Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

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Table of Contents

New York Peace Institute

The New York Peace Institute (NYPI) is a full- service CDRC assisting Brooklyn and Manhattan residents for the past five years as an independent organization.55 As a result of MOCJ’s annual support of $329,216 (FY2017), NYPI is able to provide a range of conflict engagement services to roughly 14,100 clients each year using the combined contributions of 14 staff members (13.2 FTE) and 225 active volunteers. Overviews of several of its prevention-relevant programming and activities are provided below.

Community Mediation

Launched in 1981, NYPI’s community mediation programming addresses housing matters and interpersonal disputes between co- workers, family members, friends, and neighbors, as well as conflicts in the community, many of which can quickly escalate into harassment or violent exchanges. It targets the entirety of Brooklyn and Manhattan, with an emphasis on low-income residents of those Boroughs. For 2016, the community mediation programming annual budget is $257,236, for which it is projected to serve 900 individuals through up to 400 mediation cases. Since its inception, this program has trained hundreds of local mediators and attracted considerable national and international attention for the quality and effectiveness of its services. Referral sources actively contributing to this program include: 311 (70%), online self-referrals (27%), and NYCHA (3%).

Civil and Small Claims Court Mediation

Launched in 2000, NYPI’s civil and small claims court mediation services address issues such as breach of contract, housing disputes, and damages before they escalate into harassment or violence. They target dual or single pro se cases where a civil, housing, or small claims case has already been filed or where such a filing is reasonably imminent. For 2016, the civil and small claims mediation services annual budget is $200,073, comparable to its 2015 budget during which 805 individuals were served through 279 civil court cases, 900 individuals were served through 344 small claims cases, and 399 individuals were served through 155 case diversions occurring prior to the scheduled court date. Since its inception, these services have seen over 150 mediators trained and established long- standing relationships with local law schools. Referral relationships actively contributing to these programs include: court clerks (60%), litigants (25%), court attorneys (10%), and judicial officers (5%).

Criminal Court Mediation

Launched in 2009, NYPI’s Criminal Court mediation program provides services to pending misdemeanor cases. It targets complaining witnesses (CW) and defendants associated with these cases throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. For 2016, the Criminal Court mediation program annual budget is $114,327, for which it is projected to serve 700 clients through 360 mediations, and 50 individuals through 50 conflict coaching sessions. Since its inception, this program has trained 95 mediators to specialize in criminal court mediation, established a strong working relationship with the Brooklyn DA’s Office, and has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from participants, with 98% of CWs and 94% of defendants reporting they would recommend the process to a friend in a situation. Referral relationships actively contributing to this program include: Brooklyn DA’s Office (84%), self-referrals (8%), Brooklyn Legal Aid (2%), Brooklyn Defender Services (2%), Manhattan DA’s Office (2%), Manhattan Legal Aid (1%), and Harlem Defender Services (<1%).

Youth Restorative Justice

Launched in 2012, NYPI’s youth restorative justice services provide restorative processes to schools, court-involved youth, and youth at risk of suspension. They target student, teachers, support staff, administrators, safety officers, parents, and court-involved youth. For 2016, the youth restorative justice services annual budget is $120,000, for which they are projected to serve 601 individuals through 60 restorative sessions and 268 individuals through 135 mediations. Since inception, this programming has trained 31 facilitators in community conferencing and circles and contributed to a 45% decrease in school suspension rates. Referral relationships actively contributing to this program include: Manhattan and Brooklyn DAs (58%), participating schools (34%), Corporation Counsel (CC; 7%), and DOP (1%).

Special Education/Early Intervention Mediation

Launched in 1998, NYPI’s SE-EIM programming provides mediation of disputes between parents and the NYC DOE for school- age children with a disability regarding services, program and interpersonal issues, and mediation of disputes between parents and the NYS Department of Health (DOH) for children with a disability from birth to three years old. It targets parents of school-age children with a disability, school staff, DOE administrative staff, students with a disability, parents of children ages 0-3 receiving early intervention services, service providers, and the DOH. For 2016, the SE-EIM annual program budget is $60,000, for which it is projected to serve 970 clients through 150 mediations. Since its inception, the SE-EIM program has trained 20 mediators in special education interventions, created an educational video for parents, helped coordinate the development of a Special Education Mediation Guide, and is now administered by one of NYC’s leading experts on SE-EIM.56 Referral relationships actively contributing to this program include: parents (50%), legal services (40%), and NYC DOE and local schools (10%).

Co-Parenting Mediation

In operation for over 10 years, NYPI’s Co- Parenting Mediation program provides mediation between separated (and separating) parents who do not already have a pending case in Family Court, and addresses issues such as visitation schedules, communication, legal and physical custody, and child support. It targets parents with common children who are not currently in foster care with no pending Family Court case and no current Order of Protection or history of domestic violence. For 2016, NYPI’s grant funding for Co-Parenting Mediation has concluded, though services for 120 individuals through 40 cases are still expected to be provided. Since its inception, roughly 40 mediators have been trained in custody/visitation, and about 12 have been trained in child support mediation since its inclusion in 2014. Primary referral channels include: Legal Information for Families Today, FamilyKind, and online self-referrals.

Training Services

NYPI’s training services include a range of offerings from five-day BMT, advanced and specialty mediation trainings, mediator continuing skills development, skills-specific workshops for local organizations, and school trainings, to name only a few. It targets the general public throughout NYC and has attracted national and international requests for its training services. For 2016, NYPI anticipates serving 112 BMT trainees and dozens of other trainee cohorts. Since its inception, NYPI has trained participants from all manner of professions; has provided trainings to the FDNY, NASA, NYPD, UNICEF, and numerous other high-profile entities; and established an international reputation as one of the premier conflict resolution and mediation and training providers.

Figure12. OrganizationalDashboard:NYPI

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

Profiles in Prevention


At one of NYC’s all-female schools, Jana, a young woman from devout Muslim family, had a lunchroom argument with Aiden, a gender-transitioning atheist, that threw their ‘best friend’ status into serious jeopardy. After avoiding on another for several months, an unexpected text from Aiden served to escalate tensions further when Jana, an ESL student, misinterpreted its meaning and shot back a seemingly dismissive reply. Motivated to mend their relationship in the closing months of their time together, Jana requested Glen, NYPI’s then on-site restorative justice manager and a trusted member of that school’s community, to facilitate a circle between herself, Aiden, and a trusted teacher. This session would have to finally address, as Jana explained, the initial argument that she believed was rooted in religious intolerance, the misinterpreted texts, and the physical contact between her and Aiden that had once been unremarkable, but which now, given Aiden’s progressing transition, had become culturally inappropriate and left Jana in fear of her father’s reaction should he ever learn of their relationship.

In the presence of a trusted faculty member, Glen empathically walked Jana through her concerns and began designing a space that would safely surface these issues and help restore the students’ friendship. At the close of the impromptu intake encounter, Glen quickly jotted the students’ names on his forearm as his reminder for when he returned to the office. For lack of a ready intake form, and in deft deference to the young student’s hesitation to have these personal details entered into an online form via his phone, Glen figuratively and furtively bore the burden of this conflict with him – ink on skin – throughout the remainder of the day; fusing his self with their search for resolution, and reminding himself of the great trust this school and its students place in his service.

“As a mother, as their teacher, and as a taxpayer, I want to see investment on the front-end – addressing the conflicts these girls find themselves in before they spin out of control – not on placing these girls in jail and then trying to rehabilitate them after the fact.”

- Ms. A., Teacher, NYC DOE M316

A separate example involved a loan dispute between two roommates that had escalated to an assault and subsequent arrest. During a Small Claims Diversion intake encounter, a claimant revealed that he had been arrested over the presenting dispute and that there was an active Order of Protection in effect. Through NYPI’s partnership with the Brooklyn DA’s Office, they were able to have the order modified so they could mediate both the criminal and civil matters. The roommates worked out a detailed loan settlement and payment schedule, and also took responsibility for the ensuing fight that had interrupted their friendship. Both the Small Claims and Criminal cases were resolved in mediation.

“I didn’t have many options. I could have acted aggressively which results in the cops being called, act passively and nothing changes, or try to learn why this has happened. I chose to learn, and that’s why I’m here at mediation.”

- NYPI Mediation Participant (during session)


55. Prior to the establishment of the NYPI, its programming and staff were housed within the victim assistance organization Safe Horizon as part of its mission to “provide support, prevent violence, and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities” (Safe Horizon, 2016). Combined with that earlier history, the NYPI has offered an unbroken history of community dispute resolution services for the past 35 years.

56. Carol Lieb Himes, NYPI’s Special Education Mediation Coordinator, is a recognized NYC expert in special education and early intervention mediation. Among other notable contributions, she served on the School Climate Working Group of the Mayor’s Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline and maintains an active role as a state-level co-trainer for new special education mediators.