Journal of Experimental Criminology

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 65–90 | Cite as

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

  • Linda G. Mills
  • Briana Barocas
  • Barak Ariel



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.


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).


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.


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.


Domestic violence Randomized controlled trial Restorative justice Treatment programs for offenders 



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 04529330027854000. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The authors would like to thank Lawrence Sherman and Heather Strang from the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge for their involvement in this study. In addition, we would like to thank the following individuals for their assistance: Judge Mary Helen Maley, James A. Soto, Rocio Taddei, Roger Hartley, Salmon Shomade, Yael Shy, Danielle Emery, George Chavez, Tina Schweizer, and Andrea Miller. We would also like to thank the following organizations: Santa Cruz County Court, Circles of Peace, Portable Practical Educational Preparation, Southeastern Arizona Behavioral Health Services, and Arizona Department of Public Safety. Finally, we would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of earlier versions of this manuscript as well as David Weisburd.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center on Violence and RecoveryNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Criminology University of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Institute of Criminology, Faculty of LawHebrew UniversityJerusalemIsrael

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