Monday, October 27, 2014

The case for treatment in domestic violence cases

Dallas Judge Roberto Cañas authored an op ed in the Morning News (Oct. 26) on family violence prevention, calling for expanded use of treatment programs for abusers in lieu of incarceration. Here's a notable excerpt:
No ironclad evidence exists to prove that intervention and prevention classes are the miracle cure for domestic violence. But treatment can make a difference — and the judicial system would be smart to require this rehab of as many offenders as possible.

A new study by the University of Texas at Dallas found that Dallas County abusers who were sent to the classes were less likely to commit another act of domestic violence than those sentenced only to time in a cell.

The 2,000-plus misdemeanor cases the UTD team analyzed involved first-time offenders and less-violent crimes. The rehab-over-jail approach seems particularly effective here: Catch the problem — and work to correct it — before behavior is ingrained in the psyche.

Instruction starts with educating the culprit on what actually constitutes abuse as well as the basics of leading a nonviolent life.

That might sound way too elementary to many readers, but remember that the destructive behavior usually grows insidiously — impatience and harsh teasing turn into name calling and cold shouldering, then into denigrating emotional abuse. At some point, the blows turn physical.

Successful anti-abuse education also must persuade the class that violence is a choice. Why would you punch a spouse in anger when you’d never think of cutting loose on your boss or cable guy?

The best way to accept lessons like these is shoulder-to-shoulder with other abusers. Accountability within the group and a commitment to check in with one another over the long haul are key.
Support for anti-battering education doesn’t mean kicking the judicial system out of the picture. Classes work only if partnered with the courts and law enforcement.
Focusing on treatment instead of incarceration may also persuade more victims to cooperate with law enforcement instead of protecting their partners if they think they might get help instead of being jailed as a result of their participation in the case.

Obviously this isn't a prescription for every case - especially the more extreme ones - and there's evidence that some domestic violence treatments aren't necessarily effective. But Judge Cañas is probably right that society's punitive mindset toward abuse prioritizes punishment over behavior modification in a significant number of cases where more could be done to change the family dynamic rather than simply punish, grandstand, and move on.


Anonymous said...

I've always thought it was most ironic that cops (who we're supposed to call in cases of Domestic Violence) are the same ones who inflict more of it on their very own families than anyone else:

And these guys don't just slap their wives occasionally, they kill them:

The law enforcement profession has such a huge problem with domestic violence that there are literally dozens of organizations which try and address the issue:

And even in cases where the spouse survives, there are never any charges filed:

Anonymous said...

Here's the names of these fine married officers who shoot each other and don't get charged:

And here's even a photo of our boy:

And there are still some who insist we don't live in a police state. Go figure...

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Judge Canas for pursuit of effectiveness in reducing domestic violence. Media has brought the issue to light with pro athletes assaulting spouses. However, this is an epidemic that needs to be given more scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

Domestic violence. Is it an epidemic or the thug culture?

Anonymous said...

Depends on whether or not you thing the "thug culture" is an epidemic?

Anonymous said...

In Austin, a shocking number of people arrested for domestic assault are not guilty of the offense. Family violence assaults are messy because people usually don't just strike a loved one out of the blue for no reason. Physical violence that might not be morally justified is nonetheless often legally justified under Texas law. An action that would clearly be assault if taken out of the blue, may well be legally justified by a number of factors such as reasonable self-defense, defense of a third person, defense of personal property, or ejecting a trespasser.

The problem is that the written APD policy requires the arrest of the primary aggressor but does not provide clear guidelines for making that determination. The most sensible approach would be to arrest whichever committed the first illegal act, including threats. Unfortunately, it seems more common that they decide who experienced the most physical pain and then arrest the other.

Another issue is that many officers mistakenly believe that the policy requires an arrest for any "Hot Shot" dispatch on a domestic dispute. They feel pressure make an arrest even when they do not believe an assault actually occurred so they just make an arrest and let the attorneys sort it out on the back end.

Finally, the APD policy manual specifically says that only one arrest should be made in most cases of mutual assault. It doesn't say WHY the officer should arrest only one combatant but I presume it would make the cases more difficult to prosecute if the defendants can point the finger at each other.
You can get your own copy of the APD policy manual via open records.

CC4 probably has the most dismissals of any County Court. The prosecutors seem to think this is because "the poor recanting victim don't know whats good for her." There may be some that that but I think the real reason is that the police policy is poorly developed and driven by DV-prevention advocates.

I am just commenting on the way DV cases are policed in Austin, not trying to justify wife beating or whatever.