Problem-Solving Courts

B. Domestic Violence Court Evaluations

There have not been many rigorous evaluations of domestic violence courts. The evaluations that have been done demonstrate encouraging results for victims and mixed results for defendants. Victims of domestic violence are more likely to receive advocacy assistance and other services from domestic violence courts. Victims have expressed more satisfaction with domestic violence courts than with traditional criminal courts. Some studies of domestic violence courts found significant reductions in case dismissal rates, increases in the percentage of defendants ordered to participate in batterer programs, and increases in jail sentences for domestic violence offenders. There have been differing results on recidivism of offenders. Some studies found lower recidivism rates, while other studies found no reduction in recidivism (Gavin & Puffett, 2007).

Mirchandani (2006) conducted an extensive review of the Salt Lake City domestic violence court and identified three procedural innovations that helped encourage offender responsibility. The first innovation was a common plea agreement where defendants received suspended sentences in exchange for agreeing to a court order to complete 26 weekly sessions of counseling. The second innovation was a three-stage review system by the court that required offenders to provide proof of their compliance and progress in counseling. Offenders were required to provide evidence of their having made contact with the counseling agency within 10 days. Furthermore, they had to provide a 30-day progress report and a 6-month completion report to the court. The third innovation used by the Salt Lake domestic violence court required that the same court personnel handle all domestic violence cases. Over time, these officials developed expertise and familiarity with all other stakeholders invo lved in trying to combat domestic violence in Salt Lake City.

Gover, Brank, and McDonald (2007) evaluated a domestic violence court in South Carolina. They found that compared with defendants processed in traditional courts, defendants processed in a domestic violence court were significantly less likely to be rearrested for domestic violence. Gover et al. conducted 50 victim and 50 defendant interviews of participants in the domestic violence court. Both groups expressed satisfaction with their experiences in the court and were generally satisfied with the outcomes of their cases.

Labriola, Rempel, and Davis (2007) conducted a randomized trial study of the different approaches used in domestic violence courts. Participant offenders were randomly assigned to different groups with some receiving batterer treatment, others receiving high levels of judicial monitoring, and others with less judicial monitoring. These various treatment groups were then matched with a comparison group of offenders who received neither batterer treatment nor judicial monitoring. The groups were tracked for 1 year after sentencing. Labriola et al. found no reduction in rearrests for those in batterer programs as well as no difference in recidivism based on the levels of judicial monitoring.

Cissner (2007) completed an evaluation of a teen domestic violence court in Brooklyn, New York. This court adjudicated domestic violence offenders who were between the ages of 16 and 19. The evaluation contained no measures of recidivism and primarily documented the challenges of implementing a teen domestic violence court. These challenges included having trouble identifying and flagging eligible cases to be referred to the teen domestic violence court, gaining full cooperation and maintaining communication with all court actors and team members, having uniform agreement on a set of clear goals and objectives, and establishing contact with teenage victims.

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