Lethality Assessments Show Promise for Limiting Further Violence

What are lethality assessments and how can they help? The practice is one of many highlighted in the recent survey by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).

One model — The Lethality Assessment Program—Maryland Model (LAP) – was created by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV) in 2005. The goal is to identify victims most at risk of serious injury or death by their intimate partners and connect them to service programs. In Maryland, trained officers ask victims questions in their Lethality Screen for First Responders.

Dr. Campbell

Dr. Jacqueline Campbell

Read about the roots of the model, adapted from Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell’s Danger Assessment.

PERF’s study found that 42 percent of responding agencies use lethality assessments, or “structured risk” tools – to assess the level of danger a victim faces. The yes-or-no questions help determine the need for a safety plan. Questions include whether violence from the offender has increased; whether the offender has a criminal history or a history of drug or alcohol abuse; whether the abuser has violated an order of protection; and whether the victim has decided to leave the offender.

Of the agencies using this assessment, 81 percent include the findings in the police report, the PERF survey found. Seventy-nine percent of agencies using the tool say responding officers administer the assessment.

MNADV says using LAP has “improved partnerships and collaboration among law enforcement officers and other community practitioners and advocates.” Agencies have created new guidelines for hotline advocates who speak to high-danger victims and special protocols for health care providers.

Researchers who studied seven Oklahoma police jurisdictions found that “the LAP demonstrates promise as an evidence informed collaborative police-social service intervention that increases survivors’ safety and empowers them toward decisions of self-care.”

Download that report here.

More than Half Of Colorado Offenders Did Not Complete Mandated Treatment

coloradoA team of academics recommended changes to Colorado’s domestic violence offender treatment programs after a study found that more than half of the state’s domestic violence offenders at significant risk of re-offending failed to complete their assigned treatment. The findings were the result of a yearlong study of more than 3,000 domestic violence cases in Colorado.

The recommendations, outlined in a 20-page report released in February, include more cautious reassessment of offenders over the course of treatment; continued research on the effectiveness of batterer treatment models; standardized tools to demonstrate treatment milestones and success; and development of best practices with co-occurring disorders. The research was done by Tara N. Richards, assistant professor in the University of Baltimore’s School of Criminal Justice in the College of Public Affairs; and Angela Gover, professor in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver. They spent a year evaluating how organizations were implementing the Domestic Violence Offender Management Board’s state Standards policy on responding to domestic violence.

Press releases summarize the policy as including the use of multidisciplinary treatment teams consisting of a probation officer, treatment provider, and victim treatment advocate to supervise domestic violence offenders, and the assigning of offenders to differentiated treatment intensity levels based on their criminogenic risks and needs.  The report notes that Colorado has mandated court-ordered treatment for domestic violence offenders since 1987. Although most states have such policies, “Little is known about the extent to which these standards are implemented as intended and if so, whether they are effective in reducing recidivism,” the report says.  In addition to increased safety for the victim and the community, treating offenders “provides the offender with the opportunity for personal change by challenging destructive core beliefs and teaching positive cognitive-behavioral skills,” according to the report.

Researchers found that almost half of the domestic violence offenders in the study were placed in high-intensity treatment (rather than low or moderate intensity) because of “significant criminogenic risks and needs, such as prior domestic violence or non-domestic violence crimes, substance abuse, or the use or threatened use of weapons against their victims.”

Richards and Gover will continue to work with domestic violence treatment providers in Colorado to improve ways to engage offenders in treatment, the universities reported.

Tougher Laws Proposed in South Carolina on State’s High Domestic Violence Rate

Proposed changes to South Carolina’s domestic violence law could increase the penalties for offenders and make it harder for them to reoffend.

Proposals include revoking gun ownership rights for 10 years for many domestic violence offenders. This sensible policy would both keep victims safer and make it more difficult for offenders to escalate violence and face further criminal charges.

nikkiA Greenville Online editorial concedes that limiting gun ownership does not guarantee an end to repeated domestic violence incidents. “Louisiana adopted such a law last year and the results six months after it was implemented show the law restricting gun ownership has had little impact to date,” the editorial says.

Legislative proposals in South Carolina also support increasing jail time and fines for offenders; reforming bond provisions and improving educational efforts. Another proposal would create a tiered system for charging offenders, which would allow prosecutors more leeway in imposing punishments most appropriate for the level of abuse.

According to a 2013 report by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), in a single 24-hour period, more than 66,000 victims of domestic violence received help and support from service organizations in the United States. In South Carolina, 475 domestic violence victims were served by 11 programs that participated in the count.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has created a task force that hopes to change the state’s generational cycles of domestic abuse. The task force and the bills follow a series by The Post and Courier that reported that 300 women in the state were killed by their husbands and boyfriends in the last 10 years. For more than 15 years, South Carolina has been among the top 10 states nationally in the rate of women killed by men, the newspaper reported.

One reason for that, experts say, is an entrenched history of domestic violence. Gov. Haley hopes the state’s task force will change the culture. “What you hear is whispers,” Haley said in early February. “People whisper about domestic violence. They pray about it, but they don’t talk about it. If we are not talking out loud about it, we are denying something that is very real in South Carolina.”