Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

Published June 2009

Chapter 8. Intervention Programs

Section 10 — What should the prosecutor's response be if court-referred abusers are noncompliant with programs?

The Rhode Island probation study that compared probationers in specialized probation supervision caseloads with those in less stringent general caseloads found that the former committed significantly less reabuse over one year. The difference, however, applied only to what researchers called "lower risk" probationers, those without prior arrest histories. Although there were several differences in how the two caseloads were supervised, enforcement of batterer intervention program attendance was one of the major differences. The specialized group's program was more rigidly enforced, as measured by significantly more violations for nonattendance. As a result of the court violation hearings, most of the noncompliant probationers were required to attend weekly compliance court sessions until they completed the program. [141]

An evaluation of two model domestic violence courts found that victims in the court with significantly more probation revocations for noncompliance (12 percent vs. only 1 percent in the other court) reported significantly less reabuse than in the comparison court. In the court with more revocations, victims reported a lower frequency of physical assaults for up to 11 months after the study incident. The defendants in the court with the higher revocation rates had a significantly higher number of prior arrests than the defendants in the comparison court (8.3 vs. 3.7 percent). Researchers posited that lower domestic violence arrests were obtained primarily through early detection and incarceration of probationers who either continued to reabuse or failed to comply with conditions. [103]

Broward County probation study researchers concluded the following correlation between program noncompliance and reabuse: If abusers are not afraid of violating their court orders, they are also not afraid of the consequences of committing new offenses. [60]

Implications for Prosecutors

Prosecutors should recommend increased sanctions for noncompliant abusers. Incarceration will assure immediate victim protection at least for the length of the incarceration. Short of this, increased surveillance may be effective at reducing risk of reabuse for lower risk abusers. (Research basis: Multiple studies have found that doing nothing in regard to noncompliant, court-referred abusers results in significantly higher rates of reabuse. Two studies involving jurisdictions across four states suggest that vigorous enforcement of conditions is the key in deterring reabuse.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009