Community Dispute Resolution: First-Class Process or Second-Class Justice


The Community Dispute Resolution Centers Program (CDRCP) was created in 1981 under the direction of the Office of Court Administration of the Unified Court System of the State of New York. The CDRCP represents a culmination of four years of lobbying by dispute resolution programs, criminal justice organizations, and a number of interested individuals on the state and local level. Upon the recommendation of the Unified Court System, the New York State legislature removed the three year “sunset” clause of the initial legislation, making the Program a permanent component of the NewYork State Unified Court System. This action made New York the first state to fund a network of dispute resolution centers.

The private and public sectors, and state and local government combine to form the CDRCP. Private, non-profit agencies must first contract with theChief Administrative Judge of the Unified Court System before they can be-come a part of the Program and provide alternative dispute resolution services to their local communities. Up to fifty percent of the expenses for these community-based dispute resolution centers may be funded by the state. The remaining funding is supplied by the local community in partnership with the state. The centers work with misdemeanor criminal, civil, family, and juvenile disputes. By relieving the courts from matters that do not require formal adjudication, the CDRCP is a valuable, cost effective resource to citizens and to the justice system alike.

The Program began with centers in fifteen counties. It presently serves the citizens of fifty-three counties. Within the next three years, centers will be available in all sixty-two counties. The existing centers currently handle 77,000 referrals per year, and provide a number of services which include over 17,500 conciliations, mediations, and arbitrations annually. Each conciliation, mediation, or arbitration costs $89, and on the average, each case is handled within fifteen days after it is first brought to the center.

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