Outcomes of court intervention and diversionary programs for domestically violent offenders

Gilbert Stillman, III Macvaugh (2004)

Over the last several decades, arrests and prosecutions for domestic violence offenses have increased dramatically across the United States. As a result, courts are more frequently referring domestically violent offenders to treatment programs in order to address the problem. However, the question of which type of batterer treatment program, if any, is effective in reducing partner violence remains largely unanswered and the subject of much controversy. The purpose of this retrospective study was to measure outcomes of court intervention and diversionary programs for a large sample of male domestically violent offenders in Central Massachusetts. Using archival data extracted from official criminal records for a sample of 1,150 offenders, recidivism rates (measured by re-arrest) were calculated and compared at a five year follow-up period across eight different groups which were formed according to case dispositions and sentencing outcomes. Groups consisted of offenders who following an arrest either: (1) received arrest only with no additional sanctions (i.e., charges were dismissed); (2) received only probation; (3) were incarcerated; or were court ordered to complete; (4) a certified batterers' intervention program; (5) an anger management program; (6) substance abuse evaluation or treatment; (7) other counseling, unspecified; or (8) were ordered to complete a treatment program but failed to do so and were later incarcerated. Recidivism was measured based on both the number of re-offenders within each group, as well as the number of re-offenses for each offender across groups. The results indicated that offenders who completed the anger management group were both less likely to re-offend and also had fewest number of re-offenses by the follow-up period compared to any other group; although, these differences were statistically significant only when compared to treatment non-completers and those who received only traditional criminal justice system sanctions.