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The Safety and Accountability Audit

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2004
12 pages
Based on the concept of institutional ethnography, this paper provides instruction in the rationale and methodology of a safety and accountability audit of agencies involved in addressing cases of intimate partner violence (IPV).
Institutional ethnography as a research approach was developed by Canadian sociologist Dorothy Smith (1987). Researchers in institutional ethnography are concerned about developing methods that enable practitioners to improve their understanding of the institutional order that sets the parameters and features of their activities in achieving the stated goals of the organization for which they work. The network of agencies that respond to IPV victims and hold perpetrators accountable consists of layers of legal, bureaucratic, and professional structures and processes that impact what happens in such cases. Institutional ethnography traces these processes as sequences of institutional activity in which people participate at various levels and capacities. Using institutional ethnography to achieve social change involves explaining how practitioners' work has been organized to standardize the ways in which the institutions for which they work act on IPV cases. The two questions asked in such an audit are the following: 1) How is the case being managed by workers in the system in ways that produce problematic outcomes for IPV victims? 2) How are workers organized to account for and improve victim safety and offender accountability? Answering these questions involves the creation of an audit team that can identify specific practices that produce poor outcomes regarding victim safety and offender accountability in IPV cases. Such an audit will focus on how the work routines of 911 operators, police officers, jailers, prosecutors, judges, and other practitioners are organized to achieve victim safety and offender accountability at every point of interaction with institutions that impact the case.

Date Published: October 1, 2004