When legislation provides for educational or rehabilitative programs 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 program, 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 programs as an option for violent offenders must ensure that such programs do not replace sanctions for violations of orders for protection or for acts of violence. Such programs 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)
For example, the law of Georgia places the responsibility for rehabilitation centres for abusers with the a specific Ministry, and states that “Such centres shall meet standards set by the Ministry of Labour, Healthcare and Social Protection for institutions of such kind and ensure temporary placement, psychological assistance and treatment of abusers.” (Article 20)
For an example of detailed standards for program structure, accountability, curriculum and administrative guidelines, see: Virginia Standards for Batterer Intervention Programs, for the state of Virginia, USA, last rev. 04/09.
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.