Published: February, 2011| Denise Eng, Edited by Stephanie Avalon

“The Duluth Model on Steroids” is how Ellen Pence , executive director of Praxis International , describes the Blueprint for Safety, a set of coordinated protocols for city and county agencies responding to misdemeanor and felony assaults based on knowledge gleaned from thirty years of research, demonstration projects, and practice.

Two versions of the Blueprint have been written, one specifically for the City of Saint Paul, funded by a grant awarded by the Minnesota Legislature in 2007 and a generic version for communities to use as a template or guide to create their own customized version. Both documents are based on Minnesota law and legal terminology.

The Blueprint for Safety (Blueprint) is the result of conversations and consultation with community members, practitioners, advocates, victims, defense attorneys, researchers, agency leaders, and experts in confronting this crime both locally and nationally. In the end, the leadership of the core intervening agencies and the district court bench create a successful Blueprint Community. Such leadership is the basis for any community’s effort to confront this devastating form of violence.

Foundational Principles

The Blueprint is anchored in six foundational principles identified as essential characteristics of intervention that maximize safety for victims of domestic violence and hold offenders accountable while offering them opportunities to change.

The Blueprint uses interagency policies, protocols, case processing procedures, and information sharing to:
  • (a) maximize the ability of the state to gain a measure of control over a domestic violence offender;
  • (b) use that control to intervene quickly when there are new acts of violence, intimidation or coercion; and
  • (c) shift the burden of holding the offender accountable for violence or abuse from the victim to the system.

St. Paul Police Department Chief John Harrington and St. Paul City Attorney John Choi say the Blueprint envisions a response that holds that every victim is worth fighting for and every abuser must be held to account.

The policies and protocols are designed to guide every practitioner to do everything possible each time a person reaches out to this mammoth institution for help. Each assumption underlying the Blueprint is supported by research. The Blueprint is an attempt to integrate what we have collectively come to understand as best practices in the criminal justice system response to domestic violence.

The city of St. Paul is currently training practitioners on the changes in policy and protocol resulting from the development of the blueprint. To ensure that the document and all the work that went into it are not just put on the shelf, accountability is being addressed at five levels:

  1. The system will be accountable to victim safety
  2. The system will be accountable to offender’s due process
  3. Practitioners will be accountable to other practitioners
  4. Agencies will be accountable to their own practitioners
  5. Agencies will be accountable to other agencies

Blueprint Requires Two Commitments

  1. To recreate the Saint Paul experience of agency leaders, practitioners, and victim advocates collaborating to write each participating agency’s policies and protocols. This multi-agency writing process attends to all the details of moving a case from one processing step to the next, so that each person who touches the case is positioned to act in ways that protect victims from ongoing abuse and holds offenders accountable.

    This means that no community can simply cut and paste these policies into a local document. At the same time, no community is burdened with starting from a blank slate. Just as the contractor, who uses a generic blueprint, makes specific site adaptations to the configuration of the lot, soil conditions, homeowner’s budget, and local building codes, so will local jurisdictions have slightly different versions of these basic policies and protocols. The time, research, and debate that went into this document (like the architect’s blueprint) will greatly reduce the time and effort local communities will need to write their own policies and protocols addressing the very unique crime of domestic violence.

  2. To adhere to the foundational principles described in the Blueprint. The six principles discussed in Chapter 1 are the glue that philosophically holds together this approach to domestic violence cases. They are fundamental to the Blueprint concept. We do not mean to imply other approaches will not work; rather, that the term Blueprint Community means something specific.

    To be a Blueprint Community means that the major criminal justice agencies have agreed that the six foundational principles should guide the intervention work at each step of case processing. Differences that arise about how to undertake cases or policy and procedural language, should be resolved in a way that is consistent with these six principles.

For more information about becoming a Blueprint Community, contact Denise Eng at blueprint@praxisinternational.org