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«Evaluation of Three Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions: FVEP, EXPLORE, and EVOLVE Stephen M. Cox, Ph.D. Professor Pierre M. Rivolta, Ph.D. ...»

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Evaluation of Three Court-Mandated Family Violence

Interventions: FVEP, EXPLORE, and EVOLVE

Stephen M. Cox, Ph.D.


Pierre M. Rivolta, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Institute for the Study of Crime and Justice

Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Central Connecticut State University

June 2014

This project was funded in part through a contract from the Connecticut Judicial Branch. The Connecticut

Judicial Branch nor any of its components are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, the views expressed in this report.

Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions Central Connecticut State University


The Connecticut Judicial Branch, through its Court Support Services Division (CSSD) funds three court-mandated program options for family violence offenders: the FVEP, EXPLORE, and EVOLVE. In addition to these three court-mandated programs, a number of providers and agencies outside of CSSD engage in individual counseling and group work with family violence offenders. Public Act 13-247 An Act Implementing Provisions of the State Budget mandated, under section 53(a), that an evaluation be conducted to “…assess the effectiveness of programs maintained by [CCSD] with respect to family violence...” (i.e., FVEP, EXPLORE, and EVOLVE). Moreover, the law specified that “such assessment […] consider findings from the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative’s cost-benefit analysis model [to] determine whether any program changes may be implemented to improve the cost-effectiveness of such programs.” The current research was conducted pursuant to the legislative requirements outlined in Public Act 13-247. Faculty from the Institute for the Study of Crime and Justice at Central Connecticut State University were contracted to evaluate the effectiveness of the Judicial Branch’s three court-mandated family violence interventions: FVEP, EXPLORE, and EVOLVE. This report presents the outcomes of this evaluation.

Overview of the Court-Mandated Family Violence Programs The FVEP is a 9-week pretrial program that meets once per week for 1.5 hours. Its purpose is to educate defendants (male or female) on how violence affects relationships and to provide them with basic interpersonal skills to develop violence-free relationships. The FVEP is currently available in all 20 Geographical Area court locations. EXPLORE is a 26-week 26 session postconviction and post-plea program for male family violence offenders (1.5 hour sessions, once per week) based on a cognitive behavioral therapeutic framework. Its purpose is to foster behavioral change through developing awareness, building positive interpersonal skills, and promoting the understanding of the harmful effects family violence has on victims and children. EXPLORE was available in 13 court locations until 2012, when it was made available in all court locations.

EVOLVE is a 26-week 52 session (2-hour sessions, twice a week) post-conviction program. It is an intensive cognitive behavioral intervention designed for high-risk family violence offenders (male only), which centers on victims and children, behavior change, interrelation and communication skill building, and responsible parenting/fatherhood. EVOLVE is currently available in four court locations (Bridgeport, New Haven, New London, and Waterbury).

Study Methodology and Research Questions The evaluation employed a quasi-experimental research design with propensity-matched comparison groups. Data for this study were collected electronically from official records in the Judicial Branch’s CSSD Case Management Information System (CMIS), the CSSD Contractor Data Collection System (CDCS), and the Connecticut Criminal History database. The propensity matching process consisted of identifying similar offenders who were eligible for each of the three programs but did not attend. We believe the matching process was successful in creating comparison groups closely related to program participants.

Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions Central Connecticut State University The study had three research questions: (1) what were the completion rates for each program and were there statistically significant differences between program completers and non-completers;

(2) was the one-year arrest rate for any new offense or family violence offense of offenders who participated in the program statistically significantly different from those offenders who did not participate in the program; and, (3) were there measureable program effect sizes?

For the first research question we looked at the completion rates for program participants and identified differences between completers and non-completers. Our results were consistent with CSSD internal reports in finding that the completion rate for the FVEP was 84%, 68% for EXPLORE, and 65% for EVOLVE. The non-completers across all three programs were generally younger, higher risk, and had more extensive criminal histories.

To address the second research question, one year arrest rates for program participants were compared to their respective comparison groups. We found that program participants in all three programs had lower one year arrest rates. For the FVEP, 26% of program participants were arrested compared to 36% of the comparison group. For EXPLORE, 30% of participants were arrested compared to 51% of the comparison group. For EVOLVE, 35% of program participants were arrested compared to 55% of the comparison group. In looking at one year family violence arrests, all three programs produced lower arrest rates although these differences were only statistically significant for EXPLORE.

The third research question attempted to quantify the effects of the programs. Effect sizes were calculated by comparing the differences in one year arrest rates for program participants to the comparison groups. The effect size calculations for any new criminal arrest found a small effect for the FVEP at decreasing recidivism for program participants (-0.29), a moderate effect for EXPLORE participants (-0.54), and a moderate effect for EVOLVE participants (-0.50). The odds ratios allowed for a more straightforward interpretation of these effects, in that, offenders in the EXPLORE comparison group were 2.4 times more likely to be arrested than offenders participating in EXPLORE, offenders in the EVOLVE comparison group were 2.27 times more likely to be arrested than EVOLVE participants, and offenders in the FVEP comparison group were 1.61 times more likely to be arrested than FVEP participants. When looking at family violence arrests, significant effect sizes were only found for the EXPLORE program (-0.40). The odds ratio for this effect was 1.94. In other words, offenders in the EXPLORE comparison group were almost twice as likely to be arrested for another family violence offense than EXPLORE participants.

Overall, these findings are small to moderate but encouraging given the results of meta-analyses of domestic violence program evaluations. These meta-analyses generally have found that batterers’ programs produce small effect sizes or have no overall effects. While the present evaluation accomplished its goal of calculating the effects of the FVEP, EXPLORE, and EVOLVE family violence programs, we recommend more in-depth and broad research to better understand why these programs as effective as well as their ability to positively affect the lives of family violence victims.

–  –  –

Executive Summary

Table of Contents

Introduction and Background of the Project

Review of Relevant Literature

National and State Statistics Regarding Family Violence

Standards Regarding Types of Batterers’ Interventions Programs

Effectiveness (or Lack Thereof) of Batterers’ Interventions Programs

Family Violence Legislation, Process, and Interventions

Legislation and Process

Family Violence Education Program (FVEP)



Evaluation Methodology

Research Questions

Data Collection Process

Summary of 2010 Family Violence Arrests

Evaluation Design

Evaluation Outcome Measures

Calculation of Effect Sizes

Plan of Analysis

FVEP Outcome Findings

Matching Process for FVEP

Comparison of FVEP Matched Study Groups

Differences Between FVEP Program Completers and Non-Completers

FVEP One Year Arrests

Effect Size Calculations for FVEP

EXPLORE Outcome Findings

Matching Process for EXPLORE

Comparison of EXPLORE Matched Study Groups

Differences Between EXPLORE Program Completers and Non-Completers

EXPLORE One Year Arrests

EXPLORE Effect Size Calculations

EVOLVE Outcome Findings

Matching Process for EVOLVE

Comparison of EVOLVE Study Groups

Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions Central Connecticut State University Differences Between EVOLVE Program Completers and Non-Completers

EVOLVE One Year Arrests

EVOLVE Effect Size Calculations

Summary and Conclusions

Summary of Findings

Recommendations for Future Research

Legislative Recommendations


Appendix A: Overview of the FVEP Curriculum

Appendix B: Overview of the EXPLORE Curriculum

Appendix C: Overview of the EVOLVE Curriculum

–  –  –

In Connecticut, family violence has been a concern for legislators since the late 1970s, and in 1977 several laws were passed to protect spouses in domestic disputes cases (e.g., via restraining orders).1 It was not until 1986, however, that the Connecticut General Assembly enacted legislation comprehensively addressing family violence (Public Act 86-337, An Act Concerning Family Violence Prevention and Response). The law, which followed the brutal stabbing of Tracey Thurman by her husband in Torrington, CT, redefined family violence, provided directions to law enforcement agencies and the courts regarding how family violence cases should be handled, and required the Judicial Branch to maintain family violence intervention units in each of its geographical areas. Since then, modifications to this law have been made almost every year.2 Over the past 20 years the number of family violence incidents occurring in Connecticut has remained steady, hovering between 19,000 and 21,000 per year, despite mandatory arrests and greater public awareness of this issue. In 2011, for instance, there were a total of 20,494 family violence incidents that led to an arrest. These incidents involved 18,132 victims and 16,644 offenders. The wide majority of cases (17,782 or about 87%) involved an arrest on a charge of assault, breach of peace or disorderly conduct. That year, family violence resulted in 18 homicides (an 18% decrease from the previous year).3 It is important to highlight that these statistics represent cases known to the police and represent only the “tip of the iceberg.” According to the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), 56,178 victims received services through their 18 member agencies in 2011.4 The Family Violence Prevention and Response Act of 1986 contained certain provisions to deal with perpetrators of family violence. For instance, it established the Family Violence Education Program (FVEP), a short-term pretrial diversionary program for low-risk offenders. In 1996, ten years following P.A. 86-337, the Judicial Branch established in Bridgeport the first domestic violence docket in the state, setting the tone for a statewide expansion of specialized court dockets to deal with family violence issues. Defendants in these dockets are typically referred to specific court-mandated interventions: EXPLORE and EVOLVE. The Judicial Branch’s Court Support Services Division (CSSD) oversees these three programs.

As mentioned above, P.A. 86-337 has been amended quasi-annually since 1986. The 2011 amendment to the law (see P.A. 11-152, An Act Concerning Domestic Violence), required the Judicial Branch (and its Chief Court Administrator) to conduct two studies on the effectiveness of pretrial family violence programs and domestic violence dockets in the state It is important to note that the issue of the domestic violence, as a social problem affecting our nation, started garnering the attention of the public at large, legislators, and criminal justice practitioners alike, in the 1970s (see Barner & Mohr Carney, 2011).

See OLR Report: Summary of Family Violence Laws, available at http://www.cga.ct.gov/2009/rpt/2009-Rhtm See DESPP’s 2011 Family Violence Arrest Report, available at http://www.dpsdata.ct.gov/dps/ucr/data/2011/2011%20Family%20Violence%20Arrest%20Report.pdf See http://www.ctcadv.org/information-about-domestic-violence/statistics/ for more information.

Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions Central Connecticut State University (i.e., FVEP, EXPLORE, and EVOLVE), and to submit a report on those studies to the Judiciary

Committee.5 Specifically, the bill read:

Sec. 20. (a) The Chief Court Administrator shall conduct a study of the principles and effectiveness of the pretrial family violence education program established in section 46b-38c of the general statutes, as amended by this act, using a results-based accountability framework. The study shall include, but not be limited to, the identification of goals of the program, the identification of fundamental elements and critical components of the program, an assessment of short-term and long-term outcomes of the program, an assessment of the feasibility and cost of extending the pretrial family education program beyond the nine weeks currently provided, an assessment of the feasibility and cost of extending programs known as EVOLVE and EXPLORE to all regions of the state, and a comparison of the program to pretrial diversionary domestic violence programs used in other northeastern states.

(b) The Chief Court Administrator shall conduct a study of the principles and effectiveness of the domestic violence dockets in this state and related contracted programs using a results-based accountability framework. The study shall include, but not be limited to, the identification of the goals, fundamental elements and critical components of the dockets, and the identification of short-term and long-term outcomes of the dockets and related contracted programs.

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