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Impact of Differential Sentencing Severity for Domestic Violence Offenses and All Other Offenses Over Abusers' Life Spans

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2013
43 pages
Unlike previous studies of the effectiveness of prosecutions of domestic violence (DV), the current study used a wider lens in examining the relative effect of differential prosecutions of DV offenses over time compared to prosecutions of all other types of offenses by DV abusers (non-DV offenses), which tests the hypothesis that if sentencing for DV offenses was more severe than for non-DV offenses, then re-abuse would be significantly deterred.
The study confirmed this hypothesis. It found that abusers who were prosecuted and sentenced more severely for DV compared to their non-DV crimes during the first years of their adult criminal careers were less likely to be arrested for another DV offense. Also, the subset of abusers who were prosecuted for their DV offense but were not prosecuted for their non-DV offenses were significantly less likely to commit new DV offenses. These findings suggest that prosecutors and courts have the means to deter DV reoffending significantly by enhancing sentences for repeat DV cases. The study sample consisted of 500 DV offenders who were on probation for DV in Rhode Island in 2002 and also were involved in non-DV cases during the first 6 years of their criminal careers. Also, they had at least one non-DV case that preceded a DV case. Researchers examined every adult criminal prosecution for both DV and non-DV offenses since age 18 through April 2012. The majority had active criminal careers of at least 8 years, as measured from first to last arrest. In order to determine the impact of sentencing for DV offenses, the study controlled for the most common independent variables associated with risk of re-abuse, including number of prior offenses, gender, and age at first offense. 14 exhibits and 64 references

Date Published: September 1, 2013