Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

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Table of Contents

Socioeconomic Impact

Evidence-Based Impact and Importance

The economic influence of service providers extends well beyond their system-relevant returns.312 In fact, systemic savings represent only a fraction313 of the market-relevant impact derived from those interventions.314 Their broader contributions to local social capital are numerous and nuanced. Two such contributions are reviewed below: the values of volunteer service and informal emotional labor.

Volunteer Contributions Valuation. Volunteer conflict coaches, mediators, circle facilitators, and Peacemakers bring constructive conflict engagement to the masses. They lend creativity, perspective, and light to troubled contexts of all variety; finessing frictions along the rough edges of our shared existence.315 Their contributions are compelling at both the client and collective levels, with an annual economic impact of between $575 and $1,550 per volunteer.316

Emotional Labor Valuation. Long-studied in sociology circles,317 emotional labor318 is the process of regulating both feelings and expressions for interpersonal goals.319 Through its creation of socio-emotional goods,320 conflict skills trainings enhance local emotional labor by contributing to the economic and relational well-being of both industry and interpersonal markets.321 Such trainings are undertaken by 14.3% of the U.S. adult population annually322 resulting in an average subsequent increase in both the quality of trainees’ interpersonal conflict assistance (+5%) and the informal provision of those services (+24 minutes/week).

NYC Performance and Potential

Service providers’ extensive reliance upon volunteers – a purposeful approach designed to distribute constructive conflict skills into the local community – has the added benefit of producing one of the lowest marginal costs for crime prevention services of any criminal justice system partner. These volunteers engage conflicts involving every imaginable stress and ultimate solution, averaging approximately nine hours of service per month, with some individuals contributing up to 40 blue-flame hours in a single month.323 In terms of economic impact, these volunteers contribute more than $1 million in skilled, conflict assistive services annually.324

Emotional labor is precisely the type of metric community mediation and restorative justice organizations have long-sought to help quantitatively articulate and objectively validate their efforts to embed enhanced conflict competencies within their communities. On this measure, NYC CDRC and RJ organizations collectively provide an annual marginal increase of $1.7 million in informal, conflict-related emotional labor to the local marketplace.325 This investment in the local civilian peace force works to deescalate conflict and regulate the criminogenic needs of countless co-workers, family members, friends, neighbors, and fellow travelers whose interactions benefit from their conciliatory technique and temper.

NYC’s civilian peace force of volunteer coaches, mediators, and Peacemakers contributes over $1 million in accessible, professional services annually.

Conflict skills trainings infuse $1.7 million of conflict-related emotional labor into the local market.

Figure 30. Volunteer and Trainee Contributions

Even on these two narrow measures of socioeconomic impact, volunteers’ formal contributions and the informal, micro-transactions of trainees’ conflict-related emotional labor, service providers contribute $2.7 million in local market value, annually.


312. While the economic implications of these services are important to quantify to inform comparative and policy analyses, it is also important to acknowledge that not all social impact is easily or even appropriately monetized. Impact such as lowered amounts of reported stress, improvements in local quality of life, the rate and results of re-established relationships, and a more liberal indulgence of fellow travelers’ idiosyncrasies and their irritants, are but some of the broader socioeconomic measures relevant to providers’ interventions, yet practically or principledly resistant to arithmetic abstractions.

313. To demonstrate the relative insignificance of system-incurred crime expenses and the cost-effectiveness of mediation and restorative interventions, some commentators have noted “reductions in PTSS scores and prevalence among crime victims provide evidence that RJ may be cost-justified by victim health effects” alone (Angel, C.M., et al., 2014).

314. In addition to the observation that criminal justice system costs, globally, only represent between 8% and 20% of the total external costs of crime (see supra note 297), numerous examples of more diffuse, long-term economic influence from service provider interventions are also important to acknowledge. These broader socioeconomic factors include such measures as the elevated lifetime earning potential of youth, who – through access to attendance mediation, special education mediation, and school-based restorative practices – are prevented from prematurely exiting the educational system. They include the improved professional career prospects for those whose criminal careers are circumvented, cut short, or course corrected through conflict interventions. They include the influence of providers to improve market efficiency by lowering rates of workplace conflict and conflict-related absenteeism. While the precision of these and other measures has yet to match criminology’s evolving crime accounting methodologies, the presence and performance of these influences is intuitively and anecdotally undeniable.

315. For a thorough review of volunteer mediators, their composition, contribution, and consequence, see: Corbett, J.R., Corbett, W.E.H. (2013).

316. These estimates are based on the reported valuations of volunteer mediator hourly rates – ranging from a 2013 Bureau of Labor Statistics reported $37.12, to a more reasonable, market-informed $100 – as well as the reported national average for mediators’ annual hourly volunteerism at their local service organizations (Corbett, J.R., Corbett, W.E.H., 2013).

317. Emotional labor as an area of study was established by Hochschild in 1983 and has since primarily been studied in the context of emotional requirements within formal workplace roles. Recently, however, it has received renewed interest – particularly amongst feminist scholars and commentators (Hackman, R., 2015) – as a mechanism by which to acknowledge, measure, and value the non-market-oriented emotional labor performed in familial and interpersonal contexts. This newly expanded conceptualization served as the inspiration for undertaking a valuation of the emotional labor of informal conflict assistive services; an important endeavor long-overdue to more fully honor those who give of their time and talents to help reduce and resolve harmful conflict.

318. Examples of emotional labor include a friend helping another through a breakup, a coworker helping to defuse a tense office environment, and a neighbor informally resolving a brewing community conflict.

319. This is a slight modification to the integrated definition of emotional labor offered by Grandey (2000), which positioned emotional labor as ”the process of regulating both feelings and expressions for organizational goals. Specifically, each perspective discusses surface and deep acting as a way of managing emotions. The processes of surface acting (managing observable expressions) and deep acting (managing feelings) match the working definition of emotional labor as a process of emotional regulation, and they provide a useful way of operationalizing emotional labor.”

320. Robinson, L.J., Ritchie, B.K. (2016).

321. Specifically, the conceptual recognition embedded within emotional labor of the economic contributions from informal, interpersonal interactions makes it a particularly useful complementary measure to value the labor of those who are trained in and subsequently employ constructive conflict engagement skills in otherwise uncompensated contexts.

322. A nationwide survey of 7,262 respondents resulted in the following descriptive statistics: 78.4% received no formal training in how to better handle conflict situations during the preceding year; 7.3% received some such training, but prior to the most recent year; 8.4% received some such training in the past year through a workplace-related context; 2.6% in a school-related context; 2.0% in a personal advancement context; and 1.3% in a community-based context.

323. Volunteer mediators and Peacemakers are passionate providers of prevention-relevant interventions. This blue-flame eagerness to help those in need and to hone their own conflict engagement skill sets enable providers to achieve the scale and significance they currently enjoy. While the average monthly volunteer service across all programs was nine hours, each program has a handful of volunteers who dedicate far greater commitments. Among the most active volunteers, CMS reported a volunteer having served 32 hours in one month, IMCR: 12 hours, NYCID: 8 hours, NYPI: 10 hours, and RHPP: 40 hours.

324. This calculation is based on the annualized average hourly contributions from providers’ aggregated volunteer rosters, as valued by the mean market rate for similarly situated services in New York ($39.88/hour; U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016).

325. This calculation is based on the reported training activity of each of the five service providers, the projected marginal average increased provision of informal conflict-related emotional labor, and the projected marginal increase in labor quality as a percentage of the reported hourly rate ($27.89) of conflict-assistive services (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016). While impressive, it is important to note that this valuation is but one – possibly grossly under-quantified – frame through which to contextualize such labor, with others being recipients’ increased mental health, reduced conflict-related transaction costs, and averted conflict-induced criminal activity.