A Legal and Policy Argument for Bail Denial and Preventative Treatment for Batterers

Robbin S. Ogle, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Dawn Beichner, Illinois State University

Historically, battering has been a culturally and legally accepted practice in the U.S. This has had an influence on the crimninal justice and social system's approach to dealing with battering and its victims. Beginning in the mids 1800s, women fronm the women's movement and the temmperance movement starting bring attention to the practice of battering and its ill effects on women and children. Their approach consisted mainly of unheeded calls for battering to be outlawed and scattered group efforts to provide shelter and medical care for victims. In the 1970s, when battering was finally criminalized in the U.S., our approach to dealing with this issue continued to involve piece meal efforts aimed at shelter and medical care. Today, battering is minimally a misdemeanor crime, however our approach to dealing with battering and its aftermath have not changed much. We still primarily rely on private and/or social helping agencies inadequately prepared but intended to hide and assist victims until the offender is incarcerated or at least adjudicated. The law enforcement approach has changed from verbal deescalation to arrest. However, research as yet does not support the efficacy of this auto arrest policy. This paper argues that it may be time to take a more proactive policy approach that spends more money on prevention and treatment than on housing and providing for victims whose lives are as disrupted by our solution as they are by this social problem. Removal of one batterer from the home is less expensive to the system than removal of multiple victims and this would be less disruptive to the lives of children involved in these unions. This could be done utilizing bail denial and providing batterers the option of awaiting case completion in jail or entering a batterer's treatment program for four to six months. Potentially, an inpatient treatment program could be part of a diversionary agreement where the existing case is held in abeyance so they can be charged later if they fail treatment or recidivate. This paper presents a legal and policy argument for this approach to battering and its prevention.

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Updated 05/20/2006