Pilot Program Will Allow Treatment Flexibility for Domestic Violence Offenders
In the early 1990s, California lead the nation by establishing a mandatory 52-week domestic violence batterer intervention program for persons placed on probation for domestic violence battery. Under state law, probation chiefs are responsible for assessing offender needs and certifying and monitoring domestic violence batterer intervention treatment programs. For the most part, the controlling statutes for batterer intervention programs have not been updated since 1994.
However, late last week, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 372 by Assembly Member Mark Stone, which was sponsored by CSAC. The new law allows six pilot counties to take alternative and innovative approaches to treating domestic violence offenders.
In 2012, the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI) released a report that found domestic violence offenders generally have a high rate of recidivism. Further, studies using direct victim interviews over a period of time estimate repeat violence in the range of 40 to 80 percent of cases.
The report–Evidence-Based Practices for Assessing, Supervising and Treating Domestic Violence Offenders–also looked at the effectiveness of batterer intervention treatment programs and stated that “domestic violence is a complicated community problem and we have yet to figure out what works for effectively intervening with batterers to reduce recidivism. Research to date has indicated that the most common court-mandated batterer intervention programs do not reduce recidivism or alter batterers’ attitudes about violence.”
With over 7,000 offenders in prison with a primary or secondary domestic violence offense, it is critical that the batterer intervention treatment programs that offenders are required to participate in are effective programs that are based on an offenders needs and can provide the necessary treatment that the offender needs to stop him or her from re-offending.
AB 372 creates a pilot program that would allow the counties of Napa, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Yolo to offer an alternative and innovative evidence-based approach to the current batterer’s intervention treatment program, if certain requirements are met. This measure is the first step in assessing whether there are treatment programs that do not necessarily comply with current statutory requirements, but that more effectively address the criminogenic needs of batterers and reduce recidivism.