Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. Assuring Compliance with Orders


Assuring compliance with orders takes a very high level of coordination in a system that is not necessarily amenable to coordination. Judges issue orders (sometimes with the input of probation officers, prosecutors, and victims) which must be monitored by courts or probation officers to ensure compliance. Batterer intervention providers and victims assist this process by reporting noncompliance to the appropriate person. Probation officers must inform judges about noncompliance and judges must issue warrants or additional orders that are enforced by the police. At any given point, this process can and does break down. If batterer intervention providers are not notified about the initial order, they cannot monitor compliance if the batterer does not show up for the program. Probation officers often have large caseloads that limits their ability to track cases as closely as they would like. Even if noncompliance is reported to the judge and a bench warrant is issued, police departments may be too busy to follow these warrants. The sites provided several different examples of approaches to ensuring batterer compliance. The effectiveness of these strategies varied considerably. While some sites are doing well, the majority struggle with compliance issues and how to handle cases more effectively.

The length of probation effects whether or not an offender is likely to fulfill the terms of probation. In Carlton County, the standard sentence for first-time misdemeanor offenders is one year probation. Offenders may have a multiple activities included in the probation period. Before attending batterer intervention programs, offenders may be required to complete substance abuse treatment, need services for severe mental health problems, or be assigned to parenting classes as well. It is often difficult for a batterer to fit all of these requirements into the probation period. Also, many offenders are aware that if they wait to begin these activities, they can often get through the probation period without having to complete the terms because no one notices or takes action. Compliance is probably no higher than 10 to 15 percent in this site. In most of San Diego County, where only felony probationers are assigned a probation officer and misdemeanor cases are the court's responsibility, follow-up is also difficult and inconsistent. However, the standard sentence is three years of probation and the length of time was not mentioned as a problem in this site.

There were also several examples of a more success successful approaches. In South Bay Municipal Court in San Diego County, one judge follows all criminal and civil domestic violence cases and compliance is very high (about 80 percent). This particular judge is very committed to the issue, however, he has recently been replaced. Depending on the level of commitment of his successor, batterers may or may not continue to be held accountable in such high numbers. In Baltimore, the F.A.S.T. probation unit has a much higher proportion of its caseload in violation of probation terms. Agents attribute this to the relationship they try to develop with victims. Often victims will call agents when an offender is in non-compliance. Also, because F.A.S.T. agents know the potential victim in advance, they feel compelled to report non-compliance and "violate" an offender sooner than they might otherwise. Northern St. Louis County also has a more effective system with: (1) two years probation as standard, (2) routine sharing between program providers and the courts (civil and criminal) of who has been ordered into a program, (3) routine monitoring of compliance by the program provider, (4) feedback to the courts and the courts' willingness to sanction noncompliance. As a result, compliance is usually over 80 percent for the batterer intervention program.