Steve Goldsmith is a former President of the Hawthorne Rotary Club.  He was Executive Director of Centinela Youth Services for 14 years and built it to a 10-fold increase providing mediation and conflict resolution services to 6000 youth with 500 trained volunteer mediators and programs in 28 schools.  CYS works closely with school districts, juvenile justice system, and the County Dept of Children’s and Family Services.  He has won many awards, and was Chair and Director of the recent Rotary-sponsored meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, for mediators and peace builders from over 50 countries.
Centinela Youth Services provides Victim-Offender Restitution Services (VORS) by bringing juvenile offenders to face-to-face meetings with their victims.  Referrals come from judges, probation officers, police and the District Attorney’s Office.  The victims describe their feelings and experiences from the event (most cases are nonviolent, such as shoplifting).  The offender is asked by the mediator, “What can you do to make this right?”  The victim is asked, “What you want him to do to make up for this act?”  The tone is not accusatory or condemning, but expression of feelings is encouraged for both sides.
The offender has the experience of facing somebody and explaining why he did it and what he plans to do for restitution, and learns that problems can be solved by talking.  A report describing this encounter is sent to the referring agency.  Recidivism within one year of mediation is 15%, compared to 31% without remediation (when the victim is not available or is unwilling to participate, although 65% agree to take part).  In the long-term, the vast majority of participating offenders became more productive in school and society, stay out of trouble, and function better in family relationships.  Based on these results, VORS is included in the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Family and parent-child conflicts can also be managed in this way.  Offenders with 2nd and 3rd arrests have a worse prognosis.  Volunteers can serve as surrogate victims (documented in the reports) as well as trained mediators.  There are about 250-300 encounters per year, occurring at a time and place convenient to the victims, preferably after school, and last about 1-1½ hours.  Potentially 7000-8000 per year would be eligible in LA County if there were enough volunteers.  Mr Goldsmith had sign-up sheets for VORS available at our Club meeting.  The website is, for applications, donations and information.