who are referred by the courts, and their victims. The VORP experience enables the victim to confront the offender and provide input on matters of restitution. Through VORP, the first-time offender has the opportunity to hear about the impact of the offense, and participate in a meaningful response to the offense.
The NJC has also developed a Conflict Intervention Team (CIT), which utilizes specially-trained volunteer mediators to go into a school in response to a large scale conflict that is most often racially motivated or gang-related. The mediators conduct one-on-one mediations and large group mediations and conclude their intervention with helpful information for the school on ways to prevent or address future conflicts.
The services of the NJC volunteer mediators are invaluable in helping citizens resolve disputes peacefully, in a way that preserves relations and promotes understanding.