CSAC Initiative on Improving Domestic Violence Programs and Systems

For years Domestic Violence programs have remained in a stagnant place. Unchanged from inception and in many cases, lacking a clear evidence-base to what works in reducing intimate partner violence for those people convicted of domestic violence who are mandated to treatment.

In the early 1990s, California established a mandatory 52-week domestic violence batterer intervention program for persons convicted and placed on probation for domestic violence (DV). A 2008 study by the Judicial Council of California found a wide variety of practices, programs, and systems with several complicating socio-economic factors, between and within counties. This all leads to low program engagement rates, unmet criminogenic needs, and ultimately, high levels of recidivism as measured by new arrests. The study also found substance abuse issues confounded DV programming involvement as well as the ability to pay impacting completion rates. (Macleod et al. (2008). Batterer Intervention Systems in California: An Evaluation. San Francisco: Judicial Council of California)

Domestic violence is a complicated community problem and we have yet to figure out what works for effectively intervening with program participants to reduce recidivism. Research to date has indicated that the most common court-mandated batterer intervention programs do not reduce recidivism or alter program participants’ attitudes about violence. Further, reviews of effectiveness by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy show that most domestic violence programs have no impact on most measures of recidivism as well as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).( (Miller, M., Drake, E., & Nafziger, M. (2013). What works to reduce recidivism by domestic violence offenders? (Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy.)) Ultimately, new models and approaches are needed, both in how they are delivered as systems and programmatically by providers.

In early 2017, California Assembly Member Mark Stone introduced AB 372 (which became effective on July 1, 2019) to help advance efforts on this topic – which has likely impacted millions of Californians. The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) co-sponsored this legislation, which ultimately allowed six counties (Napa, San Luis Obispo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and Yolo) to pilot alternative interventions, focusing on creating opportunities for change to stop future incidents of domestic violence. This legislation required that alternative programs meet specific conditions, including that the pilot counties perform risk and needs assessments and that programs include components that are evidence-based or promising practices, as defined in the legislation. Additionally, the legislation required the collection and reporting of specific information to the legislature. CSAC, with the support of the Blue Shield of California Foundation, embarked on supporting these critical efforts*.

Following the Legislation, CSAC created the Initiative on Improving Domestic Violence Programs and Systems. This initiative began with the CSAC Support Hub on Criminal Justice Programming collaborating with local counties on the development and future implementation of this legislation. This included hosting convening various strategy meetings with the pilot counties in addition to working on the development of a new domestic violence analytical tool created to help counties to determine the efficacy of alternate interventions. Collaboration and data-synthetization have continued within the Support Hub and the pilot counties.

Beyond county collaboration and data-collection by the Support Hub, CSAC plans to develop and publish briefs surrounding critical topics on batterers’ interventions systems. If you are interested in receiving future information surrounding this work, please sign up here.

Links to Information and Articles Surrounding the CSAC Initiative:


*Support for this project was provided by Blue Shield of California Foundation. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Blue Shield of California Foundation.
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