Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Conflict Analysis & Resolution


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Elena P. Bastidas

Second Advisor

Robin Cooper

Third Advisor

Neil Katz


appreciative inquiry, conflict resolution, emotional intelligence, inmates, positive criminology, restorative justice


American prisons are overflowing with inmates exacting an incalculable human and moral cost on inmates, their families, and society. A central theme in criminality is the inability to deal with conflict and the affiliated emotions in an appropriate manner. Further, problem-solving, communication, and consequential thinking skills are lacking in the lives of many inmates due to lack of proper role models, lack of skills, and lack of expectations. Focusing on inmate education is one of the most effective forms of crime prevention according to leading criminological theorists. This phenomenological study was an assessment of a ten-session, holistic conflict resolution course for inmates called Reach Out with Purposeful Engagement Skills. The course is centered on emotional intelligence skills including self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy, and incorporates a multi-theoretical framework consisting of (a) human needs theory, (b) hope theory, (c) social construction theory, (d) appreciative inquiry, and (e) restorative justice principles. The teaching methodology was centered on positive criminology, a sub-group of positive psychology which embraces concepts such as compassion, encouragement, goodness, gratitude, positive modeling, and spirituality. An underlying belief was that recognition of individual participant strengths, if nurtured and developed, can contribute toward personal change. Results of the study describe participant’s perceptions of self-efficacy in conflict resolution which resulted in personal change and empowerment. This study contributes toward qualitative literature supporting socio-emotional education for inmates delivered in a constructive environment to inspire transformation at a deep and necessary level in order to support and promote desistance.

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