Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

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Table of Contents

Individual Impact – Offender Population

Evidence-Based Impact and Importance

Among the many options available for offender engagement, mediation and restorative justice processes are some of the most broadly influential, yet most narrowly utilized. Their impact far exceeds their implementation.

Diversion to restorative processes is a near harmless proposition,109 effective for both low and high frequency offenders,110 youth and adults.111 Further, these diversions limit offenders’ contact with the criminal justice system,112 minimizing knock-on negative consequences arising from such contact.

Restorative processes can cut overall offender recidivism nearly in half,113 with specific reductions in violent offending up to 61%.114 This influence on offending is lasting, continuing to regulate offender behavior for up to a decade.115 This lasting impact is a result of these interventions’ abilities to encourage assumption of responsibility for one’s actions;116 improve offenders’ attitudes toward law enforcement and toward law-abiding behavior;117 and produce high rates of participant satisfaction.118

Finally, restorative interventions reduce victimization among offenders’ targets as well as among offenders themselves,119 dismantling the cyclical individual harms and societal strain associated with the victim-offender overlap.120

NYC Performance and Potential

Service providers produce substantial benefits for both victims and offenders.121 They craft interventions that synchronously prosarcuate these groups’ otherwise parallel justice paths,122 creating space for both restoration and reflective reintegration. Whether through NYPD referrals to CMS and IMCR’s Catchment Area services, NYCID’s DA referrals of DAT recipients, NYPI’s exemplary relationship with the Brooklyn DA, or RHPP’s avid experimentation encouraged by its referring judge, service providers engage offenders at various stages of the criminal justice system, ease offenders’ desistance pathways, and have amassed countless anecdotes of indisputable impact.

Though their work with offenders is often reflective of the best recidivism research has confirmed in similar programs, NYC providers are limited in their access to offenders at scale. Hesitant institutional gatekeepers and unnecessarily complicated referral criteria continue to stymie providers’ abilities to offer their services to the full range of offenders who would benefit from providers’ interventions. Structural encouragement from key partners, such as MOCJ, will be critical to further extending the reach and constructive consequence of providers’ offender services.

"I was caught up in a cycle of disrespect, miscommunication, and mistakes that ended with me being arrested. The DA sent my daughter and I to mediation to help address those charges and our relationship.

Now, in my work ministering to young women in prison, I see so many who sit with so much ager and bitterness toward their parents. After this experience, I can say with honesty: ‘I’ve been there, I’ve been that mother.’ I can share with them how to start changing their script.”

-Joeann, NYPI Mediation Client

Figure 18. Comparative Desistance Pathways

Desistance pathways are far from straightforward A-to-B routes and are significantly influenced by intervention choice, availability, or assignment. For the criminally involved and those at risk of such involvement, these pathways wind through considerable criminogenic risks present throughout multiple domains of their daily lives. The adjacent visualization is a representation of these pathways. The relative ease of each path is broadly representative of what the research indicates at-risk individuals should expect based upon their originating intervention.


109. The risk of masking criminal justice system awareness of potentially prolific offenders as a result of initial adult-onset offense diversions is unlikely, as 93.4% of such offenders only ever engage in low-rate, low- intensity offenses (Thompson, C.M., et al., 2014b). This suggests conservative, consequence-conscious administrators may want to design diversion pilots that target adult, first-time misdemeanor offenders.

110. “The evidence shows that RJC effectiveness appears to be curvilinear: they work best for offenders with the highest (i.e. more than seven arrests annually) and lowest (i.e. less than two arrests annually) frequency of prior offending” (Sherman, L.W., et al., 2015a). Unfortunately, when utilized at all, it is frequently only offered to low-frequency, low-intensity offenders, excluding high-frequency offenders and thereby “denying it to those whose need is greatest” (Sherman, L.W., et al., 2015a).

111. Though restorative interventions are more commonly utilized in juvenile contexts, at least one meta-analysis examining the impact of these interventions on the subsequent frequency of offender recidivism found marginally better performance in adult populations than juveniles (Sherman, L.W., et al., 2015b). This finding should strongly encourage policymakers, criminal justice system representatives, and service providers to consider meaningfully adapting and extending their existing programming in ways that would make them more accessible to adult offender populations.

112. This comparative lack of institutional contact is a result of what Hanan (2016) terms the “quasi- decriminalization” of prosecutorial-induced diversions. These diversions of criminal matters to mediation or restorative justice services effectively eliminates three of the four objectives of punishment (retribution, deterrence, and incapacitation), leaving only rehabilitation as the primary state-imposed consequence resulting from the criminal act, and producing far less contact with institutional representatives than would otherwise occur through traditional processes.

113. Restorative justice processes have been associated with reductions in offender recidivism ranging from 34% and 45%. This range is based on numerous meta-analyses, including a reported reduction of 34% for offenders participating in VOM (19 studies, 25 programs, 11,950 juvenile participants; Bradshaw, W., Roseborough, D.J., 2005); 38% for offenders participating in VOM (22 studies, 35 programs; Latimer, J., Dowden, C., Muise, D., 2005); 41% for offenders participating in VOM (31 studies, 10,506 participants; Mullane, R., et al., 2014); and 45% for offenders participating in restorative justice conferences (10 studies, 1,879 participants; Strang, H., et al., 2013). Regardless the specific effect size, when restorative justice participants are compared to an equivalent, court-assigned control group, it is almost a statistical certainty that the restorative offenders will experience a larger reduction in recidivism (Latimer, J., Dowden, C., Muise, D., 2001). While this focus on meta-analyses presents a measured assessment helpful in moderate expectations, single-site studies indicate particularly thoughtful, well-administered restorative interventions can achieve even greater results. For example, the Vermont Court Diversion Program, which utilizes a community review boards model, has reported a two-year reduction in offender recidivism of 84% (Vermont Association of Court Diversion Programs, 2012).

114. Sherman, L.W., et al. (2015b).

115. “The offenders’ experience of RJC-assignment in RISE, at least among respondents to a 10-year survey, produced lasting differences in attitudes and emotions from those of prosecution-assigned offenders who responded to the survey, almost all showing better self-reported re-offending than the prosecution group respondents” (Sherman, L.W., et al., 2015a).

116. One-on-one interaction between victims and offenders helps re-individuate the offender and subsequently increases their sense of personal agency over the harm induced. This is in opposition to the traditional systematic processing of crime through amorphous institutions that serve to deindividuate offenders, allowing them to avoid self-blame through clarifying behavioral responsibility within a broader social narrative of an us-versus-the-system construct in which the offender maintains negligible influence or responsibility. In short, deindividuation commandeers personal agency through a collective narrative.

117. Participation in restorative conferences improves offenders’ attitudes toward the legal system, police, and law-abiding behavior. These gains are greater for conferences where participants report higher levels of procedural justice, restorativeness, and coordinator skill (Daly, K., 2003).

118. Offenders who participated in VOM programs were 51% more satisfied than offenders who had not participated in such programs. This finding is from a meta-analysis of 31 studies of VOM programs with a collective sample size of 10,506 participants located throughout the U.S., Canada, and England (Mullane, R., et al., 2014).

119. Based on the evolving research, a compelling argument could be made that the use of restorative interventions even in contexts where the anticipated intervention-generated risk moderation is unlikely to influence the accumulated weight of an offender’s static criminogenic risk profile is still preferable, given its ability to minimize future victimization of and offending by the current victim, increase the likelihood of subsequent victim reporting of crime, and improve perceptions of the justice system.

120. The victim-offender overlap refers to the phenomenon where offenders are more likely than non-offenders to also be victims, and victims are more likely than non-victims to also be offenders. In fact, offenders are 1.5 to 7 times more likely than non-offenders to be victims, and victims are 2 to 7 times more likely than non- victims to be offenders (Entorf, H., 2013). For a review of the theories attempting to unpack the mechanisms fueling this overlap, see: Schreck, C.J., Stewart, E.A., Osgood, D.W. (2008).

121. “RJ conferences...produced substantial short-term, and some long-term, benefits for both crime victims and their offenders, across a range of offense types and stages of the criminal justice processes” (Sherman, L.W., et al., 2015a).

122. Parallel justice for victims – the call for responses to crime that are more fair, equitable, and tailored to the needs of individual victims – is important not only for victims themselves, but also for society at large, given the ability of such an approach to influence reductions in crime, physical and mental illness, substance abuse, social isolation, and community breakdown (Herman, S., 2010). Notably, however, restorative justice contributes to these aims not through maintaining strict parallels between victims and offenders, but by bending – momentarily, or otherwise – their respective paths toward one another (i.e. synchronous prosarcuation) and facilitating exchanges that acknowledge and retroactively address victims’ harm.