«Evaluation of Three Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions: FVEP, EXPLORE, and EVOLVE Stephen M. Cox, Ph.D. Professor Pierre M. Rivolta, Ph.D. ...»
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 the FVEP completion rate was 84%, 68% for EXPLORE, and 65% for EVOLVE. The EXPLORE and EVOLVE completion rates were the same or higher than studies of other cognitive behavioral programs for male batterers. For instance, completion rates for 24 to 52 week programs have ranged from 40% (Mills, Barocas, and Ariel, 2012) to 66% (Herman, Rotunda, Williamson, & Vodanovich, 2014). For all types of batterer interventions, Jewel and Wormith’s meta-analysis of 30 studies found that completion rates ranged from 22% to 78%. The non-completers across all three programs were generally younger, higher risk, and had more extensive criminal histories. Two additional findings were that African-Americans had the lowest completion rates for the FVEP (80%) and EVOLVE (51%) while Hispanic participants had the lowest completion rate for EXPLORE (59%).
Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions Central Connecticut State University To address the second research question we compared one year arrest rates for program participants to their respective comparison groups. We found 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 a 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.
These findings range across programs but are encouraging given the results of metaanalyses of domestic violence program evaluations. These meta-analyses have generally found small effect sizes for batterers’ programs (Babcock et al., 2004; Feder & Wilson, 2005) or no overall effects (Arias et al., 2013; Miller et al., 2013).
Recommendations for Future Research
The present evaluation accomplished its goal of calculating the effects of the FVEP, EXPLORE, and EVOLVE family violence programs. While it addressed the requirements of the legislation we make three recommendations for more in-depth and broad research of these programs to provide detailed feedback for program improvement.
First, we were unable to conduct process evaluations of the three programs due to the narrow scope and time constraints of Public Act 13-247. Process evaluations are helpful in determining program fidelity and also collecting more detailed information from program participants. This study was limited to official automated records from the Judicial Branch and the Connecticut Criminal History database so we were unable to explore the influence of offenders’ attitudes and perceptions of family violence, their criminal thinking, or their psychosocial profiles. These data would have provided more insight as to why some offenders did well in these programs and others did not. Additional studies of the three family violence programs should have a broader scope and a longer study period to allow for the collection and analysis of Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions Central Connecticut State University data from a variety of sources. We suggest undertaking additional research on these programs to better understand what makes them effective.
Second, we initially planned to have an 18 to 24 month follow-up period to measure longer term effects of the programs. However, this was not possible due to several unanticipated factors beyond our control (namely, the amount of time between the initial arrest and case disposition, the number of court continuances for family violence cases, the length of time between the initial arrest and program entry, and the lack of automated program data prior to 2010). Therefore, we recommend the Judicial Branch continue to collect arrest data for all of the study groups to assess future criminal behavior and program effects beyond the one year followup period.
Third, the overarching purpose of the evaluation was to assess the three programs’ effects on offenders returning to the criminal justice system. While this was important to better understand the cost-benefits of these programs for future funding decisions, it is also important to measure and understand the effects these programs have on the lives of family violence victims. Although an offender may not get rearrested (and would be considered successful in this evaluation) he/she may still be abusing or traumatizing his/her victims. It was beyond the scope of this study to collect data from victims and we recommend that future research include their involvement.
Legislative Recommendations This evaluation of the three Judicial Branch family violence programs found they have been effective in reducing recidivism of program participants. Therefore, we recommend continued legislative support of these programs.
We also recommend legislation requiring all non-Judicial family violence programs be grounded in evidence-based practices. Connecticut is only one of six states that do not have guiding policies or requirements for family violence programs (along with Arkansas, Mississippi, New York, South Dakota, and Wyoming). Because of this, it is possible for family violence offenders who are eligible for one of the three court-mandated programs to attend different types of programs that have not been shown to be effective at reducing future violence (such as individual counseling, couple’s therapy, anger management, substance abuse treatment, counseling, etc.). Although we cannot determine exactly why offenders in the comparison groups did not attend a court-mandated program, we believe that many of them attended an alternative program and likely had higher arrest rates than offenders completing a court-mandated program, where the Judicial Branch has created and monitors specific requirements. Therefore, we recommend the General Assembly consider legislation mandating all family violence programs be state-certified and required to adopt consistent protocols for screening and assessment, program content and modality, program length, staff education and training qualifications, data collection and reporting, and periodic outcome evaluations and dissemination of findings. Such legislation should also prohibit the substitution of alternative approaches to family violence treatment in lieu of state-certified programming.
Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions Central Connecticut State University
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