Sentencing Decisions of Judges in Milwaukee's Specialized Domestic Violence Courts

Terry Podjaski Batson, Milwaukee J.O.D.I. Project

Over the past ten years, criminal justice sentencing research has been conducted for cases involving intimate partner violence. The type of sentence that an offender receives for a crime against an intimate partner is just one aspect of that individual's experience with the criminal justice system. However, it is a critical component for holding offenders accountable in a structure that ties together the efforts of police officers, district attorneys, judges, and correction agents. This study, which focused on offenders in the city of Milwaukee, was particularly interested in the sentencing phase as research has shown that judges' actions can be effective in reducing recidivism for some offenders. In cases of domestic violence, judges not only receive incomplete information, but the information they do get can be conflicting and contradictory as victims often depart from earlier testimony or withdraw from the case entirely. Consequently, judges direct their attention to a set of "focal concerns", according to theory, that drive their decisions on appropriate sentencing. Ordinal logistic regression used in this study found that offenders' race and marital status to the victim, and whether or not victims disclosed prior calls to the police for abuse perpetrated by the same offender all affected judges' sentencing decisions.

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Updated 05/20/2006