An Innovative Court Program for Juvenile Domestic Violence

Inger Sagatun-Edwards, San Jose State University
Hon. Eugene M. Hyman, Superior Court of California

In recent years juvenile domestic and family violence has become a growing problem, while state laws and courts have largely ignored the issue. While the dynamics of teen and adult intimate violence is quite similar, the protections offered by the law are dramatically different. This paper describes an innovative court-based intervention program, and presents an evaluation of its effectiveness. In 1999 Santa Clara County Superior Court established the first Juvenile Domestic and Family Court program in the nation, with a dedicated court docket and probation unit, specialized services for offenders and victims, and interagency collaboration. The juvenile and adult records of the minors in the program and a comparison group were tracked over two years, using a quasi-experimental design and sample retention strategies. About half of the youth had a history of family violence or child abuse. The offenders who completed the court- based program had significantly lower recidivism rates than the minors in the comparison group. These results show the importance of a pro-active juvenile court response to the growing problem of juvenile domestic and family violence.

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Updated 05/20/2006