Chatham County, GA (January 4, 2023) – In continuation of the Mediation Center’s peacebuilding initiative throughout Savannah, we are proud to celebrate National Day of Racial Healing on January 17, 2023. National Day of Racial Healing, traditionally celebrated the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, is a day not only to further reflect on the legacy of King but to move forward with his work in initiating discussion, building trust, and building community. We ask the citizens of Savannah to join us in celebrating this day by taking part in our “Courageous Conversation on Rectifying Racial Harms.” This facilitated discussion will take place in-person at the Tompkins Regionals Community Center at 2333 Ogeechee Road and virtually via our company page, https://www.facebook.com/mediationcentersavannah, on Facebook Live from 5:00 pm- 7:30 pm.
Chatham County, GA (December 16, 2022) – Through the J. W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, a Public Service and Outreach unit at the University of Georgia, the Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System received training and technical assistance to start a Youth Court in Chatham County. The pilot program kicked off in October with four high schools.
Youth court is a youth-led diversionary program for youth who have repeatedly broken school code of conduct rules. Instead of receiving the traditional discipline of the schools, the youth will appear at a disposition hearing administered by trained youth volunteers. Benefits of the program include reduced recidivism, youth leadership, rapid response, positive peer pressure, and cost-effectiveness.
“Youth seem to respond to this positive peer pressure better than sanctions from adults. We hope youth court reduces recidivism, involves more youth in addressing the issues facing our community, and allows us to develop future leaders,” Sherlisa Praylo, Director of Restorative Conferencing and Community Outreach at the Mediation Center. “Youth Court has been a valuable addition to our district. The program equips students with the skills to help their peers accept responsibility for their actions in a constructive manner. Youth Court harnesses the power of positive peer influence. Students engage in restorative practices that teach lifelong lessons. We are looking forward to the continued growth and impact of Youth Court,” Julian Childers III, Associate Superintendent, Secondary Schools, Savannah Chatham County Public Schools.
Restorative Youth Court allows you to hear from other youth regarding their behaviors and why those behaviors do not meet the standards of the school community. When asked why he wanted Youth Court created, high school youth volunteer Mark Smith stated, “Starting youth court will be a great opportunity to keep youth members of the community from receiving the school’s standard disciplinary system, which will strike against a student’s record. It provides a second chance without tanking one’s record and reputation in the school system. It also provides those that participate a brief knowledge of the law system and experience on how it works.”
Restorative Youth Court plans to grow in 2023 with enhancements to the program and the recruitment of more volunteers. The Mediation Center will hold a training session for adult volunteers on January 25-26, 2023. For more information, mediationsavannah.com/youth-court/
SAVANNAH, Ga. (Aug. 16, 2022) – The Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire, Inc. is delighted to host the inaugural Savannah Day of Peace on Sunday, September 25 from noon to 4 p.m. at Daffin Park, located at Victory Drive and Waters Avenue, in Savannah, Ga. This event, which is free and open to the public, will offer opportunities for community members to increase the peace, counter violence, become conflict-resilient and encourage unity.
The Savannah Day of Peace will feature a Peace Parade led by Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and Savannah City Council members, Courageous Conversation Circles designed to encourage deeper dialogue to promote peacebuilding, a wellness area for mental health and a Youth Artists Corner. The 2022 Peacebuilder Award Honoree will also be announced, and the City of Savannah’s new Peace Proclamation will be on display.
“Savannah is known as Georgia’s First City, and we’re deeply honored to be the first city in the Peach State to celebrate the International Day of Peace in an intentional way,” said Jill Cheeks, Executive Director of The Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire, Inc. “We want to bring people together to build relationships among citizens, focus on the good in our community, celebrate local peacebuilders and increase the peace. This event is a coordinated effort by the community to counter violence and to save lives.”
The Mediation Center plans to maintain the momentum and to create a larger movement by organizing monthly peacebuilding events at different locations across Chatham County. These events will feature neighborhood-based activities designed to engage local community members, youth, faith leaders, law enforcement, business and professional associations in peacebuilding efforts.
“Peacebuilding is an important activity that aims to resolve injustice in nonviolent ways and to transform the cultural and structural conditions that generate deadly or destructive conflict,” said Sherlisa Praylo, The Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire’s Director of Restorative Practices and Community Outreach. “It revolves around developing constructive personal, group and political relationships across ethnic, religious, class, national and racial boundaries. The process includes violence prevention, conflict resolution, post-conflict reconciliation and trauma healing.”
According to a Pew Research Center survey of 10,000 Americans, Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines than at any point in the last two decades. Social isolation, coupled with declining civic engagement, has created an even more disillusioned and disaffected society. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2020, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S., which is more than any year on record.
According to the Savannah Police Department, Savannah had 1,134 violent crimes in 2021, including 34 homicides and 788 aggravated assaults. Violent crime categories that saw increases in Savannah from 2020 and 2021 include homicide (9%) and residential robbery (41%).
Community mediation provides more than just an alternative to litigation or violence — it offers constructive, intentional processes for resolving differences and conflicts between individuals, groups and organizations. Ultimately, mediation reinforces the social infrastructure undergirding society and builds bridges across identity, sector, class and ideological divides.
ABOUT THE MEDIATION CENTER OF THE COASTAL EMPIRE:
Founded in 1986, The Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to serving the greater Savannah community. The organization’s mission is to harness the power of qualified volunteers, facilitate the process of citizens proactively managing conflict, provide alternatives to litigation and increase access to justice. With help from volunteers, donations and grant funding to maintain and build on the programs that have been developed over the years, The Mediation Center supports people from all walks of life who are trying to resolve their conflicts through mediation, rather than taking the issue to court. In addition, The Mediation Center supports children in the community through three Youth Programs and assists area families through the Family Law Resource Center. Learn more: mediationsavannah.com.