Domestic Violence Courts: Batterer Programs, Monitoring, and Assessments

All domestic violence courts mandate batterer programs to some degree, but states that emphasize rehabilitation are more likely to order offenders to attend such a program. About one-third of domestic violence courts refer almost all  offenders to these programs; the remaining two-thirds vary in their use of this intervention.

In addition to batterer programs, most domestic violence courts order offenders to substance abuse treatment, mental health services, or parenting classes as needed.

NIJ researchers have evaluated the most common batterer intervention programs. Most findings show that these programs do not change batterers' attitudes toward women or domestic violence, and that they have little to no impact on reoffending.

See Batterer Intervention Programs Often Do Not Change Offender Behavior.

Domestic Violence Courts: Offender Monitoring

Monitoring and penalties for noncompliance are important tools in enforcing offender accountability.

According to a national study of domestic violence courts, more than half (62 percent) of domestic violence courts order offenders to probation, and most of these courts obtain reports on offenders' compliance with probation.

More than half of domestic violence courts require judicial monitoring of the offender after the case is heard, but they vary greatly in the type and frequency of their follow-up practices. They may review program reports, restate responsibilities, and praise compliance and punish noncompliance.

More than 75 percent of domestic violence courts impose penalties when an offender does not comply with court orders. These sanctions include (in order of frequency):

  • Verbal admonishment.
  • Immediate return to court.
  • Increased court appearances.
  • Revoked or amended probation.
  • Jail.

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Domestic Violence Courts: Offender Assessments

Roughly half of U.S. domestic violence courts request offender assessments. These assessments usually are conducted by staff in the prosecutor's office, the probation office or batterer programs inside or outside the criminal justice system. Offenders are examined for: 

  • Drug and alcohol dependence.
  • Mental health issues.
  • History of victimization.
  • Background characteristics.
  • Risk of repeat violence.
  • Needs for social services.

About This Article

The work described in this article was supported by NIJ cooperative agreement number 2006-WG-BX-0001, awarded to the Fund for the City of New York. This article is based on the grantee report A National Portrait of Domestic Violence Courts (pdf, 161 ages).

Date Created: June 30, 2011