Recently, the Center for Court Innovation conducted a study at the Bronx Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Court to track the actual impact of judicial monitoring in a high volume court. The study focused on compliance and recidivism for 439 cases mandated either to: (1) batterer intervention alone; (2) batterer intervention with substance abuse treatment; or (3) substance abuse treatment alone.
The Bronx Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Court hears over 5,000 domestic violence cases each year, making it one of the busiest domestic violence courts in the New York state. It is a multi-faceted complex with three court parts—one courtroom for pre-trial appearances, one for trials and one devoted to monitoring defendants' compliance with court orders. Like a growing number of domestic violence courts, the Bronx typically includes a program mandate as a condition of sentence—whether for a batterer intervention program, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, or other program.
Court administrators have begun to question whether a defendant's likelihood of benefiting from a program and monitoring could be assessed and made a factor of sentencing. Recently, the Center for Court Innovation conducted a study at the Bronx court to track the actual impact of judicial monitoring in a high volume court. The study focused on compliance and recidivism for 439 cases mandated either (1) batterer intervention alone; (2) batterer intervention with substance abuse treatment; or (3) substance abuse treatment alone.
The study found that initial non-compliance was a strong predictor of ultimate failure. That is, if the defendant was non-compliant at the initial judicial monitoring date, the defendant was at increased risk of complete non-compliance.
Non-compliance with court orders
What does this study mean for domestic violence courts? One lesson appears to be that judicial monitoring, particularly in the early stages of a case, can help reduce non-compliance with court orders. Here are some concrete steps a court can take to ensure swift response to non-compliance:
- Create standardized forms for compliance that can be faxed or e-mailed to batterers programs. These forms should include a deadline by which the defendant must contact the program for intake.
- Develop relationships with key stakeholders. Regular communication between the court, the District Attorney’s Office, defense attorneys, victim advocates and the mandated batterers program will reduce the opportunities for offenders to “play the system.”
- Have a separate compliance calendar and schedule early and regular compliance dates. This sends an early message to the defendant that the court takes monitoring seriously. It also allows the court to swiftly sanction a non-compliant defendant. Having a set time for compliance also accommodates stakeholders who may need to send representatives to the court.