This article discusses the effectiveness of a domestic violence court in Lexington County, SC.
Domestic violence courts, similar to drug courts, emphasize the need for treating domestic violence with special attention and separating and distinguishing the process from the traditional criminal court process. Recent estimates indicate that over 300 courts have recognized the need for special attention to domestic violence cases. But there is little evidence of the effectiveness of specific domestic violence courts and their processes. Most domestic violence court evaluations have been conducted in urban settings. The separate domestic violence court in Lexington County, a rural area, was designed to hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable through increasing fines and time spent in jail, as well as placing a strong emphasis on mandatory batterer treatment. The court focuses its efforts on coordination and cooperation among agencies responding to domestic violence. This study evaluated the effectiveness of the misdemeanor criminal domestic violence court in Lexington County. Two methods of quantitative analysis were used to examine the overall impact of the court on case outcomes and community safety: a time series intervention analysis and a recidivism analysis. The findings indicate that a coordinated response among local law enforcement, mental health, and the courts can be effective in combating domestic violence in local settings. Recidivism for domestic violence offenders was significantly reduced during a period when the overall number of domestic violence arrests increased. The success of this domestic violence court had a lot to do with the centralized structure of the court and the extensive coordination among key agencies dealing with the problem of domestic violence. Mental health, victim, and defendant service providers were present in every court session. 6 figures, 6 tables, 6 footnotes, 38 references