Predictors of Program Completion and Recidivism at the Bronx Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Court

Nora Puffett, Center for Court Innovation
Chandra Gavin, Center for Court Innovation

A growing number of domestic violence courts require convicted offenders to participate in batterer intervention or other treatment programs and intensive court monitoring. Yet the benefit derived from batterer intervention programs in particular is still under debate, and program failure rates are often high. Moreover, both programs and monitoring are time-consuming and expensive for the court as well as the offender. This has led court administrators to question whether specific offender subgroups might benefit more or less than others from programs and court monitoring. If such subgroups could be identified, an individual defendant's likelihood to benefit from a program and from monitoring could be made a factor of sentencing. Accordingly, analyses were conducted of the correlates of program completion and recidivism for 440 cases sentenced by the Bronx Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Court, a high volume urban domestic violence court. Cases were mandated to one of three program conditions: (1) batterer intervention alone; (2) batterer intervention with substance abuse treatment; and (3) substance abuse treatment alone. Hypotheses were tested concerning the impact of program condition, age, employment status, defendant-victim relationship, current charges, criminal history, and several interim program compliance measures. Results demonstrated significantly better outcomes among those assigned to batterer intervention alone, without a prior criminal history, and in compliance as of the first court monitoring appearance (usually one month post-sentence). Also, meeting a somewhat weaker significance threshold, better outcomes resulted among defendants employed at arrest and defendants pleading to a charge other than criminal contempt. Policy implications of all findings are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006