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Lexington County Domestic Violence Court: A Partnership and Evaluation

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2003
113 pages
This report presents an evaluation of Lexington County, South Carolina’s Criminal Domestic Violence Court (CDVC) which attempts to determine whether the CDVC was successfully implemented and to assess its impact on recidivism of domestic violence in Lexington County.
In Lexington County, SC, the Criminal Domestic Violence Court (CDVC) is a specialized court that combines the efforts of law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, mental health professionals, and victim advocates, to improve the safety of domestic violence victims and hold offenders accountable. The court operates on a multi-agency collaborative approach and has handled more than 2,000 cases since its inception in 1999. Supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, both a process and outcome evaluation were undertaken to measure the extent to which the CDVC was successful in implementing its goals of establishing an effective court that enhances victim safety and providing a model of therapeutic jurisprudence. Findings of the evaluation were based on observations of court operations, interviews with key court staff, interviews with victims and defendants, analysis of arrest trends, and the recidivism rates from a sample of defendants processed through the CDVC compared to a historical comparison sample of defendants processed in traditional magistrates courts. Results from the process evaluation indicate that an effective courtroom workgroup emerged and that important systemic changes occurred in the manner in which domestic violence cases were processed. The court had changed the focus of domestic violence prosecution from a traditional passive approach to an active approach that emphasized victim safety, offender accountability, and batterer treatment. Results from the outcome evaluation suggest that domestic violence can be affected by increasing the coordinated attention of representatives from the criminal justice system. Recidivism for domestic violence offenders was significantly reduced during a period when the overall number of domestic violence arrests increased. The findings suggest that evaluations of criminal justice interventions need to examine systemic effects at multiple levels. Several recommended areas for continual improvement of Lexington County’s response to domestic violence are suggested. References

Date Published: July 1, 2003