, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 65-90

The next generation of court-mandated domestic violence treatment: a comparison study of batterer intervention and restorative justice programs

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Abstract

Objectives

The most common approach to treatment of domestic violence crimes in the United States is the mandated group-based Batterer Intervention Program (BIP). Several alternative treatment approaches have been developed over the years, including a restorative justice-based treatment program for domestic violence offenders called Circles of Peace (CP). This study compared a CP program administered in Arizona with a local BIP program, in controlled settings.

Methods

This study involved a randomized controlled trial with 152 domestic violence cases randomly assigned to either BIP or CP between September 2005 and March 2007. Independent sample t tests were used to measure treatment outcomes post-random assignment, in terms of both domestic violence and non-domestic violence re-arrest rates during four follow-up periods (6, 12, 18, and 24 months).

Results

CP participants experienced less recidivism than BIP during all follow-up comparisons. However, statistically significant differences were detected only for the 6-month (p < .1) and the 12-month (p < .05) follow-up comparisons for non-domestic violence re-arrests, and no statistically significant differences were detected for the domestic violence re-arrests.

Conclusions

The findings are generally statistically non-significant at .05. While these results do not suggest a change in policy from BIP to CP for domestic violence crimes, it does dispel the popular belief that restorative justice cannot be used to treat domestic violence criminal activity, in that CP does no worse than the traditional batterer intervention program. Given the low statistical power and high attrition rates, more research is necessary to test CP and restorative justice treatment generally in court-mandated domestic violence cases in order to understand the treatment impact on both domestic violence and non-domestic violence offenders.