Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

Linkedin | Google | ORCID

Table of Contents

Mechanism of Impact

Sublimated Criminalism

Sublimated criminalism is the channeling of criminal inclinations into socially acceptable means such that they satisfy underlying deviant urges.415 The distancing of oneself from criminal deeds or dispositions in this way is more than mere denial or heavy-willed suppression, it represents a creative and highly intellectual endeavor, the use of which has been associated with successful life adjustments,416 and encouraged for even the most wrenching of crimes.417

Service providers encourage sublimated criminalism by advocating for select, prosocial values such as: a bias against violence, regard for others’ property, and the preferencing of constructive, restorative approaches to conflict. Beyond these value endorsements, providers directly facilitate this sublimation in many of their services and trainings. Conflict coaching, mediation, Peacemaking, and restorative circles all incorporate solo and/or collaborative brainstorming on how to better engage future escalation triggers. These inclusive, overt demonstrations of how to conceptualize acceptable alternatives instill within offenders an enhanced facility with agentic choicefulness;418 equipping offenders with the practical knowledge on how to generate alternative choices, and psychically empowering them to thus choose.

While the ultimate duration of any non- therapeutically-induced sublimatory behaviors may be limited, their near term application is particularly helpful given the tendency of conflicts to progress through brief bursts of rapidly ratcheted intensity, followed by long arcs of de-escalation and dormancy. In this way, intervention-facilitated sublimations are not only well-timed, they are, simply, well.419


415. From its Freudian psychoanalytic roots, sublimation is seen as a highly adaptive and proactive defense mechanism serving to protect the ego from the id’s baser, taboo inclinations.

416. V alliant, G. (1971).

417. For example, Kieu (2014) suggests the sublimation of aggressive inclinations as part of a suite of therapeutic rehabilitation techniques for those connected with child homicides.

418. Here agency is centered in self-efficacy, the notion that one has the “capacity to exercise some measure of control over one’s thought processes, motivation, affect, and action,” and that absent such capacity, one has “little incentive to act or to persevere in the face of difficulties and adversities” (Bandura, A., et al. 2001). Choicefulness represents the availability of alternatives either naturally present or – as achieved through intervention assistance – deliberately developed through the recasting of conflict as opportunity. Agentic choicefulness, then, is one’s capacity to deliberately generate corrective options variously favorable to and optimized against an ongoing conflict from which transcendence is sought.

419. “A good life [and conflict intervention, for our purposes]... is one where we’ve learned, as Freud tried to show us, to sublimate well” (The School of Life, 2016).