Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

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Table of Contents

Individual Impact – Youth Population

Evidence-Based Impact and Importance

Elevated rates of youth conflict are significantly related to the early onset of criminal activity.81 As such, interventions that resolve youth conflict are inherently preventative for this population.

Service providers’ work with youth populations – ranging from pre-teens to emerging adults82 – achieves its impact by targeting multiple domains of youth83 life, addressing multiple criminogenic needs, and serving as a comparatively softer intervention than traditional institutional responses.84

Youth-involved victim-offender mediation (VOM), restorative practices, and conflict skills training have all been linked to reductions in the uptake of youth offending, in the rate of youth recidivism, and in the severity of re-offense.85 For example, youth who participate in mediation demonstrate an up to 34% reduction in recidivism.86

By addressing education related87 conflicts, service providers can reduce truancy by up to 46%;88 avert the high cost of dropping out;89 lower rates of criminal justice system involvement, including carceral commitments and probation-involved sanctions;90 and minimize later life problems such as marital troubles, job stress, and incarceration.91

Finally, youth-involved mentoring92 can be an effective component93 of prevention efforts, reducing delinquency by as much as 10%.94

NYC Performance and Potential

Youth-oriented programming is a specialty for each of the evaluated providers. School-involved peer mediation and restorative practices, mentoring, and youth-minded family transition assistance are but some examples of their youth- targeting services.

Special education mediation and other interventions that improve school climate, reduce peer conflicts, and minimize truancy are vehicles through which service providers prevent crime. While each of the providers has respectable achievements in this area, institutional support for even earlier interventions and expanded applications of existing youth services would help further their preventative impact within this vulnerable population.

Mentoring is another area of notable service provider performance. Since its inception, CMS has provided skills and coaching-included mentoring for over 1,500 delinquency cases. In its Catchment Area, IMCR intends to provide conflict resolution training to the local SNUG/ high-risk mentoring program. For its Catchment Area, NYCID staff and volunteers serve as mentors to its youth Peace Ambassadors. These mentorship-plus arrangements build constructive relationships and interpersonal skills in ways that are directly responsive to youth’s criminogenic needs.

“In one situation, bullying had been happening ever since the students had been in elementary school together. It was straight up bullying for years that was never resolved even though the parents and Deans knew. Through mediation they actually talked about what started it all and why they kept it up. We didn’t simply tell them to obey some adult. We helped resolve the problem.”

- Student Mediator, Curtis High School (NYCID Site)

Figure 16. Criminogenic Milestones and Interventions for Youth

Early, repeated, and multi-domain interventions of troublesome behaviors are effective in minimizing the accumulation of criminogenic risk among youth and young adults. While service providers’ current programming makes respectable gains in these areas, greater support for even earlier interventions is needed.


81. Fabian, J.A. (2013).

82. “Emerging adulthood is a developmental period in which many life elements are in flux, particularly in areas such as relationships, residence/housing, education, and employment. Positive change and stability in these areas decrease recidivism risk and, conversely, changes in the other direction can signal increased recidivism risk” (Bumby, K., Gilligan, L., 2014). As such, interventions targeting this demographic can both encourage the continued criminal career desistance for those already criminally active, and discourage late onset careers for those not yet criminally involved.

83. Approaches that are multi-factor, multi-method, and multi-domain are the most preventatively productive (McLaren, K.L., 2000).

84. While their exists global value from constructive youth conflict interventions, interventions that target youth persisters appear to produce a prevention premium. Specifically, when targeting those who are already engaged in criminal activity, a focus on remediating the behaviors of persisters is likely to produce a larger scale effect than a focus on adolescent-limited, low risk, or low frequency youth offenders. This is because persisters’ criminal careers start earlier (with antisocial behavior occurring as early as age three, and criminal activity occurring long before its first entry into police records), involve more frequent and serious crimes, and persist beyond their twenties, long after over 80 percent of other youth offenders have desisted. For more, see: Moffit, T.E. (1996); and McLaren, K.L. (2000).

85. These reductions are in comparison to youth experiencing traditional juvenile justice processes. For specific examples of these comparisons, see: Nugent, W.R., Paddock, J.B. (1995) reporting a 13.3% reduction overall, with VORP-youth from large families 13 times less likely to reoffend than non-VORP-youth of similar sized families; Redondo, S., et al. (1997) reporting a 19.4% reduction; Umbreit, M., Coates, R. (1992), noting in the field’s first cross-site analysis that “the victim offender mediation process appears to have had an effect on suppressing further criminal behavior;” and Umbreit, M., Coates, R. (1993) reporting a 12% reduction in recidivism at a Minneapolis site.

86. This finding is from a meta-analysis of 15 studies examining recidivism resulting from youth-involved restorative practices (Bradshaw, W., Roseborough, D., Umbreit, M.S., 2006).

87. Education-related conflicts necessarily also includes education-proximal conflicts, which are extra-curricular, often family-related, conflicts that impact youth’s educational performance. For example, “Truancy offenders are more likely to be juveniles with a family criminal history” (Zhang, D., et al., 2010).

88. Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution & Conflict Management. (2005).

89. High school dropouts incur an economic cost from lost wages and reduced productivity over the course of their lifetimes that averages between $420,000 and $630,000 per person, in net present value at the age of 18 (Cohen, M.A., Piquero, A.R., 2009).

90. Zhang, D., et al. (2010).

91. Baker, M.L., Sigmon, J.N., Nugent, M.E. (2001).

92. Youth-involved mentoring programs are particularly beneficial for emerging adults (DuBois, D.L., et al., 2011), youth already in contact with the criminal justice system (Jolliffe, D., Farrington, D. P., 2008), those who are risk stagnant (Kemshall, H., Marsland, L., Boeck, T., 2006), and those whose limited social networks complicate lifestyle modifications (O’Brien, K., et al., 2013). In its role as a prevention mechanism, mentoring assists youth in breaking free from the restrictive social capital of tight, homogenous, high-risk networks (Boeck, T., Fleming, J., Kemshall, H., 2006); promotes resiliency through prosocial, extrafamilial adult relationships (Rhodes, J.E., 1994); encourages the envisioning of alternate possible selves (Sullivan, E., 2002); facilitates better navigation of criminogenic and criminal lifestyle desistance risks (Tolan, P.H., et al., 2014); and provides access to constructive, non-criminal conflict resolution assistance.

93. “Mentoring should not be used in isolation but in combination with other interventions, especially those for which there is evidence of their effectiveness” (Jolliffe, D., Farrington, D. P., 2008).

94. Jolliffe, D., Farrington, D. P . (2008).