Family violence is a pervasive and insidious problem in American society, and one that, all too often, has been ignored by the criminal justice system. Family violence affects victims across the entire age span and from all socioeconomic and ethnic groups. Child abuse, partner abuse, and elder abuse are among the types of family violence most commonly addressed by criminal justice and social services agencies. However, violence in other family relationships, such as between siblings, assault of parents by juveniles, and abuse by family caretakers of vulnerable adults (e.g., those with physical or mental impairments) also exists and must be studied more thoroughly to understand the full extent and ramifications for victims and society.
This chapter contains a discussion of the following:
n Several practices recommended for an effective community corrections response to family violence and its victims.
n The type of information that should be provided to victims of family violence.
supervision in relation to family violence cases to help protect victims.
Extent of Family Violence
The magnitude of family violence incidents is difficult to ascertain. The "family" has generally been regarded as an inviolable unit of society, protected from the scrutiny of outside contingents. Therefore, experts believe much family violence is never included in official reports. Nonetheless, known prevalence is staggering. The following data underscore the occurrence of several types of family violence:
n The majority of partner abuse crimes are committed by men toward their female partners. More than 1 million women were victims of violence at the hands of their intimate partners (husbands, ex-husbands, boyfriends, and ex-boyfriends) in 1992 (Bachman & Saltzman, 1995).
abuse has been studied less intensively than has child or partner abuse.
However, estimates range from 1 percent to 10 percent of the elderly population
experience abuse, including physical, emotional, and financial maltreatment
The significant association between family violence and other issues confronting the criminal justice system make this a critical issue to address. Children who grow up in abusive households (whether the violence is directed toward them or toward a parent) are more likely, but not destined, to live in abusive households as adults (Gelles & Cornell, 1990). Recent studies underscore that abuse of children increases the potential risk of future delinquency and adult criminality. Widom (1992) followed a sample of 908 abused children and a comparison group of 667 non-abused children for 15 to 20 years. She reached the following conclusions:
. Arrest as a juvenile by 53 percent.
. Arrest as an adult by 38 percent.
. Arrest for a violent crime by 38 percent.
n Being abused or neglected in childhood increased the likelihood of arrest for females by 77 percent.
n Physically abused children were more likely to be arrested later for a violent crime (15.8%), however this was followed closely by those who were neglected (12.5%).
Although much more research is needed, there is evidence that risk factors for various types of family violence are very similar to those for general criminality. Therefore, it is likely that within the general population of criminal offenders supervised by community corrections professionals, there are many who have committed, or currently are committing, family violence offenses. Factors that often are present among perpetrators of family violence, as well as general offender populations, usually have violence in family of origin; criminal history; substance abuse; generalized aggression, including assaults against both males and females outside the home; low education level; social isolation; and are relatively young (Gelles & Cornell, 1990; Gelles, Lackner & Wolfner, n.d.; Klein, 1994; Milner, 1995; Saunders, 1995).
A pervasive factor in all forms of family violence is
the feeling of entitlement by the perpetrator. A need for power and control
over a victim/family member often results in violence if victims are not
perceived as being compliant with offenders' demands. Perpetrators often
express feelings of "ownership" of other family members and feel they have
a right to control family members using any means.
Impact on Victims
Impact on victims of child abuse, partner abuse, and elder
abuse manifests itself in three ways:
Child abuse (inflicts lifelong scars on victims) and its potential ramifications:
n Psychological consequences such as suicide, substance abuse, lower self-esteem, and feelings of powerlessness.
and adult criminal behavior, including perpetration of violence toward
family members and others.
n Memory distortions (partial amnesia, intrusive memories, flashbacks, dissociation).
n "Flight" symptoms (high avoidance, depression).
n "Fight" symptoms (hypersensitivity to cues of danger, exaggerated startle response, irritability, and anger released during periods of low danger).
n Sleeping and eating problems.
n Physiological reactivity (seeking medical help during calm periods after abuse occurs for aches and pains associated with high stress).
In addition to the effects of partner abuse on women, children living in domestic violence situations also are adversely affected by the abuse. The consequences often encountered by children living in homes where partner abuse occurs include the following (Seymour, 1996a):
n Emotional or financial neglect.
n Emotional distress, such as fear, phobias, and depression.
n Threats and manipulation by the batterer to promote his power and control of his partner.
n Diminished self-esteem.
n Academic and/or peer relationship problems.
n Disruptions in residency when women seek shelter and/or actual homelessness.
aggression which is perpetuated toward other family members and persons
outside the home.
Key Elements for Intervening with Victims of Family Violence
Family violence has traditionally been defined as a social problem rather than an issue for the criminal justice system. Two themes often were used to rationalize neglect by the criminal justice system: (1) what happens within the family is private; and (2) resources need to be directed toward dealing with "real" crimes and criminals (e.g., bank robberies, car thefts, stranger abductions, and murders).
These two lines of reasoning are fallacious because victims deserve protection whether they experience violence at the hands of a family member or a stranger. The evidence is strong, as well, that family violence crimes often lead to, or are associated with, other types of criminal behavior. Thus, violence within families often fosters the next generation of criminals. Intervening at the earliest possible opportunity may prevent future criminal behavior. Several practices are recommended for an effective community corrections response to family violence victims:
n Case Assessment: Assessment activities include both offenders and victims. Offenders are told that victims will be contacted by the probation/parole agency initially and throughout the supervision period. Victims' accounts of the violence are heard as credible and used as a basis for making case decisions. Victims are advised during the assessment process, and subsequently, of their rights and actions they may take to increase their safety. All family violence offenders are initially classified as high-risk and assessed for substance abuse problems.
n Special Conditions of Release: Community corrections professionals and courts or paroling authorities work cooperatively to impose special conditions of release on family violence offenders that assist probation and parole officers in achieving the goals of victim safety, offender accountability, and offender behavior change. There are swift consequences for violations of these conditions and/or any further instances of abuse.
n Victim Services and Offender Supervision: In an attempt to ensure victims' safety, family violence offenders are supervised as high-risk offenders, including frequent contacts, home visits or field surveillance, investigation of records for new abuse, contact with victims (if they are willing), substance abuse monitoring, checks of attendance and participation in treatment programs, electronic monitoring or curfew checks, and monitoring of offenders' financial obligations.
n Enforcement of Conditions of Probation or Parole: Supervision protocols include ongoing contact with victims and the provision of additional resources to victims (through the probation/parole agency or referral to other agencies), such as safety planning, victim protection technologies (cellular phones, electronic monitoring), and opportunities for treatment and support.
n Trained Staff: The probation/parole agency has staff who are trained in dealing with cases of family violence and are sensitive to victims' issues. Attempts by offenders and others to deny, minimize, externalize, and rationalize abusive behaviors are challenged.
In addition to the elements listed above, the community corrections
agency should keep accurate data on cases of family violence and undertake
efforts to evaluate program effectiveness.
Victim Protection and Empowerment
Victim protection and empowerment must be a priority for community corrections. Four important reasons to emphasize victim protection and services are as follows:
2. Containment of the intergenerational transmission of violence.
3. Empowerment of victims.
4. Reduction of exposure to legal liability.
Legal liability is still another reason victim protection
is important. Many changes in legislation and policies and procedures for
law enforcement, court personnel, prosecutors, community corrections, and
treatment providers occurred largely through litigation brought by victims
or survivors of murder victims. Most lawsuits stem from victim protection
responsibilities that often have at their core the justice system's failure
to take these cases seriously. Because family violence cases involve a
known victim who is usually in foreseeable danger from an identified perpetrator,
and because these victims often have restraining or protective orders that
may be interpreted as committing the State to intensified protection efforts,
community corrections' exposure to legal liability is somewhat heightened
in these cases.
Offender Supervision and Accountability
Community corrections agencies have a public protection mandate. In family violence cases, the "public" consists of known and potential victims as well as others outside the family. The protection of all of them is a fundamental responsibility of community corrections. As discussed previously, there is evidence suggesting family violence is correlated with risk for other criminal behavior. Stringent supervision techniques and swift and sure enforcement of conditions affects the safety of identifiable victims, as well as the public at-large.
Holding family violence offenders accountable for their
actions is central to supervision and enforcement of conditions. Offenders
often exhibit a sense of entitlement toward those with whom they are intimate,
and they often are tenacious in their pursuit of victims. They may deny,
rationalize, minimize, and blame victims for their behavior. These attempts
must be confronted every time they occur. Appropriate responses from the
criminal justice system reinforce to the offender and others that violence
within the family is unacceptable, criminal behavior.
Offender Behavior Change
Family violence behavior is thought to be learned in most
cases. Therefore, with appropriate intervention, it can be "unlearned,"
or different behaviors can be learned to replace abusive ones. Appropriate
intervention is based on psychoeducational and cognitive behavioral principles
provided in group settings and specific to the type of offense(s) committed.
Intervention focuses on stopping abusive behaviors, protecting victims,
and holding offenders accountable. Traditional treatment modalities, such
as marriage counseling, anger control, and individual insight therapy have
been ineffective when used early in the intervention process or when used
exclusively. Some States legislatively prescribe appropriate treatment
in domestic violence cases because more traditional approaches have the
potential for batterers to avoid accepting responsibility for their behavior
or for failing to reduce victim danger and victim blame. It is increasingly
recognized that intervention generally should be long-term. This may require
legislation extending the period of probation or parole allowed for some
offenses. Enforcement of treatment conditions should include regularly
monitored attendance, active participation, and successful completion of
A thorough assessment is the foundation of good case planning
and intervention. It facilitates an appraisal of potential risk to victims
and a determination of appropriate intervention and supervision strategies
for family violence offenders. Each victim and offender may share many
characteristics with similar victims and offenders, but each also is unique.
Individual needs and resources must be evaluated and used as the basis
of the case management strategy.
Victim assessment should be undertaken to determine any needs victims may have, including those related to their safety. Victims also are instrumental in the assessment of offenders. They have firsthand knowledge of the offender's patterns of abuse and factors that increase the risk of violence. Because family violence offenders tend to deny, minimize, externalize, and rationalize their behavior, the victim's account is likely to be more accurate and should be used for comparison with the offender's version. Victims should be assessed in the manner that is most appropriate for their needs.
In many cases, victims of physical or sexual child abuse have a social worker from the Child Protective Services Department; they also may have a therapist working with them. Often law enforcement personnel are involved in investigative assessments of child abuse. These persons perform assessments, and it is unlikely that community corrections will have much contact with these victims. Similarly, in cases where older persons have been abused, an Adult Protective Services unit is likely to be involved. These professionals have been especially trained to work with children or elders. However, establishing working relationships with protective services agencies so vital information on the offender's supervision can be shared is important.
On some occasions, however, it may be necessary for a community corrections professional to make initial assessments of victims of child or elder abuse. This may occur if interactions with offenders indicate the possibility of abuse. For example, if a probation officer is conducting a home visit with an offender and notices a child or elder who has suspicious injuries or other indicators of abuse or neglect, a preliminary assessment of the child or elder becomes necessary to determine if a report to protective services should be made. In such a case, the following procedures should be taken:
n Approach the child or elder with respect and in a nonthreatening manner.
n Use language that the child or elder understands.
n Assure the possible victim that s/he has done nothing wrong and is not in trouble.
n If children or elders are reluctant to talk, ask if there is someone they would like to speak with (e.g., teacher, friend, relative). Express concern for their safety.
n Ask the child or elder to explain how s/he received the injury or why s/he is behaving as they are (e.g., crying, isolated, fearful).
Probation and parole officers have more frequent contact with victims of partner abuse. In most locations there is not an equivalent of a protective services agency for adults who are neither elderly nor vulnerable because of physical or developmental challenges. Some partner abuse victims seek services such as shelters, mental health counseling, or legal remedies (e.g., restraining orders). However, many victims are systematically isolated and controlled by their batterers and have little knowledge of community resources or skills for accessing needed services.
Contact should be made with partner abuse victims as soon as possible when community corrections professionals become involved with these cases. See Figure 5-1 for a suggested protocol for assessing victims. The offender should be informed from the beginning of probation or parole contact that the victim will be contacted for assessment information, and periodically throughout the period, the offender is receiving community supervision. The offender should be admonished that s/he is not to interfere in any way with such contact nor to attempt to influence the victim's response to such contact. The purpose of contact is to assess the victim's ongoing safety and needs, as well as to determine whether or not the offender is complying with the conditions of probation or parole. It should not be the responsibility of the victim to monitor the offender's behavior; however, s/he may be the only one who has certain information (e.g., if the offender has made unauthorized contact with the victim).
There are several areas to assess with domestic violence
victims. Figure 5-2 contains a list gleaned from several assessment instruments
and program manuals. Several areas listed are the same as those for which
offenders should be assessed. Figure 5-3 contains suggested interviewing
approaches for victims of partner abuse.
Figure 5-1: Suggested Protocol for Assessing Partner Abuse Victims
2. Contact the victim after interviewing the defendant in order to verify statements made by the offender. Victim contact should be made at the earliest point of contact with the offender (i.e., pretrial, presentencing, probation intake, parole planning, or parole intake).
3. Always interview victims and perpetrators separately. If both are in court for a pretrial hearing, interview the defendant first and then the victim. If the offender comes to the court or probation office alone, contact the victim as soon as the offender leaves. This allows an interview with the victim before the perpetrator has an opportunity to prepare or coach her for the interview.
4. Express concern for the victim's safety and explain the need for her involvement in the assessment process.
5. Ask the victim to describe the abuse in general and the specific incident resulting in this court involvement.
6. Use an interview guide or assessment instruments selected for the assessment process. This helps ensure a thorough assessment.
7. Explain the court and legal processes being conducted (i.e., pretrial hearing, sentencing, probation, parole).
8. Confirm the victim's mailing address or request another address where she would like to be contacted (e.g., a family member or friend). Inform the victim that a letter will be sent to her that will provide information on domestic violence and community resources available to her.
9. Mail a letter to the victim explaining the court, probation and/or parole processes affecting her. Include the name and phone number of the shelter closest to her, information about obtaining restraining or protection orders, a list of community resources she may need, information on planning for her safety, and other information on domestic abuse.
10. If a victim refuses to provide information or requests materials not be sent to her, document this in the case record.
11. Maintain the victim's contact information in a secure place separate from the offender's file.
12. Make a followup call to verify the victim received the mailed information and inquire as to whether she has any additional information to share, feels she is safe at present, or has any other problems for which she needs assistance.
Figure 5-2: Areas for Assessment of Partner Abuse Victims
Family History: Were either the victim or perpetrator abused as children or witnesses to marital violence?
Types of Violence Experienced: What types of physical and emotional abuse has the offender perpetrated against the victim?
Cycle/Frequency of Violence: How long has the violence been committed and how frequently does it occur? Is it becoming more serious? How many times have police been called? Is there a current (or previous) restraining order? Has the offender been abusive in previous relationships?
Present Offense: What is the victim's account of the present offense?
Dangerousness/Lethality: What is the victim's assessment of the danger to her and her children? What is her level of fear? What is the most serious violence she has experienced? Does she know whether or not the offender has access to weapons? In what ways has he threatened her? Has the offender ever harmed pets or taken hostages?
Suicide Threats or Attempts: Have either the offender or victim threatened or attempted suicide?
Forced Sex: Has the perpetrator forced the victim to have sex against her will?
Child Abuse: Has the offender ever abused the children? Has the family ever been investigated or received services from the child protective services department?
Substance Abuse: Do either the offender or the victim have a problem with the abuse of alcohol or other drugs? Has either of them received substance abuse treatment? Does the victim perceive substance abuse is a contributing factor in the violence?
Violence or Other Criminal Activity Outside the Home: Does the victim report the offender's involvement in abusive behaviors or other criminal activities away from home?
Property Destruction: Does the offender ever throw objects, break things, or otherwise destroy property?
Isolation of the Victim and/or Perpetrator: Is the victim allowed to work, go out with friends and family, participate in activities in the community, and receive mail and phone calls? Does the perpetrator work, have friends, and participate in activities outside the home?
Attitudes Toward Violence: Is violence viewed as acceptable or expected behavior?
Offender's Attitudes Toward Victim: Is the offender jealous, critical, or demeaning toward the victim?
Victim's Needs: Does the victim need housing or temporary shelter, medical care, financial assistance, legal assistance, educational services, counseling, or support?
Victim's Support System: Who can she turn to when she needs help or support? Does she have family or friends in the immediate vicinity? Is she aware of, or has she used, community services?
Sources: Black, 1995; Family Assault Supervision
Team, n.d.; Family Division, Connecticut Superior court, 1986; Onondaga
County Probation Department, 1991; Pence, 1989.
Figure 5-3: Interviewing Techniques for Partner Abuse Victims
Victim safety should be the first priority.
n Recognize the cycle of violence, and help her understand it is likely to happen again.
n Understand that leaving her batterer may be the most dangerous time for her.
if this is a good time to talk; avoid interviewing victims if abusers are
n Emphasize the abuser is responsible for his behavior.
n Encourage and support her if she realizes she needs to get away from danger, but do not pressure her to leave or criticize her for not leaving.
n Explain the benefits of intervention with the abuser and acknowledge that the process of change will be difficult for both for them.
Always be honest with the victim.
n Don't interrupt.
Listen to how things are said and what is not said.
n Follow responses with specific questions to get details.
n Ask for examples and specifics.
n Define terms used.
n Clarify common statements (e.g., "What did you mean when you said he hits you a lot?").
Avoid giving victims answers to your questions (e.g., Ask "What
do you argue about?" instead of "Don't you argue about the children?").
n Understand differing cultural and religious values and beliefs.
Recognize and understand victims' ambivalence; they often love their partners.
n Explain what can and cannot be done.
Be sure the victim understands that some information she shares may not
be kept in confidence.
n Offer them information that increases their choices.
n Avoid taking over and making decisions for her.
Encourage victims to take small steps toward independence and to rebuild
n Ask if she needs safe housing.
n Help her prioritize her needs.
n Provide information about services available to her.
A sample letter that could be sent to a victim of domestic
violence at the point of initial case contact is contained in Appendix
E. A sample safety plan for victims of domestic violence also is included
in Appendix E.
Offender assessment is a vital component of efforts to ensure victim protection and empowerment. When determining which offenders to assess, agencies need to make some critical decisions. Community corrections caseloads contain offenders whose present sentence results from a conviction for a family violence offense, such as domestic violence or child sexual abuse. However, there may be offenders on probation or parole for other crimes who have family violence arrests or convictions in their past records. Further, there likely are many offenders who never were arrested for a family violence offense who, nevertheless, are violent toward their family members. Andrew Klein, former Chief Probation Officer in Quincy, Massachusetts, where a nationally recognized coordinated response to domestic violence has been developed, has identified several types of offenses that are especially likely to include a family violence component. These include breaking and entering, annoying phone calls, stalking, malicious property damage, and cruelty to animals (Klein, 1996). An agency's resources and commitment to stopping the violence will influence the extent to which assessments of each of these groups will be undertaken.
The first group, adjudicated family violence offenders, must be assessed, and appropriate intervention plans should be developed to ensure victim safety. If possible, all offenders should be screened for family violence offenses, whether or not there is an official record of such conduct.
Many probation and parole professionals regularly conduct risk and needs assessments on offenders. The areas covered by these assessments also will apply to family violence cases. However, there are some special considerations for these cases, as well. Part of the assessment task often calls for the probation or parole officer to attempt to predict the degree of risk or dangerousness presented by the offender. Probation and parole professionals should be familiar with specific risk and lethality factors associated with various types of family violence. (For a more comprehensive discussion of risk factors and assessment processes, please see Chapter 10, Assessment, in Ann Crowe's Intervening in Family Violence: A Resource Manual for Community Corrections Professionals, published by the American Probation and Parole Association, 1996.)
Establishing from the beginning of intervention and supervision that the offender's behavior - the violence - will be the focus is important. At the first contact, the purpose should be articulated clearly. This may be done by the officer making statements to the offender, or the officer may ask the offender to explain why s/he has become involved with the courts (Sonkin, 1987). The latter approach allows the officer to assess the extent to which the offender employs denial, minimization, externalization, and rationalization. When the offender uses these tactics, s/he must be confronted and refuted by the probation or parole officer.
Victims' and offenders' responses to assessment questions
should be compared. Often, the victim's account will be the more accurate.
Klein (1996) recommends asking interview questions three times as more
detailed information often emerges with each repetition.
Each department should have procedures for processing cases upon adjudication and assignment to probation or release of the prisoner on parole. Agency policies should delineate how cases are referred and processed, how long offenders have to report to their supervising probation or parole officers, and any materials they should bring with them. This information should be provided to offenders before they leave court or an incarceration facility. For example, the following is the policy of the New Jersey Conference of Chief Probation Officers (1992, p. 3).
When a sentence to probation is imposed in a domestic violence matter, the defendant should be directed to report to probation immediately. Where possible, the defendant should be escorted from the court to probation, along with the appropriate paperwork.
Maryland Division of Parole and Probation Family Assault Supervision Team
The Family Assault Supervision Team (F.A.S.T.) provides a specialized form of intensive supervision to offenders who have been released to parole/probation supervision for domestic violence offenses. The supervision model focuses on offender accountability and victim safety and incorporates intensive supervision practices with the coordination of batterer's treatment and substance abuse treatment. The supervision protocol also emphasizes expeditious procedures for reporting parole and probation violations, especially those involving victim safety. . . . (Source: Family Assault Supervision Team, n.d.; Stop the Violence (Program Description). Baltimore, MD: Maryland Division of Parole and Probation.)
Agents selected for F.A.S.T. received a 2-day training session conducted by the staff of the House of Ruth, Baltimore, a comprehensive domestic violence intervention program. . . . (Source: Family Assault Supervision Team. (n.d.). Stop the Violence (Program Description). Baltimore, MD: Maryland Division of Parole and Probation.)
Initially, contact standards for offenders to report to their probation officers should be very frequent. Most program materials indicate the standard is weekly (e.g., Quincy, MA Probation Department; Klein, 1996), every-other-week (e.g., Maricopa County, AZ, Adult Probation Department; Black, 1995) or twice monthly (e.g., Maryland Division of Parole and Probation, Family Assault Supervision Team, n.d.) contact for family violence offenders.
Supervision contacts should "reinforce the probationer's obligation to the court and remind him of the consequences of violation" (Klein, 1996, pp. 15-16). Frequent contact also helps divert offenders' attention from preoccupation with the victim to the requirements of probation or parole (Klein, 1996). In addition to supervision contacts, offenders are seen in a group intervention program and possibly for drug testing and treatment. These contacts help keep offenders focused on their obligation to obey the conditions of probation or parole.
Klein (1996) recommends regular checks with other parts of the criminal justice system to be sure abuse is not continuing unbeknownst to the probation or parole officer. The following are recommended by Klein (1996):
n Weekly checks of persons held in protective custody for intoxication.
n Regular checks of local or statewide computer records of criminal cases (for any new complaint, family abuse or otherwise) and civil restraining order activity (whether initiated by the victim of record or another).
Offenders should be required to participate in group intervention
programs specifically for the type of offense they have committed (e.g.,
batterer's intervention for domestic violence offenders; sex offender treatment
groups for child molesters). Figure 5-4 provides an excerpt from Quincy,
Massachusetts Probation/Parole Manual for the Supervision of Domestic
Violence Cases Programs that describes batterers' treatment. Programs
should set firm policies about absences from treatment. Some agencies will
allow two absences before offenders are returned to court. Probation and
parole officers should receive regular information about the attendance
and participation of offenders in a group intervention program. With modern
technology, most intervention programs and community corrections agencies
can exchange information very quickly by fax or internet. The treatment
provider can fax, deliver, or mail an attendance list following each weekly
group meeting. The list also can indicate the name of any offenders about
whom the group leaders have concerns. This cues the probation or parole
officer to contact the group leader for further details. Probation and
parole officers may observe group sessions occasionally to obtain first-hand
information on offenders' progress. The same process as just described
also can be used to monitor offenders' compliance with substance abuse
Figure 5-4: Batterer's Treatment
Probationers should be referred to a certified batterer's program, those programs that specialize in the treatment of batterers that are psycho-educational, cognitive restructuring, and behaviorally-oriented. . .. Treatment in isolation, no matter how rigorous, will not be effective if not complemented and supplemented by consistent intervention by the criminal justice system to end battering behavior. . .. Mandatory treatment is preferred over voluntary treatment. It is important that the treatment agency be responsive to the probation officer's need to hold the offender accountable. . . .
To ensure victim safety, family violence offenders should be classified initially as maximum supervision cases. For example, the New Jersey Conference of Chief Probation Officers' (1992, p. 3) policy states the following:
Three approaches have been reported by probation departments for adjusting the classification of family violence offenders appropriately:
2. Some agencies use a different instrument with family violence offenders, such as the one developed in Connecticut and Colorado.
3. Some agencies add points to the regular risk assessment
form when a family violence offense is involved, such as the process used
by the Family Assault Supervision Team in Baltimore, MD. (See Appendix
E.) Figure 5-5 provides an explanation of the override system from Stop
the Violence prepared by the Family Assault Supervision Team, (F.A.S.T.)
Maryland Division of Parole and Probation.
For Item #12, Risk Assessment, the Impression of Offender Risk should be considered "high" if the typical characteristics listed in the instructions are present (i.e., rationalizes behavior; shows no intention of changing irresponsible behavior; acts impulsively and without proper deliberation). If offender risk is considered "high" score this item 5 points.
Cases with a score based level of Standard shall receive an override to Intensive level and receive Intensive level supervision for at least six months.
Source: Family Assault Supervision Team
(n.d.). Stop the Violence (Standard Operating Procedure, p. 2). Baltimore,
MD: Maryland Division of Parole and Probation.
Regardless of the mechanism used, family violence offenders
(especially domestic batterers) should be classified so they can be intensively
supervised initially to more effectively protect victims.
Special Conditions of Release
Probably the most important tool community corrections professionals will need to protect victims is suitable conditions of release for family violence offenders placed on probation and parole. Without these, officers may be unable to supervise and hold offenders accountable for behaviors that endanger their victims. Probation and parole administrators should work with judges or paroling authorities to request the appropriate conditions be imposed. Presentence investigations and prerelease assessments can be valuable procedures in assuring the conditions are appropriate for the offender. Understanding of the dynamics and consequences of family violence and the importance of pertinent criminal justice sanctions by judges and paroling authorities is vital.
The advantage of having the appropriate conditions imposed is being able to return the offender to court or the paroling authority for further action if s/he fails to abide by them. If specific conditions are not enacted, probation and parole administrators may want to consider developing agency rules that cover these areas. This can be done broadly under court directives that offenders cooperate with their supervision on probation or parole. The drawback to this approach is if the offender fails to abide by a specific agency rule, the court or paroling authority may or may not be willing to have the case returned for a review. If not, only the intermediate sanctions available to the department can be enacted. With specific conditions imposed, offenders can be returned to court or the paroling authority easily for disregarding or disobeying court orders. The court or paroling authority, then, has the option of incarcerating the offender, if appropriate.
Figure 5-6 contains an array of possible special conditions
of probation or parole that may be imposed on family violence offenders.
Figure 5-7 depicts special conditions appropriate for sexual abuse offenders.
The information in each of these figures was compiled from several probation/parole
agencies and other literature as documented in each figure.
n No contact with victims or their families.
n Abide by all court restrictions and directives.
n Submit to warrantless search and seizure.
n Electronic monitoring.
n Intensive supervision.
n Supervised child visitation and/or public drop-off/pick-up point.
n Cooperation with child/adult protective services.
n Forfeiture of weapons and suspension of license.
Release of information to third parties as appropriate.
n Substance abuse testing.
n Substance abuse treatment.
n Self-help/support groups.
Release of information to third party treatment providers.
n Noncustodial loss of liberty.
Community work service.
n Attorney fees for victim.
n Counseling for victims and children.
n Group intervention program and substance abuse treatment program fees for offender.
n Cost of urinalysis.
n Fees/court assessment.
Figure 5-7: Recommended Conditions of Release for Sex Offenders
n No contact with any child.
n No contact with victims; abide by terms and restrictions of family reunification procedure.
n Do not live with children; no new relationships with families that include children.
n Register as sex offender.
n Reside in approved location.
n Maintain appropriate/approved employment.
n Abide by curfew.
n Submit to search and seizure.
n No possession of pornographic material, frequenting of adult book stores and movie theaters, or use of 900 phone numbers.
n Remain fully clothed in public.
n Abstinence from drugs or alcohol.
n No hitchhiking or picking up hitchhikers; no operation of motor vehicle alone.
n Submit and comply with a schedule of daily activities.
No possession or use of firearms.
n Submit to psychological and/or physiological assessment (i.e., polygraph and Plethysmograph).
n Submit to substance abuse testing.
n Submit to testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
n Substance abuse treatment.
Release of information.
n Pay for sex offender treatment program.
n Pay for substance abuse testing, polygraphs, and plethysmograph tests.
The imposition of conditions should be based on an individualized assessment of each case. Some of the conditions recommended in Figures 5-6 and 5-7 may be imposed on all family violence offenders, while others should be used selectively to match the needs of the victims and offenders involved.
In developing the specific conditions of probation and
parole for family violence offenders, judges, paroling authorities, and
probation and parole professionals must keep in mind that family violence
offenses are serious criminal acts that all too often result in serious
injuries or death. The specific conditions imposed on the offenders should
reflect this reality as well as information on special needs revealed by
an individualized assessment of each case. If found guilty of a family
violence offense, offenders should experience consequences that impress
upon them the serious criminal nature of their behavior. Being sentenced
to probation or being incarcerated and later paroled is the first step.
The general consensus of most research findings, experts, and practitioners
in the area of domestic violence is that diversion of cases, particularly
if a guilty plea is not entered, is ineffective with these offenders. The
coercive power of the criminal justice system is needed to enforce the
conditions of probation and parole in order to protect victims and compel
abusers to change their behaviors (Klein, 1994).
To achieve the goal of victim protection and empowerment, probation and parole professionals need to take a more proactive role with family violence victims, especially victims of domestic violence. Some probation and parole agencies designate victims' advocates to work with victims in general or specifically with victims of family violence. This additional staff allows agencies to provide extra services victims often need. If unable to hire a victims specialist, community corrections agencies might consider the possibility of developing contracts or working agreements with victim support agencies in the community. Another option is the use of trained volunteers to assist victims. However, whether or not a victims' advocate is available, line officers supervising partner abuse offenders also should have contact with and provide services for victims.
The sooner contact is established with victims, and they hear about the specifics of the probation or parole conditions from the probation or parole officer, the less opportunity there is for the offender to contact, intimidate, or harass the victim further. At the first supervision meeting with the offender, the supervising officer should state clearly that initial and ongoing contact will occur between the victim and officer, that this is a standard procedure, and the offender should not interfere with such contact.
All initial contacts (letters, telephone, and/or in-person) should strive to ensure the safety of the victim and provide needed information. Initial contacts should include the following information; also see sample letter in Appendix E. (Sources: Black, 1995; Family Assault Supervision Team, n.d.; Klein, 1996; New Jersey conference of Chief Probation Officers, 1992.)
n The name of the probationer/parolee.
n The conditions of release provided in understandable language; details regarding no contact orders should explain that any contact, whether threatening or not, is prohibited and should be reported to the probation or parole officer.
n An explanation that only the court can modify the conditions of release, including no contact orders; clarify that no contact orders do not prohibit the offender from visitation with the children unless otherwise stated in the orders.
n How the victim can contact the officer if a violation occurs or with other relevant information; the name of another contact person (e.g., the officer's supervisor) if the probation or parole officer is not available.
n The plan for the officer to make regular contact with the victim.
n An explanation about the confidentiality of information the victim may share with the officer (e.g., it cannot be kept from the court but will not be revealed to the offender unless the victim's statement is to be entered into the court record).
n The victim's safety cannot be guaranteed - include an honest description of the limits of protection orders and offender treatment.
n Victims' rights afforded by statute or department policy (e.g., the right to notification of release, the right to attend and give testimony at revocation hearings).
n Under what conditions the victim will be subpoenaed to give testimony (to reinforce to the offender that the case is being conducted by the State and not the victim).
n Appropriate referrals with telephone numbers to include the following:
. Adult and child protection agencies.
.. Legal services.
. Victim advocates (include State numbers that may exist).
. Victim treatment providers.
. Crisis focused child and/or adult day care centers.
Enforcement of Conditions of Probation or Parole
The purpose of probation or parole intervention in family violence cases is to protect victims by changing offenders' behavior and stopping the violence. The supervision recommendations discussed previously in this chapter attempt to accomplish these objectives. However, family violence is an insidious and persistent problem fueled by learned behaviors that often are legitimized culturally. Thus, the behavior change process can be lengthy and arduous. Many offenders are unable to complete a term of probation or parole without violating some of the conditions of their probation or parole and/or committing new offenses. The role of the probation or parole professional is one of reinforcing positive behavior changes and of holding offenders accountable for their behavior through negative sanctions for unacceptable behavior.
Most offenders will commit technical violations. Family violence offenders are accustomed to being in control and often continue to act as they please by flouting court orders. Technical violations may or may not constitute new offenses, but they generally increase the potential risk to victims.
Any form of new abuse to a victim -physical or sexual abuse, threats or harassment - should be sanctioned immediately, no matter how minor. Other criminal offenses also should be confronted. New offenses can go through the normal criminal justice process, which often is very long and cumbersome. Charges must be filed, and often the offender is released again to the community while awaiting trial. In the interim he possibly is able to continuing abusing his victim.
However, if community release conditions contain terms that an offender shall obey all laws and perpetrate no further abuse, new abuse or other criminal offenses can be treated as probation or parole violations. This allows much swifter handling of the case and imposition of sanctions by returning the offender to court. It may be advisable to let the case continue along both routes: as a technical violation and as a new case for prosecution.
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges states: "Probation violations of any kind in family abuse cases should be promptly returned to the court for adjudication" (1990, p. 47). As is well understood by community corrections personnel, offender accountability goals are meaningless if sanctions are not forthcoming for violations. Failure to enforce the conditions of release is especially problematic in family violence cases because of the increased risk to the victim and the negative reinforcing message non-enforcement sends to the offender, the victim, and the public. Because of the traditional view that intimate violence is less serious than other violent crimes, enforcement for failure to attend treatment or violations of no contact orders often are not dealt with strictly by the courts; however, technical violations are often a present indicator of criminal violations yet to come (Brown, et al., 1984, as cited by National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 1990). Probation and parole officers have the unique opportunity to follow family violence offenders closely and expedite offender accountability by bringing violations back before the court or paroling authority for increased supervision, other intermediate sanctions, and/or incarceration (National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 1990). Both judicial and prosecutorial education are vital for the successful supervision of family violence cases. Judges and prosecutors must understand the tenacity with which many family violence offenders pursue their victims and the association between technical violations and future re-offending. They also need to embrace the primary goal of victim protection as they approach these cases.
An effective working relationship between community corrections
agencies and the court is vital for holding family violence offenders accountable
for violations of probation or parole. Klein (1996) recommends an arrangement
whereby only one judge hears violation cases. With this method, offenders
are likely to be dealt with more consistently. A single judge can view
a particular case in the context of all other family violence cases. This
judge would be more familiar with typical behavior patterns and better
able to respond to violators.
Supervising family violence cases is difficult work and requires skills and dedication from officers. The New Jersey Conference of Chief Probation Officers (1992, p. 3) delineated the requirements of personnel as follows:
. Experience in supervision.
. Senior probation officer status, or eligible to be.
. Experience and/or training with substance abuse.
. Interest in taking on the assignment.
. Experience in child support enforcement.
n Assess offenders' level of risk, individual needs, and resources.
n Develop appropriate case plans.
n Initiate and maintain contact with victims.
n Provide or refer victims to needed services.
n Hold offenders accountable for their behavior and comply with court orders by implementing sanctions when necessary.
n Check with other components of the justice system to learn of new charges, and new restraining or protective orders.
n Maintain contact with third party sources (e.g., treatment providers, neighbors, associates) to learn of ongoing abusive behavior.
n Provide or refer offenders to appropriate treatment services.
n Maintain appropriate case documentation.
n Monitor attendance and participation of offenders in treatment programs.
n Monitor offenders for drug use.
n Collect or arrange for the collection of any payments the offender is ordered to make (e.g., child support, restitution, victim resettlement costs).
n Arrange for and monitor the offender's compliance with special conditions of release, such as apologizing to the victim and performing community service.
n Monitor or search the offender and his/her dwelling and vehicles for weapons and signs of victim contact (e.g., children's toys; a partner's belongings).
n Enforce child (or other family) visitation requirements.
n Challenge offenders' attempts to deny, rationalize, minimize or externalize their abusive behavior.
n Provide a role model of prosocial behavior.
Figure 5-9: Victim's Services Worker
n Notify victims of new offenses by their abuser and/or changes in the status of the offender (e.g., release from incarceration).
n Help victims develop a safety plan.
n Help victims assess their needs and refer them to appropriate services and resources.
n Prepare and support victims during court procedures, such as revocation hearings.
n Communicate with all parts of the criminal justice system and community services to maintain cooperative working relationships on behalf of clients.
n Educate other staff on the jurisdiction's victims' rights requirements.
In Quincy, Massachusetts, the probation department has a policy that states the following victim contact requirements, "The probation officer shall inform the victim that the probation officer will be in periodic contact with the victim to ensure that everything is going okay, whether the probationer is living with her or not." (Klein, 1996, p.11).
Qualifications for staff in a program to intervene in family violence also should be carefully considered. Requirements for staff may vary depending on the program model, agency mission, community needs and many other factors. Clearly delineating job expectations and staff qualifications in the program planning process is important. A careful selection procedure for choosing staff to take part in the program should be undertaken. Desirable qualifications include the following:
n Prior successful experience working with community corrections offenders and victims.
n Specialized training in family violence.
n Necessary skills to perform the job duties.
Probation and parole professionals must challenge every attempt on the part of offenders to deny, minimize, rationalize, or externalize their behavior. They must be wary of offenders' attempts to manipulate them into fraternizing and colluding with them about the abuse. Sexist jokes, derogatory comments about the victim, and attempts to portray themselves as the victims must be confronted with factual information about the criminal nature of their behavior. Only through changing both the attitudes and behaviors of offenders will the violence be ended.
Education and sensitization training about family violence are important for all professionals within the criminal justice and community service delivery systems. All community corrections personnel should receive fundamental training, including the dynamics of all types of family violence and recognition of indicators of abuse in probationers and parolees and in the family members of offenders. Probation and parole officers should appreciate the potential lethality of family violence and should understand their agency's position about intervention when abuse is suspected.
For example, agents selected for Maryland Division of Probation and Parole Family Assault Supervision Team (F.A.S.T.) receive a 2-day training session. Training segments include dynamics of domestic violence, legal remedies (including Maryland's new Protective Order), intervention strategies, victim safety planning, and offender supervision. In addition to agents assigned to F.A.S.T., the training session is attended by other Division staff and representatives of Baltimore City Pre-Trial Release Services (Family Assault Supervision Team, n.d.).
Those who work with specialized caseloads of family violence offenders, or all community corrections staff if these cases are assigned throughout the agency, must receive more comprehensive training. Hofford and Harrell (1993) list several topics that should be addressed in training for justice system personnel:
n Battered-spouse and battered-child syndromes.
n The correlation between spouse abuse, child abuse, and delinquency.
n Impact of arrest.
n Evidence gathering and prosecution techniques.
n Victim safety issues.
n Proper courtroom treatment of victims, offenders, and witnesses.
n Impact of personal attitudes and gender bias on the demeanor and actions of justice system personnel.
n Sanctions available and treatment standards for offenders.
n Elements of a good protection order.
n Shelter and support services available for victims.
n Effectiveness of coordinating and consolidating cases and services.
Hofford (1991, p. 16) provides a good description of the role of probation (and parole) in supervising family violence cases: