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Experiential Conflict Resolution for Prison Staff

NCJ Number
Corrections Volume: 61 Issue: 7 Dated: December 1999 Pages: 96-156
John A. Shuford; Harriett T. Spencer
Date Published
6 pages
The conflict resolution training used by the Philadelphia Prison System for its employees focuses on how to prevent or effectively resolve conflicts, which can destroy morale, impede teamwork, and decrease effectiveness.
The training has the following objectives: improve staff communication and conflict resolution skills, improve staff teamwork, improve interdepartmental cooperation, improve morale, reduce conflict among staff, and train staff to continue the program upon completion of the contract. The training model was adapted from the Alternatives to Violence Project, a 24-year-old volunteer organization with a history of more than 10,000 workshops with a variety of groups. A unique feature of the training is the method by which it is conveyed. Participants are actively engaged in the learning process; they have fun; maintain high levels of energy throughout; learn by experience; open up to new ideas as a result of the trust and respect that develops; and create their own sense of community. After participating in activities and exercises that help group members to feel comfortable and relaxed with one another, the training focuses on the ways that attitude can affect the outcome of a conflict. Other components of the training focus on the three major conflict resolution skills: active listening, "I" messages (assertiveness), and six-point problemsolving. Skills are demonstrated and then practiced individually. Next, participants use their new skills in role-plays they create from their work experiences. The final section of the training summarizes what has been taught and the impact it has on teamwork. Participants divide into small groups and discuss what they individually can do to improve teamwork on their jobs. Participants write personal contracts that state goals they wish to achieve as a result of the training.