Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

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Table of Contents

Community Mediation Services

Organizational Overview

Community Mediation Services (CMS) is a full-service CDRC assisting Queens residents for the past 32 years and providing targeted services to the Queensbridge North and South NYCHA developments/MAP15 Catchment Area. As a result of MOCJ’s annual support of $266,692 (FY2017), CMS is able to provide a range of conflict engagement services to roughly 4,500 clients each year using the combined contributions of eight staff members (7.75 full-time equivalent [FTE]) staff and 37 active volunteers. Overviews of several of its prevention- relevant programming and activities are provided below.

Queens Mediation Network (QMN)

Launched in 1985, the QMN provides free and low-cost mediation services to the whole of Queens County through a number of general and specialized initiatives, including: community disputes, landlord-tenant, parent- child, housing disputes, school-based mediation, interpersonal disputes, family conflicts, special education, Person in Need of Supervision (PINS), school-based arrests and suspensions; civil, family, and criminal court referrals; Lemon Law arbitration; Open Space; and other services tailored to local needs. It targets members of the Queens community at large, as well as ‘micro- communities’ such as specific schools, court- users, faith-based organizations, and those with limited resources. For 2016, QMN’s annual budget is $595,611, for which it is projected to serve 4,500 individuals through 1,950 cases. Since its inception, the QMN has diverted over 21,000 PINS cases from Family Court and directed 1,500 delinquency cases into mentoring. Over the past two decades, it has averaged 1,500 mediation cases annually. Over the past decade, it has diverted 450 people annually from criminal court into anger management and related workshops. Over the past five years, it has increasingly focused on issues such as youth crime, inter- cultural conflicts, and police-community relations. Referral relationships actively contributing to the QMN include: 311 (30%); New York Police Department (NYPD; 25%); Co-Op Management (15%); local courts (10%); public agencies (10%); Legal Aid (5%); private attorneys (2.5%); and its website (2.5%).

Queensbridge Mediation Center (QMC)

Launched in October 2015, QMC provides or facilitates mediation, conflict coaching, dialogue groups, and other dispute resolution services and processes. It targets youth ages 16 to 24 in the Queensbridge Housing community in Long Island City. For 2016, QMC’s annual budget is $61,506 for which it is projected to serve 472 clients through 100 cases, 20 dialogue groups, four Open Space events, four youth conflict resolution/violence prevention trainings, and two basic mediation trainings. Since its inception, QMC has held open house and Open Space events, trained five youth and three adults in basic mediation, and established important connections with the local NYPD precinct, JRIP program, Cure Violence program, and schools. Referral relationships actively contributing to QMC include: NextSteps Mentoring Program (60%); Cure Violence (10%); Jacob Riis Settlement House (10%); NYCHA (10%); and NYPD (10%).

Assisting Children through Transition (A.C.T.)

Launched in 2006, the A.C.T. program teaches parents who are divorced, separated, or in the process of separating, skills to help reduce the strain these transitions can place upon children, and guides parents in creating parenting plans and a safe environment in which children can thrive. It targets parents undergoing the aforementioned transitions, as well as those court-ordered to attend parenting classes. For 2016, A.C.T.’s annual budget is $3,000, for which it is projected to serve 45 clients through 45 cases. Since its inception, the A.C.T. program has heard from parents that the course helps lessen the tension between themselves and their former partner/other parent. They also report the course would be helpful for parents prior to separation actually occurring. Referral relationships actively contributing to the A.C.T. program include: Kings County Supreme Court (80%); Queens County Supreme Court (10%); Queens County Family Court (5%); and miscellaneous sources (e.g. online, class attendees; 5%).

Special Education and Early Intervention Mediation (SE-EIM)

Launched in 1997, the SE-EIM program is a contracted initiative with the New York State Dispute Resolution Association (NYSDRA) whereby CMS provides mediation services to parents who disagree with how school-based special education programming or services are delivered for their children. It targets students, parents, and schools throughout Queens. For 2016, SE-EIM’s annual budget is dependent upon per-case assignments, which is anticipated to be 80 clients and 40 cases. Referral relationships actively contributing to the SE-EIM program include: parents (35%); school psychologists (20%); United We Stand of New York (20%); educational advocates (10%); attorneys (5%); Cardinal McCloskey Community Services. (5%); and area schools (5%).

Training Initiatives

Launched in 1983, CMS’ basic and advanced mediation training provides quality educational opportunities to the local community and helps ensure CMS has ready access to volunteer mediators able to mediate cases at CMS. It targets a wide audience throughout Queens, as well as outside Queens, as may be warranted to advance the mission of the agency. For 2016, CMS anticipates training 100 clients through four training events, including 40 volunteer mediators who also complete CMS’ Mediation Apprenticeship program. Since their inception, CMS’ trainings have specialized in a number of topics, including fatherhood skills, leadership skills for court- referred youth, mediation for social workers, mentoring delinquent youth, and parent-teen mediation, to name a few. Referral sources actively contributing to training events include: self-referrals (70%); clients (10%); current mediators (10%); higher education ADR programs (5%); and other CDRCs (5%).

Additional Programming

CMS also engages a number of additional prevention-relevant programs, including: the Department of Probation (DOP)-funded NextSteps program that targets 16 to 24 year old emerging adults who are already engaged in criminal activity; the DOP-funded ARCHES program that connects probation- involved youth with credible local mentors; and the A.I.M. program that works to connect 14 to 18 year olds with local mentors. CMS engages in “cross-pollination” of services to ensure youth and emerging adults in any of these additional programs also have ready access to conflict skills training and coaching services. This helps ensure CMS’ youth and emerging adult service recipients are able to address conflicts occurring in multiple domains of their lives, not just the specific domain a particular program may be narrowly designed to address.

Figure 9. Organizational Dashboard: CMS

This dashboard presents select aspects of CMS’ programming, prevention, and presence as reported by CMS and various external resources.

Profiles in Prevention

“These programs are the safety valves of their local communities; easing tensions and teaching residents new ways to problem-solve.”

- M. A., CMS Volunteer


One referral received by CMS involved a youth throwing a brick through a local store window. The business owner requested CMS facilitate a conversation with the youth and his parent. After introducing the idea to the father and son, the parties agreed to mediate as a way to share their stories and address the harm caused by the youth’s actions. As one of the results of this mediation experience, the father and son agreed to work off the cost of the window replacement – an arrangement possible due, in part, to the father’s then-unemployed status. Following their service, the storeowner hired the father as an employee, an outcome extremely unlikely had the conflict been exclusively addressed through the narrow confines of the traditional criminal justice system.

“When mediation is used as an alternative to arrest, it not only resolves the underlying issues, it encourages creativity and keeps people from suffering the stigmas of being system-involved."

- J. J., CMS Volunteer


The Queensbridge Mediation Center has developed a working relationship with the NYPD precinct that serves the Queensbridge Houses. These officers are increasingly making referrals to the mediation program in hopes of addressing local conflicts that may continue to escalate to requiring issuance of criminal summonses, arrests, or re-arrest. In addition to these direct services, CMS’ Queensbridge Mediation Program has also trained five staff members of the Long Island City Cure Violence project that also serves the Queensbridge housing area. The Queensbridge Mediation Center will continue its work with Cure Violence by providing mediation to family members or others affected by local, violence-related disputes. Finally, many of the youth served by the Queensbridge Mediation Center are also participants in the DOP-funded NextSteps Mentoring program. Their dual service means that in addition to constructive mentoring partnerships, these youth also receive conflict skills training and mediation interventions for disputes they may encounter. As NextSteps participants are already court-involved, these services can help remediate their criminogenic risks and reduce their likelihood of future involvement with the criminal justice system.

“We’re learning different ways to deal with arguments; ideas that keep us from fighting and from continuing to make the same mistakes.”

- Queensbridge Youth Trainee and NextSteps Participant