The goal of this research is to revisit the question of the effectiveness of domestic violence prosecution. However, unlike studies heretofore, this project will employ a wider lens, examining the cumulative effect of domestic violence prosecutions over time and within the context of all prosecutions experienced by the abuser, including those for non-domestic violence offenses. This wider examination is essential to determine the effectiveness of prosecution/sentencing.
The literature reveals that abusers who come into contact with the criminal justice system are not first time abusers who otherwise are law abiding citizens. They are repeat abusers, often with extensive criminal histories for non-domestic violence offenses. Given this, it is unrevealing to look at any given one domestic violence prosecution in isolation in order to gauge the effectiveness of prosecution/sentencing of abusers. One must look at the cumulative effect of such prosecutions over time and within the context of all criminal prosecutions experienced by the abuser. It is this study's hypothesis that context matters, that differences between patterns of prosecution/sentencing of domestic compared to nondomestic offenses will effect reabuse outcomes.
To discern these differences, the researchers have developed a severity scale that will allow them to measure and compare patterns of domestic and non domestic violence prosecutions/sentences. It is their hypothesis that abusers prosecuted as aggressively and sentenced as severely for domestic as non-domestic violence offenses will be less likely to reabuse and/or reabuse less than those who are consistently prosecuted and sentenced less severely from domestic violence compared to nondomestic violence offenses.
This study tests this hypothesis by looking at a large cohort of criminal justice identified abusers, comparing their histories of criminal prosecutions over a substantial period of their active criminal careers (10 years), and measuring their subsequent abuse over the next 5 years of their lives to determine reabuse rates.
In order to accomplish this first of its kind, exploratory research, this study utilizes a large data set of over 1,000 male and females on probation for at least one domestic violence offense as of November 2002 across the state of Rhode Island. The research team is familiar with this data set as it was used in a prior NIJ study (Klein et al, 2005). Given that almost all of these abusers had repeat domestic and nondomestic violence criminal histories and their average age in 2002 was 34, the research team will be able to examine their criminal lives for 10 years from their first adult offense, compare the severity of their domestic and nondomestic violence prosecutions/sentences, and see if any differences are associated with re-abuse over the subsequent 5 years. The dataset will allow the researchers to control for unique offender characteristics that have been documented to predict reabuse, including age, criminal history, and gender.
The study's findings will not only reveal whether or not this approach offers a more revealing way to examine the effect of domestic violence prosecution/sentencing over time, but a more accurate assessment of current domestic violence prosecution/sentencing practices across at least one state. If the hypothesis proves correct, it will have major implications on how domestic violence must be prosecuted/sentenced in order to effectively safeguard victims in the future. ca/ncf