Posts Tagged ‘domestic violence’

For several years now there’s been a lot of buzz about tracking offenders using Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology. Knowing where offenders are located, or where they’ve been, can help correctional agencies better monitor probationers – or so the idea goes.


Unfortunately, this hasn’t always worked as well as people believe  it should, especially in California where literally thousands of high risk offenders are easily absconding from monitoring. The reasons for these problems are complicated, and they vary by jurisdiction.

Now, though, there’s a new version of this technology available for use in domestic violence and stalking cases that relies on the concept of proximity-based networking to alert victims that a perpetrator is dangerously close.

A system of this type is currently being piloted by the county that serves the city of St. Paul in Minnesota (PDF).

The idea is simple: Since the perpetrator and victim are known to each other in these types of cases, the perpetrator can be fitted with an ankle bracelet that’s matched with a sensor carried by the victim. If the perpetrator enters a restricted area, the sensor triggers an alert that is sent by email or text message to the victim. The police are automatically notified as well.

There’s also a notification if the perpetrator tampers with or removes the ankle bracelet.

The Minnesota trial of this system continues, but the plan is to expand its use to other types of offenses if all goes well.

What are your thoughts or concerns about this technology and how it’s being applied in these cases?

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This is a guest post by Crystal Schwindt, author of “Shout the Secret: A Survivor’s Guide Through Domestic Violence and How to Thrive In Its Aftermath.” 

Much as an oil spill in the midst of a giant ocean begins as a drop and spreads quickly, slowly sucking the life out of every living thing it touches, so it is with domestic violence.  It contaminates generation after generation of a family, seeping into the cores of those exposed to it.

chained heart

It even expands to engulf our schools and our churches – affecting teachers and students, worshippers and clerics alike.  And, of course, it overwhelms our court systems, police forces, and other legal entities to the brink of potential victimization of the victim.  All of these cycles continue, much as the oil slick flows and grows on the current of the sea.

From a survivor’s standpoint, overcoming domestic violence is a challenge in its own right.  Recovery from the effects of violence and trauma is difficult to rise above in the best of circumstances.  It becomes even moreso when the person being victimized is forced – by nature of “due process”, bureaucracy, and red tape – to not only deal with their own challenges but also the external factors of a seemingly insensitive, uncaring, and self-justifying criminal justice system.

Ambulance Light

For example, historically, some of the men and women sworn to “protect and serve” within our police forces have been quite uninterested in dealing with “domestic matters.” They have, at times, even been restricted by laws that dictated the limits of what could be done when called to a domestic disturbance.  Fortunately, some states are now passing “mandatory arrest” laws that require officers to make an arrest if probable cause for an assault is established.  The only downside being that it’s not uncommon for the victim to be the one arrested.  Afterall, abusers are master manipulators of many things and perspectives — lying and making up stories being one of the biggest.

Also, police in most states, if not all, are now required to give victims in a domestic dispute a pamphlet about domestic violence with numbers to call for counseling, shelter, and other services.  This is something of an improvement, but it’s far from a total solution.

From a survivor’s viewpoint, I can tell you that the mere thought of engaging with the criminal justice process is daunting.  And, for some, this alone can become a reason not to call the police and to instead stay in an otherwise dangerous and violent relationship.  The confusion and the fear are simply too much.

What happens after the police intervene, the perpetrator is arrested, and then released on bail or bond, and comes back home? Mandatory arrest, pamphlets, and programs are not going to stop him from assaulting again. They may even make things worse.

This is difficult for people, including the police, to understand.

What you need to know is that “I” may be a victim of violence, but “I’m” not helpless and, although I may be ignorant, “I’m” not stupid. “I” make decisions every day about how to survive the challenges of living with a violent partner. Sometimes that means being quiet and staying put, and sometimes it does mean calling the police. It also sometimes means taking him back after an assault — not because “I” want to, but because there is no real, definitive protection (so to speak), and there may be other issues that “you” may not see or know that prevent me from feeling or being capable of rising to the challenges that await “me”, should “I” try to stand my ground.

And, even if none of this makes sense to you, it makes sense to me. It’s about navigating that oil spill – the sticky, unruly, and deadly waters of violence. It’s about survival.

Although Crystal is a DV survivor, she isn’t defined by that. Her experience spans 13+ years, two venues, and a multitude of courtrooms, judges, attorneys, and other legal resources, as well as representing herself on several occasions. Her book “Shout the Secret:  A Survivor’s Guide Through Domestic Violence and How to Thrive In Its Aftermath” is her fulfillment of a commitment to use these experiences for good — to help others so they may not have to endure as long.

Learn more, read about her book, and get connected to other resources at

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Because of their complexity, evaluating criminal justice interventions is a particularly challenging endeavor. Attempting to isolate and control for all of the variables involved is a real barrier, and the reported outcomes tend to suffer as a result. This is just as true for court-based interventions as it is for other any other area of the system. Single-site evaluations of a particular approach, such as a specialty court, can easily be weakened by threats to validity caused by variations in implementation.


A recent study released by the Center for Court Innovation about the effects of New York’s Domestic Violence courts took a different approach that overcomes some of the threats to validity that can limit the applicability of results. Instead of focusing on a single case, researchers examined outcomes across a system of 24 Domestic Violence courts.  They evaluated a matched sample of offenders, half who participated in a traditional court, and half who participated in a Domestic Violence court in the same system.

The results are subtle and nuanced, and provide some useful insights for jurisdictions looking to implement such a court.  Here are the authors’ conclusion:

This study of New York’s domestic violence courts demonstrated a modest positive impact on
recidivism among convicted offenders, though not among all defendants. The study did not
detect a significant overall impact on conviction rates or incarceration sentences, although the
domestic violence courts produced significantly more punitive outcomes (higher conviction and
incarceration rates) for male offenders. Consistent with previous research, the study suggests that
not all domestic violence courts seek the same goals, follow the same policy model, or achieve
the same impacts. This study also found that those domestic violence courts that prioritize
deterrence and that both prioritize and implement specific policies to sanction offender
noncompliance, while also addressing the needs of victims, are most effective in reducing
recidivism. Knowing that modest recidivism reductions are possible can set the stage for future
research and development on promising practices that offer the prospect of maximizing the
benefits of these specialized courts (emphasis added).

As in other criminal justice interventions, implementation appeared to be key to improving outcomes. It’s not just the presence of a Domestic Violence court that makes a difference, it’s the specific policies and practices, as well as the philosophical orientation of the participants that leads to positive results. In other words, the details matter.

Are you aware of any other outcome studies like the above and, if so, how do the results compare?