When legislation provides for educational or rehabilitative programmes for violent offenders, or batterers’ intervention programs, it must ensure that the safety of the complainant/survivor is paramount, and that such sentences are carefully monitored by the judge involved. (See: Knowledge Module on Partnering with Men and Boys to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls) If a batterer is sentenced only to an intervention programme, and his attendance or behavioral changes are not monitored, the implementation of the law on domestic and dowry-related violence will be seriously impaired. (See: Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, p. 53 [to be updated in early 2010]; and Batterers’ Intervention Programs, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights)
Legislation which allows batterers’ intervention programmes as an option for violent offenders must ensure that such programmes do not replace sanctions for violations of orders for protection or for acts of violence. Such programmes must be carefully regulated so as not to create excuses for offenders and so that survivors are not required to have contact with offenders. (See: UN Handbook, 3.11.6; law of Spain; and Family Violence: A Model State Code Sec 508)
CASE STUDY: Mandated court compliance in batterer intervention programs affects program completion and re-arrest rates.
A study of the court review process for men referred to batterer intervention programs by the Domestic Violence Court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, found that strict standards for compliance and immediate consequences for non-compliance increased attendance at and completion of the batterer intervention program. The study also concluded that completion of the program, coupled with the mandatory court review for compliance, lowered recidivism.
At the time of the study, about 20-30% of men arrested on domestic violence charges in Pittsburgh were referred to batterer intervention programs, but records indicated that many men did not, in fact, report to the program, and of those who did, nearly one-half failed to complete the program. For this study, the men who were referred to batterer counseling had to reappear in court in 30 days to verify their participation in the batterer intervention program, and again after 60 days to verify that they had completed the program. If the court did not receive evidence of compliance, or if evidence of non-compliance was received, a warrant for the arrest of the batterer was issued.
When there were immediate and sure consequences to non-compliance, the number of men who did not complete the program dropped from one-half to one-third. And, those who completed the program were half as likely to be re-arrested for assault as those not referred to the program.