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The Changing Boundaries of the Criminal Justice System: Redefining the Problem and the Response in Domestic Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2000
52 pages
After documenting the scope and prevalence of domestic violence as well as the changes in society's definition of this problem that prompted people to challenge the utility of conventional criminal justice responses to domestic violence, this chapter assesses the ways in which criminal justice agents have reacted to these challenges and with what effects.
The definition of domestic violence adopted for this essay is "threatening or injurious physical, psychological, verbal, or economic behavior directed toward an adult romantic partner, regardless of marital status, and including both ongoing and terminated relationships." Because most violence in such relationships is perpetrated by men against female partners or ex-partners, this is the focus of policy and research discussed in this chapter. One section of the chapter discusses changes in problem definition under the influences of political climate, public opinion, law, and institutions. A convergence of changes in women's legal and social status as well as the public's concern about crime probably contributed to a political and social climate of disapproval of domestic violence and an increased interest in the criminalization of partner abuse. Victim advocates have acted as catalysts and monitors of legal changes that have become institutionalized into model policies, programs, and recommendations. The remaining sections of the chapter describe core features of the contemporary criminal justice process that create challenges for addressing domestic violence and then review what researchers have learned about specific innovations in policing, prosecution, courts, and corrections. The chapter concludes with a consideration of current recommendations to open up the boundaries of criminal justice to coordinated community responses. 186 references

Date Published: January 1, 2000