Yarn Trains Mediators in Turkey
In May, Georgia State University College of Law Professor Doug Yarn conducted mediation training for law students at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul. The timing of his training coincides with Turkey’s recent adoption of new laws for mediation and restorative justice in both minor criminal matters and civil disputes.
“Our consortium follows and monitors legislation in restorative justice around the world but mostly in the U.S.,” Yarn says. “Turkey’s legislative recognition of mediation to achieve restorative justice in criminal justice reform is more sophisticated than most legislation in the United States, certainly more so than anything in the South.”
Under restorative justice, offenders are not excused of crime or let off the hook. Rather, crime is viewed as a violation of people and relationships and creates obligations. Processes are designed to heal and reconcile by included victims, community members, law enforcement and sometimes corrections officials in dialogue with the offender.
“A lot of criminal offenses could best be resolved through restorative justice,” Yarn says.
For example, if a group of teens gets caught defacing property, instead of putting them in jail, restorative justice provides a path for victim-offender mediation. Studies show the effectiveness of the process in reducing recidivism because offenders realize the effect of their act, they internalize it and gain empathy for victims, show remorse and then act in some way to right their own wrong, Yarn says. Unlike the U.S., Turkey is new to mediation and doesn’t have a large pool of trained mediators—thus the need for training.
While in Turkey, Yarn visited the eastern Turkish border, an area that has experienced deeply rooted historical conflict and a place that civilizations fought over for thousands of years.
“It’s really poignant to stand on the ruins of Ani,” Yarn says. “It was the center of the medieval Armenian world and an important stop on the Silk Road before its many inhabitants were put to the sword. Today, it’s a starkly beautiful but desolate plateau.”