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Free Content The Crime Control Effects of Criminal Sanctions for Intimate Partner Violence

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A prior review of published research established that once an intimate violence offense results in an arrest, the use of criminal prosecution and conviction is more commonplace than traditionally thought. The substantial use of criminal sanctions beyond arrest heightens the salience of whether criminal sanctions for intimate partner violence have a crime control effect or not. This research seeks to contribute to this discussion by providing a systematic review of 31 published studies that provide evidence regarding the crime control benefits from prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of intimate partner violence offenders. This review describes the characteristics of each of these studies, summarizes the substantive findings reported, and evaluates the research designs, measures, and methods used. Across these studies, we array 143 reported tests into three crime prevention hypotheses: the prosecution hypothesis, the conviction hypothesis, and the sanction severity hypothesis. Based on the analyses and conclusions produced by these studies, we find that the most frequent outcome is that sanctions that follow an arrest for intimate partner violence have no effect on the prevalence of subsequent offending. However, among the minority of reported analyses that do report a statistically significant effect, two thirds of the published findings show sanctions to be associated with reductions in repeat offending and one third show sanctions to be associated with increased repeat offending. Our examination of the methods used by these studies identified seven common issues that suggest that the research designs used are inadequate to assess the relevant public policies and criminological theories. Based on our systematic assessment of the published studies, we conclude that the preponderance of the reported findings show no effect for criminal sanctions; moreover, the quality of the research methods used in this research provide an insufficient basis to support a conclusion about the use of criminal prosecution and sentencing for intimate partner violence.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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