Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

Linkedin | Google | ORCID

Table of Contents

Individual Impact – Victim Population

Evidence-Based Impact and Importance

More than any other category of individual or institutional impact, crime victims are almost certainly the most durably,123 extensively,124 and favorably affected by mediative and restorative interventions. Compared to traditional processes, access to restorative interventions produces reductions in victims’ anger;125 desire for retaliation (80% reduction);126 fear of reprisal attacks (82%);127 post-traumatic stress symptoms (49%);128 re-victimization;129 secondary victimization;130 and general dismay (27%).131 Further, these processes provide meaningful roles for victims in the justice-seeking process,132 increasing empowerment;133 forgiveness (200% increase);134 the occurrence of offender apologies (450%);135 perceptions of interactional136 and procedural justice (94%);137 restitution completion (25%) and creativity (11%);138 and overall satisfaction (79%).139 For victims, these benefits accrue despite offense intensity140 or intimacy.141

Victim-inclusive responses to conflict and crime reduce recidivism by shrinking the pool of available victims, reducing the likelihood of victim retribution, and generally destabilizing the rhythmic interchange of victim-offender statuses.

Finally, one of the more provocative and consequential developments in victim-focused research is the increasing appreciation for how victimization contributes to premature secondary mortality.142 Through relieving the health- depleting effects of sub-/clinical post-traumatic stress143 and moderating conflict and crime associated suicidal ideation,144 restorative interventions can literally save victims’ lives,145 even well after the their victimization experience. Through its performance empowering victims, reducing fear, and soothing stress, restorative justice could well be considered rescuitive justice.

NYC Performance and Potential

Service providers engage victims of all contexts: those in traditional victim-offender dichotomies, as well as those caught in reciprocal, victim- offender overlap situations where emotional and physical harms flow forth from and toward all involved. Providers invest substantial time crafting victim-sensitive interventions and in fleshing out the complexities of overlap situations. RHPP’s procedures, for example, include a minimum of seven points of contact for each case. This investment is driven by victims’ unique interests and by the desire to ensure their resulting restoration is as complete and convenient as possible.

“After losing his brother, my son wasn’t handling things well. We’d get in arguments where he’d threaten me and occasionally become violent. I could see where things were headed and didn’t want to lose another son. When things got really bad, the courts sent us to mediation instead of just locking him up. We needed to actually talk without either of us going off, to find a way to be a family again. It was tough, but it worked and we’re doing much better now. Everybody deserves a second chance. Everybody should have this choice.”

-Constance, NYPI Mediation Client

Figure 19. New York Victim-Offender Harm Overlap

Visualization of the ‘victim-offender overlap’ observed through the dis/aggregated self- reported aggression arrays occurring in the ongoing conflicts of 1,158 New Yorkers during May 2016. For each type of harm, the grey outline represents the scale of reported offending, while the orange inset represents the proportion of offenders who were correlatively victimized during the same conflict.


123. “The evidence so far shows that victim benefits of RJCs last longer than any effects on offender recidivism... [Victims] had half as much anxiety about being revictimized as victims whose cases had been prosecuted; half as much anger about those crimes; and half as much feeling of bitterness about offense” (Sherman, L.W., et al., 2015a).

124. Research has associated victimization with numerous educational, financial, occupational, physical, psychological, and social harms including greater difficulty with daily functioning; increased rates of psychological outcomes such as anger, anxiety, depression, fear, hopelessness, hyper vigilance, post- traumatic stress symptoms/disorder, and sadness; poor educational functioning; and negative occupational behaviors such as absenteeism, high job turnover, and increased unemployment (Fuller, G., 2015).

125. Court-assigned victims reported case-management associated anger at significantly higher rates than restorative conference-assigned victims (Strang, H., Sherman, L.W., 2006).

126. Among victims of violence who were randomly assigned to court proceedings, 45% said they would harm their offenders if they had a chance, compared to only 9% of those assigned to restorative justice, an 80% reduction. This finding is from a meta-analysis of 10 studies of restorative justice conference programs with a collective sample size of 734 RJC-participating offenders located in the UK (Strang, H., et al., 2013).

127. While the scale of victim fear reductions vary by offense type (67% reduction for property offenses, 82% reduction for violent offenses), restorative interventions reliably produce less fearful victims than court- assigned victims overall. This finding is from a meta-analysis of 10 studies of restorative justice conference programs with a collective sample size of 734 RJC-participating offenders located in the UK (Strang, H., et al., 2013). Umbreit (1998) reported a 57% reduction in victim fear following mediation (23% before the intervention, and only 10% post-intervention). Greater reductions in victim fear are associated with higher quality restorative processes (i.e. those where participants report high levels of procedural justice, restorativeness, and coordinator skill) (Daly, K., 2003).

128. “PTSS scores are significantly lower among victims assigned to RJC in addition to criminal justice processing through the courts than to customary criminal justice processing alone. There are overall, 49% fewer victims with clinical levels of PTSS, and possible PTSD” (Angel, C.M., et al., 2014). Restorative interventions predict lower PTSS six months following victim participation (Angel, C.M., 2005).

129. Re-victimization is consistently prevalent across various offense types, including assault (41% of victims are similarly re-victimized), robbery (27%), and burglary (17%) (Weisel, D.L., 2005). Restorative interventions reduce re-victimization by empowering victims and dismantling the recursive nature of the victim-offender overlap.

130. Secondary victimization can occur when victims participate in traditional criminal justice proceedings that produce painfully low perceptions of procedural justice. In some instances, this secondary, procedural victimization of crime victims can be so severe that the some authors have even questioned the value of reporting crimes to law enforcement, noting, in part, that “if crime victims expect the criminal proceedings to be psychologically beneficial, this will often prove to be an illusion” (Orth, U., 2002).

131. Prior to mediation, 67% of victims were upset about the crime, which was reduced to just 49% following the intervention, a 27% reduction (Umbreit, M.S., 1998).

132. Though deftly achieved in hundreds of restorative programs across the country, determining the optimal integration of victims in criminal proceedings and diversionary interventions beyond mere “ambiguous participant status” (Edwards, I., 2004) requires thoughtful planning and has been the subject of some debate between restorative practitioners, court personnel, and victims’ advocates (Englebrecht, C.M., 2011).

133. According to Wemmers (2009), victims’ active participation in restorative justice “can empower victims, enabling them to regain a sense of control over their lives.”

134. While victims communicate forgiveness in fewer than half of restorative justice conferences, that rate is still double that than is reported by victims involved in court proceedings. (Ahmed, E., et al., 2001).

135. The receipt of offender apologies varies significantly between court-assigned and restorative conference- assigned victims. For example, while court-assigned victims received offender apologies in 14% of robbery cases, 7% in burglary cases, and 19% in all monitored cases, restorative conference-assigned victims received apologies 100%, 96%, and 86% of cases, respectively. This finding is from a meta-analysis of 10 studies of restorative justice conference programs with a collective sample size of 734 RJC-participating offenders located in the UK (Strang, H., et al., 2013).

136. Interactional justice (formerly ‘interpersonal justice’) is concerned with the perceived fairness of interpersonal exchanges, taking particular note to distinguish the person-to-person interactional quality from the fairness of formal institutional procedures (Bies, R.J., 2001). “For all victims (e.g. elderly, domestic violence, property crimes) interpersonal justice was an important indicator of satisfaction” (Laxminarayan, M., et al., 2012).

137. 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).

138. Amongst victims who expressed interest in receiving material restoration, 12% of court-assigned victims received it, while 16% of RJC-assigned victims did. Further, 11% of RJC-assigned victims were able to incorporate other forms of restitution into their outcome agreements (e.g. labor and other benefits). This finding is from a meta-analysis of 10 studies of restorative justice conference programs with a collective sample size of 734 RJC-participating victims located in the UK (Strang, H., et al., 2013).

139. Umbreit, M.S. (1998).

140. Restorative justice processes have been used in countless contexts, from pre-sentence diversions of low to moderately severe criminal offenses, such as theft and simple assaults, to severely intense post-sentencing contexts, such as with familial homicide survivors and victims of terrorism (Wagner, N.M., Wagner, A.R., 2015). Across each of these offense severities, victims’ overall satisfaction remains invariantly high (Umbreit, M.S., Armour, M.P., 2011).

141. Restorative practices are regularly utilized for crimes of varying levels of victim and offender relationships, convening everyone from strangers to spouses. While the personalizing effects of restorative interventions can be particularly beneficial in stranger-perpetrated crimes, their potential for domestic and even intimate crimes is worthy of providers’ thoughtful re-examination.

142. Premature secondary mortality refers to premature death associated with though not immediately temporally connected to a victimization experience.

143. The presentation of Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms (PTSS) is a widespread, though chronically undiagnosed, response to criminal victimization. This phenomenon of under-recognized PTSS is almost certainly attributable, at least in part, to the sub-syndomal nature of many cases where “the full extent of the impact of the crime on the individual might take many months or years to fully manifest” (Wagner, N.M., Wagner, A.R., 2015). These limitations notwithstanding, the clinical condition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been observed in an estimated 30% of crime victims. (Angel, C.M., et al., 2014; referencing: Horowitz, M.J., 1976; and Kilpatrick, D.G., et al., 1987).

Restorative interventions mitigate the negative effects of victimization-triggered PTSS and PTSD through their mimicry of select therapeutic-oriented mechanisms. Though these specific mechanisms have not yet been clarified, “One possible explanation is the similarity between CBT approach and RJC. For example, RJC entails a direct confrontation between the victim and the source of his or her stress—which is central to exposure therapy. Equally important, the face-to-face meeting provides an evocative fearful medium for victims through their direct confrontations with their offenders. Victims are therefore given an opportunity to assess the offender and ask questions, which allows for new information to be learned about the offense and, by implication, provides a framework for cognitive restructuring. In addition to that, victims’ direct, face-to- face confrontations with their offenders are often highly emotional meetings for all parties. We believe that such settings provide a mechanism for emotional processing of the crime. The empowerment of the victim despite the intensive exposure to the source of stress and fear, coupled with the ability to attain emotional closure, are qualities that are shared by both CBT and RJC” (Angel, C.M., et al., 2014).

144. Juveniles exposed to complex traumatic stressors such as family and community violence, physical and sexual assault, bullying, and poly-victimization (Finkelhor, D., Ormrod, R.K., Runer, H.A., 2009) possess significantly elevated criminogenic risk profiles; are involved with peers who engage in, model, and encourage delinquent behavior (Ford, J.D., et al., 2010); more readily submit to repeated victimizations (Ponce, N.A., Williams, M.K., Allen, G.L., 2004); are “at risk for increasingly severe juvenile justice system involvement” (Ford, J.D., 2012); and, ultimately, suicidal ideation (Ford, J.D., et al., 2008). To the latter, a single referral to the juvenile justice system can double a youth’s odds of suicide, with multiple referrals increasing that probability as much as fivefold (Poulson, B., 2003). For an extensive review of the effects of complex traumatic stressors upon juveniles, see: Ford, J.D. (2012).

145. In their preview of the forthcoming evidence positioning restorative interventions as a moderating variable in the victimization-PTSS/PTSD relationship, Sherman and colleagues (2015a) note: “it may well be that [Restorative Justice Conferences] RJCs, like other criminal justice decisions, could be a matter of life and death” and that restorative interventions may produce “long-term reduction[s] in an otherwise elevated risk of premature mortality... associated with [even low levels of] chronic PTSS.”