First week!

It’s 9:30. I am sitting outside of the entrance of the Brooklyn Mediation Center, early for my first day at work. I overestimated how long it would take for me to get to work and arrived 45 minutes early for my 10:00 orientation. However, getting lost in Downtown Brooklyn ate up some of my time, but the pouring rain deterred me from sitting outside in the small park outside my building. (Every other sunny day, my coworker and I eat lunch on the benches in this park).

At 10:00, I meet my coworker Gabriella – a senior at a neighboring college who, like me, is exploring the conflict-resolution field. During orientation, my supervisors Rochelle and Carrie explain the bulk of our position: my specific role as a Case Managing Intern in the Brooklyn Mediation Center’s Criminal Court division (I am referred to as “crimtern” for short) is to pick up cases referred to mediation by the Brooklyn Criminal Court and to ensure that these cases result in mediation. This seems like an easy enough job, I naively thought as I listened to the list of the “crimtern’s” responsibilities. However, my first week at the New York Peace Institute would prove otherwise.

Before I explain a typical week here at NYPI, I should explain what NYPI is and what it’s mission is. New York Peace Institute is a non-profit organization that provides free mediation services to people in Manhattan and Brooklyn. NYPI used to be part of the larger organization Safe Horizons, which provide victim-services to the citizens of New York City. However, mediation’s goals and purposes did not exactly fit with Safe Horizon’s incentives, so in 2009, the mediation center left the hospices of the larger organization to become its own organization, with it’s own rules, values and incentives. I found out about NYPI through my work-study at the Dickinson Magazine – I saw CEO Brad Heckman’s ┬ábio in the Class Notes section and immediately called him inquiring for an internship position. I figured that he would not get back to me (being the CEO and all) but he called me back later that afternoon and was very kind and excited to hear that I was from Dickinson and interested in studying conflict-resolution.

NYPI has 2 offices – one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn (where I work). Both offices provide regular mediation services between landlords and tenants, family members, coworkers, friends, acquaintances… Both offices are also funded by the Federal Court System and offer mediation services for civil and criminal suits. However, only the Brooklyn office handles criminal cases, which is the department in which I work in.

A typical week as a “crimtern” involves:

-Picking up cases from the Brooklyn Criminal Court.
-Bringing the cases back to the office and intaking the information into our database.
-Calling Assistant District Attorneys and Defense Counsels for clients whose case has been referred to us for mediation.
-Assigning certified mediators to cases.
-Communicating with mediators on status of cases.
-Calling clients after their initial mediation session and after the court’s adjournment dates to get feedback on the mediation process.

Although I have learned more than I possibly imagined in the past week, I sometimes felt like coming to work was like battling those mythical monsters that keep sprouting new heads after one of them had been decapitated – there was always something to do, something to check up on, something to update! I don’t think I have ever spent 8 consecutive hours multitasking as much as I did! My mind was always occupied with something, and I will admit that it made the time fly by!

I am hoping I will be able to sit in on a real mediation in this upcoming week! More on that in my next blog post. Until then!