Published: May, 2014| Andrew Klein, Ph.D., Judge Michael Denton, James E. Henderson Jr., MSW

The faculty discuss research from a statewide study in Rhode Island on the impact of differential sentencing of batterers on recidivism. The investigation examined the severity of sentencing of DV perpetrators for both DV and non-DV offenses at the beginning of their “criminal careers.” The research revealed that the rate of new DV crimes was lower for those batterers who were initially sentenced more severely for DV crimes. The study tracked batterer involvement in the criminal legal system for twelve years after the initial DV prosecution, comparing the rates of criminal conduct (DV and non-DV) within the first 6 years after the predicate offense (baseline period) to the rate of criminal conduct in the following 6 years. Higher rates of DV re-offending after six years were associated with: more lenient sentencing for all criminal conduct, more severe sentencing for non-DV crimes compared with DV offenses, young age at first criminal legal system involvement, male gender, and higher numbers of crimes, both DV and non-DV, in the baseline period. Lessons implicit from research: DV crimes should be sanctioned more severely than non-DV crimes. More severe sanctions (both the conditions imposed by the courts and the accountability required by probation staff) deterred recidivism over the life course.