Predicting Recidivism Among Defendants in an Expedited Domestic Violence Court

Collins, A.M., Bouffard, L.A., & Wilkes, N. (2021).
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 36(13 – 14), 6890 – 6903.
Type of Profession:
Expanded Abstract: 

Research focusing on the arrest and processing of domestic violence offenders has garnered much attention in previous years. Research has shown that the arrest of domestic violence offenders and their prosecution with a guilty disposition can result in a lower recidivism rate and may have a deterrent effect (Maxwell, Garner, & Fagan, 2001; Tolman & Weisz, 1995). Research also suggests that offenders who are arrested have lower recidivism rates than offenders who are not arrested for domestic violence among offenders with less prior violence and injury against the victim (Davis & Smith, 1995). More importantly, the arrest and prosecution of domestic violence offenders sends a message to society that this type of violence is unacceptable (Hoctor, 1997; Karan, Keilitz, & Denaro, 1999; Keilitz, 2000; Maytal, 2008; Miccio, 2005).

Specialized domestic violence courts are commonly used to process domestic violence offenders once they are arrested. These courts were first implemented in the mid to late 1990s, gaining popularity until there were 129 criminal domestic violence courts identified in the United States as of 2010 (Labriola, Bradley, O’Sullivan, Rempel, & Moore, 2010). One unique feature of domestic violence courts is the use of expedited case processing, which attempts to resolve domestic violence cases more quickly than traditional courts (Cissner, Labriola, & Rempel, 2015; Labriola et al., 2010).

For the offenders, expedited case processing has been shown to reduce the number of misdemeanor and felony arrests prior to case disposition (Davis, Smith, & Rabbitt, 2001). While not statistically significant, victims in this type of case management reported fewer incidents of abuse while cases were moving through the expedited process and a reduction of violence within 6 months of the disposition of the case (Davis et al., 2001).

This study analyzes data from a misdemeanor, expedited domestic violence court in southeast Texas to assess whether defendant characteristics and court processing characteristics influence recidivism among offenders processed through the specialty docket.

Results indicate that case processing time was a significant predictor of rearrest for domestic violence. Additionally, offenders with a prior domestic violence arrest were twice as likely to have a subsequent domestic violence arrest; offenders who received a jail sentence were significantly more likely to have a subsequent domestic violence arrest; and older individuals were significantly less likely to be rearrested. The number of prior arrests was the strongest predictor in the study, followed by age, and then gender.

In sum, the impact of prior offending in general, specifically having a previous domestic violence arrest significantly increased the likelihood of a future domestic violence rearrest. This highlights a degree of continuity in domestic violence offending regardless of the actions of the court, even though some studies have shown that intervention may reduce the likelihood of rearrest (Murphy et al., 1998). At the same time, elements of court processing (i.e., case processing time and jail disposition) did predict domestic violence recidivism, even controlling for continuity in behavior.

(The expanded abstract is excerpted and adapted from the article cited above)


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