In contradistinction to traditional Inmate engagement programs, Coflict's program for Restorative Re-entry focuses on proactive and preventive approaches to conflict escalation and human development, rather than reactive and therapeutic practices, and thus complements traditional programs while offering a unique level of success metrics.
The Coflict team draws on significant experience within the institutional systems of four regions – North America, Europe, East Asia, and Africa. Experience includes:
• Probation and parole oversight: Working with judges, parolees and parole officers to improve outcomes
• Workshops and one-on-one coaching: wide range of socioeconomic levels and ethnic backgrounds
• Re-entry programs: evaluation and analysis of re-entry program effectiveness and recidivism risk
The processes and tools used in Coflict are based on Human SystemicsTM methodology, which draws from proven scientific methods and professional practice, and are totally neutral regarding religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political beliefs. They are uniquely combined to fully engage inmates, corrections officers, and wardens/superintendents. Human SystemicsTM for Restorative Re-entry is designed to be respectful of the typical time and budgetary constraints of correctional institutions, and to cooperatively augment existing Inmate-engagement programs.
The Program included the following skills and advancements:
- Fathers development: Constructive and proactive Adlerian and logotherapy approaches, emphasizing self-esteem building, holistic individual behavior analysis, identity and social context, and community entrepreneurship. The works of Alfred Adler and Viktor Frankl are central to the conceptual approach.
- Team-building: Application of corporate team-building exercises modified for Restorative Re-entry, integrating goal-oriented teamwork and practice skills from team and individual coaching methods (soccer, basketball, tennis, yearbook planning, etc.). Such thinkers as Peter Senge and methods of companies such as Cornerstone Team-building are integrated into Coflict sessions.
- Root-cause analysis: Using System Dynamics as a methodology for modeling the domain allows a uniquely practical approach for determining where to best allocate time, energy and materials. The tool used, Stella, is widely applied in advanced school systems for hard science experiments, but rarely if ever for modeling social behavior and “soft variables”, as it is in Human SystemicsTM. A working simulation model, Guns at School, is used to acquaint teachers and warden with its power and application in preventing conflict situations from escalating. The writings and methods of Jay Forrester and Barry Richmond inform these techniques.
- Heuristics: All aspects of the program are designed to be self-teaching and “exportable”, such that Incarcerees may take the practices and apply them in daily life outside the workshop environment and build expertise. We are well aware of some contemporary opposition to scientific methods, but avoid much of the potential for push-back from certain demographics by stressing basic critical thinking skills and the nature of good sourcing. Theories promoted by thinkers such as Susan Blackmore and Douglas Hofstadter are central to this process.
- Mediation techniques: As professional mediators, we adhere to standards defined by the US jurisprudence system, such as total confidentiality of the inner workings and opinions shared within sessions, ensuring maximum fairness in the Incarceree engagement process, destruction of any notes or records of sessions, anonymizing individual behaviors, etc. such as to reduce the probability of lawsuits or recrimination. This does not block the reporting of session metrics to teachers and warden as needed to help guide successive stages of development. Our close association with Quinnipiac University and Yale Law programs for mediation are fundamental to our approach.
- Cross-cultural, communications and empathy training: Coflict views the cognition-dialog/decision-action-interaction (CDAI) process within a context of cultural strains and imperatives, thus removing many of the inherent sources of conflict due to “right-wrong” thinking, scapegoating and blaming, etc. Words matter, context matters even more, and the linguistic aspects of the concepts being expressed are surfaced to help incarcerees understand why and how misunderstandings take place and how to avoid conflict escalations in decision-making and communications. Fundamental influences here are works such as those of Deborah Tannen regarding gender culture and Steven Pinker and Edward Tolman regarding communication and its connection to behavior.
- Negotiation and Entrepreneurship: Interactions are always placed within a practice of transforming disagreements into negotiations. These build empathy and self-esteem among incarceree participants by demonstrating that beneficial results to the individual are synergistic with beneficial results to the commons. The concept of social entrepreneurship is thereby advanced, transforming negative interactions to team results, with each participant expanding their self-perception of unexplored talent and individual responsibility. Our long-term experience as SCORE mentors and working within a variety of community outreach organizations gives us both breadth and depth of understanding of what Incarcerees and their families deal with daily, and the importance of fundamental life skills to their future.