Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention
Table of Contents
Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution
The Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution (IMCR) is a full-service CDRC assisting Bronx residents for the past 41 years and providing targeted services to the Butler, Castle Hill I and II, and Patterson NYCHA developments/MAP15 Catchment Areas. As a result of MOCJ’s annual support of $171,440 (FY2017), IMCR is able to provide a range of conflict engagement services to roughly 5,300 clients each year using the combined contributions of seven FTE staff members and 120 active volunteers. Overviews of several of its prevention-relevant programming and activities are provided below.
Launched in 1975 as NYC’s first community mediation center, this service provides a non-threatening forum in which parties to a dispute can address their concerns and decide for themselves a mutually beneficial outcome. Specific processes offered include: mediation, arbitration, restorative justice, conferencing, and conflict coaching. It targets residents throughout Bronx County. For 2016, the annual budget for IMCR’s community mediation programming is $447,917, for which it is projected to serve up to 4,700 clients through up to 1,800 cases. Since its inception, community mediation programming has striven to reduce the number of repeat calls to police, and the number of cases filed in local criminal, civil, housing, and family courts. Most of the cases referred and addressed involve criminal allegations, up to 90% of which are resolved without court intervention. Referral sources actively contributing to IMCR’s community mediation programming include: self-referrals (83%), NYPD (10%), and local courts (7%).
Catchment Area Mediation Services
Launched in October 2015, IMCR’s Catchment Area community mediation programming addresses youth violence in four distinct Catchment Areas in Bronx County by providing conferencing, conflict coaching, conflict resolution training, and mediation services. It targets youth ages 16 to 24 in the Butler, Castle Hill I and II, Edenwald, and Patterson NYCHA housing developments. For 2016, the annual budget for Catchment Area programming is $28,590, for which it is projected to serve up to 700 clients through 300 cases. Most of these youth referrals are related to harassment, aggravated harassment, and other criminal allegations. Moving forward, IMCR estimates up to 75 cases per housing development could be addressed annually as area youth become more aware of its presence. Since its inception, it has already trained 60 youth in conflict resolution skills, as well as having trained two youth trainers (one male, one female). Referral relationships actively contributing to IMCR’s Catchment Area community mediation programming include: parents (60%), local schools (25%), and NYPD (15%).
Public Awareness/Education Activities
Launched in 1975, IMCR’s outreach program is used to inform Bronx residents of freely available alternative services to court proceedings. It targets the entirety of Bronx County (50% general emphasis), with special efforts targeting local, community- based organizations (CBOs; 40%), NYPD (7%), and community boards (3%).
Community Mediation Training
Launched in 1993, IMCR’s community mediation training is focused on meeting the needs of clients interested in learning about conflict resolution. Trainees learn ADR skills and techniques, the art of listening and communication, cultural differences, the importance of synergy, choices, perceptions, and a host of relevant topics in the area of interpersonal relationships, using an empowering, facilitative co-mediation model. It targets anybody interested in ADR skills and techniques, as well as those interested in becoming certified mediators with IMCR. For 2016, IMCR anticipates training 60 individuals, including 30 Mercy College students. Since its inception, it has improved the conflict competence of countless trainees and produced a steady flow of volunteer mediators for IMCR’s Mediation Apprenticeship program. Referral relationships actively contributing to these training events include: Mercy College (50%) and other unspecified sources (50%).
Priority Areas for Additional Outreach
Entities not already identified above, yet considered by IMCR to be of high priority for future referral partnership development across its programmatic portfolio, include college professors and housing leaders.
Figure10. Organizational Dashboard: IMCR
This dashboard presents select aspects of IMCR’s programming, prevention, and presence as reported by IMCR and various external resources.
Profiles in Prevention
“We’re dealing with people who are fighting to live and survive every single day. If there are no resources like IMCR where people can come to receive professional guidance on how to fight forward together, they’ll continue to fight against one another and against their better interests.”
- L. S., IMCR Volunteer Mediator
“On their face, so many of our cases may not appear criminal in nature. In reality, though, these conflicts make people so angry that an assault or an arrest is often an insignificant slight away from reality.”
- E. H., IMCR Board Member
“‘I’m gonna knock you out,’ ‘I’ll mess you up.’ This is what people are saying to each other by the time we intervene. I’d say 85% of all the cases we hear involve some criminal element, the majority of which is this type of harassment.”
- T. R., Jr., IMCR Director of Mediation
“Drugs, threats, and histories of physical violence are common factors in the interactions I help mediate.”
- L. S., IMCR Volunteer Mediator
A group of young ladies who attended the same school were referred to IMCR for mediation, in part, because of their history of physical violence toward one other. Initially, the young ladies were resistant to the mediators’ attempts at securing their earnest engagement with the process. Sensing a developing impasse, the mediators encouraged the participants to envision what may lie ahead should their interactions continue to attract the negative attention of school administrators and local police. Upon this prompt – and plenty of silence – one of the attending mothers revealed to the group that she had previously been incarcerated and proceeded to speak openly and vulnerably about the life-long consequences her choices had produced, including – she feared – the hostile attitude and occasionally aggressive behaviors of her daughter for whom the mediation was convened. The mediators’ prompt to consider probable outcomes, the space they held for participants to engage honestly, and that moment of unexpected revelation changed the course of the ensuing conversation, and resulted in a palpable change in the way those girls connected as they left the mediation table.
“The most generous thing I’d ever heard in a mediation was a mother sharing her painful, private experience as an offender and then expressing her desire to have not only her daughter choose differently, but also wanting better for the young ladies who had been violent toward her daughter. That was without doubt the neatest thing in my entire mediation career.”
- E. H., IMCR Board Member & Volunteer Mediator
At the recommendation of their housing manager, a mother and son arranged to have a mediation session with their upstairs neighbor with whom they had fallen into a spiral of increasingly hostile, negative interactions over the past 18 months. Though the mother and son arrived at IMCR for their scheduled session, the neighbor, frustratingly, was a no-show. Cross-trained in one-on-one conflict coaching, the assigned volunteer mediator quickly pivoted by offering to help coach them through possible responses in an attempt to better equip them for future interactions with the neighbor. Over the course of an hour, the conflict coach walked the mother and son through various scenarios, teaching them more constructive, proactive ways to engage with their neighbor, as well as ensuring they knew productive resources should they continue to experience difficulties.
“We need help confronting this devastation. We’ve called the police, sought emergency services for stress, reported to various City agencies, are avoiding him by living on the streets as much as medically possible, and live in a constant state of fear. His behavior is beyond criminal. We can’t afford to leave but we can’t afford to keep losing, either.”
- IMCR Conflict Coaching Client