Specialized Felony Domestic Violence Courts

Research Report

Specialized Felony Domestic Violence Courts

Lessons on Implementation and Impacts from the Kings County Experience

Abstract

This evaluation documents key features of Brooklyn's Felony Domestic Violence Court model, and traces its development, implementation, challenges, evolution, and expansion. We also conducted a pre/post evaluation of how the model influences case processing, outcomes, and recidivism. We found that the existence of the specialized court seemed to change the types of cases entering it, in that prosecutors were more likely to indict cases with less severe police charges than before. This may have influenced case processing, disposition, and sentencing patterns. FDVC victims were more likely to be assigned an advocate, and defendants on pre-disposition release were more likely to be required to participate in a batterers intervention program. The Court itself produced a higher rate of disposition by guilty plea, which saves the system time and money. Interpretations of recidivism findings are severely constrained by limitations in the recidivism data and the pre/post design. We consistently found that criminal history, especially criminal contempt of court orders, predicted how well defendants performed pre- and post-disposition. Recommendations for future research efforts are offered.

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