What Criminal Justice Response to Domestic Violence Tells Us About System Limitations

William M. Wells, Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale
William DeLeon-Granados, Criminology, Program & Policy Consultancy

ABSTRACT Efforts to reduce domestic violence, through policy and practices which rely heavily on the criminal justice system, reveal a great deal about the limits of the system in responding to some social problems. One of the persistent ironies in the violence against women movement is the degree to which policies and practices designed to protect women have resulted in no effect or a "backlash" effect on women. Using longitudinal data from 58 counties in California, we explore some of the disparities by gender in criminal justice system response to domestic violence. Several hypotheses emerge that explain disparities, some offering more explanatory power than others. While the criminal justice system does have an important role to play with regard to a problem such as domestic violence, the use of the system is not a cure-all, and can likely have paradoxical effects on violence in the absence of continued scrutiny and other remedies.

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Updated 05/20/2006