March 2007

Grant Results

National Program

New Jersey Health Initiatives Program

SUMMARY

The Domestic Violence Initiative in Passaic County, N.J., worked from 1999 through 2003 to reduce domestic violence by educating domestic violence offenders as well as counseling and supporting their victims and children.

The initiative provided 26 weeks of 90-minute classes in five sessions during the grant period. The classes included education and behavioral counseling.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) New Jersey Health Initiatives program (for more information see Grant Results).

Key Results

  • Served more than 700 domestic violence offenders with educational classes and, as needed, with substance abuse referrals.
  • Provided counseling and support services to more than 175 victims of domestic violence and their children.
  • Provided domestic violence training to Passaic County judges, representatives of police departments in the four largest municipalities in Passaic County and other high-level officials within the Passaic Vicinage Probation Division.

Key Findings

  • Nine of 56 probationers surveyed — 16 percent — repeated a domestic violence or other offense. The recidivism rate for standard domestic violence probationers is 35 percent.

Funding
RWJF provided two grants totaling $314,272 for this project.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
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THE PROBLEM

The number of domestic violence cases in Passaic County, N.J., filed with the state's Superior Court jumped from 3,669 in 1993 to 4,267 in 1997, an increase of more than 16 percent, according to the Passaic Vicinage of the Superior Court of New Jersey. In 1997, Passaic County probation officers were each working with approximately 65 domestic violence offenders, significantly above the 20 to 40 cases recommended by the county's Administrative Office of the Courts.

Although domestic violence offenders were usually ordered by the court to attend counseling, existing services in Passaic County were disjointed and sketchy, leaving judges with few places to send probationers.

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RWJF STRATEGY

The program New Jersey Health Initiatives, established in 1986, recognizes RWJF's special responsibilities to New Jersey, its home state. The program, with projects throughout the state, seeks to improve health and health care for New Jersey residents through innovative, community-based health services.

New Jersey Health Initiatives projects span RWJF's four goals: to assure that all Americans have access to quality health care at reasonable cost; to improve the quality of care and support for people with chronic health conditions; to promote healthy communities and lifestyles; and to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse — tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs. This project meets RWJF's substance abuse goal.

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THE PROJECT

The Domestic Violence Initiative, a collaborative effort of the probation and family divisions of Passaic Vicinage of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Passaic County Prosecutor's Office and Passaic County Women's Center, began in 1999.

The overall objective of the project was to reduce the incidence of domestic violence in Passaic County and increase community awareness of domestic violence and its effects. The primary strategy was to provide educational and substance abuse services to domestic violence offenders and counseling and support services to their partners and children.

During the planning grant (ID# 035791), the Passaic Vicinage Probation Division trained:

  • Passaic County probation officers and staff members from the family court and the women's center in the Duluth Model, a nationally and internationally recognized educational and behavioral intervention for domestic violence offenders.
  • Passaic County Family Court judges on domestic violence offenders and their treatment.

Project staff also visited domestic violence programs in New York City and Boston to examine best practice models.

Under the implementation grant (ID# 037964), the Passaic Vicinage Probation Division, Passaic County Family Court, Passaic County Prosecutor's Office and Passaic County Women's Center implemented the Domestic Violence Initiative to provide education, intensive counseling and substance abuse referrals to Passaic County domestic violence offenders as they are released from jail and placed on probation; the initiative also provides counseling and support services to their families.

Judges in the Passaic County superior, family and municipal courts identify appropriate domestic violence offenders — those who are over age 18, do not have a serious mental health or substance abuse problem and speak at least minimal English — and refer them to the Domestic Violence Initiative. Participants sign a contract stating that they will attend 26 weeks of classes as a condition of their probation. Probation officers, who are certified domestic violence counselors trained in the Duluth Model, co-facilitated the classes with counselors from the Passaic County Women's Center (after January 2003, probation officers taught classes alone).

Project staff members refer offenders who are substance abusers to treatment programs and monitor their progress. Probation officers conduct routine urine and breathalyzer tests on probationers attending classes. The Passaic County Women's Center provides free counseling and housing referrals to domestic violence victims and their children. The Domestic Violence Initiative collaborated with the Best Practices Domestic Violence Committee; the Passaic County Domestic Violence Working Group; and the county's health care, welfare and housing systems.

Project staff worked with Charley Flint, Ph.D., a professor from William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., to review the pre- and post-test questionnaire for domestic violence offenders attending the Domestic Violence Initiative classes and develop better pre- and post-tests.

The pre-test, given to offenders who attend the 26 weeks of educational classes, tests their understanding and knowledge of substance abuse and violence before the intervention classes. The post-test assesses whether there has been an increase in knowledge and understanding, and abstinence from violence.

William Paterson University provided in-kind support for this work, and an informal assessment of the impact of the Domestic Violence Initiative (see Assessment).

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RESULTS

The Domestic Violence Initiative:

  • Served more than 700 domestic violence offenders with educational classes and, as needed, with substance abuse referrals:
    • More than 700 offenders attended 26 weeks of 90-minute classes based on the Duluth Model. There were five 26-week sessions held at the Probation Division offices, including evening sessions to accommodate working participants. Classes covered:
      1. patterns of abusive behavior
      2. beliefs that contribute to violence
      3. the impact of violence on partners, children and the offenders
      4. alternative non-abusive and non-controlling behavior
      5. recognizing patterns of eliminating, minimizing, denying and blaming behavior
      6. differences between authoritative and equal relationships.

      Probation officers certified as domestic violence counselors and counselors from the Passaic County Women's Center co-facilitated classes until January 2003 when Passaic County probation officers began teaching classes alone.
  • Provided counseling and support services to more than 175 victims of domestic violence and their children. The Passaic County Women's Center provided these free services to victims and children.
  • Trained probation officers in the Duluth Model. The Passaic Vicinage Probation Division held two three-day training sessions in May 1999 and February 2001. In 1999, in addition to probation officers, the division trained staff from the Family Court, the Passaic County Women's Center, New Jersey State Police, Passaic County Board of Social Services, Concerned Citizens for Head Start and local service providers. In 2001, the division trained 35 people, including 10 probation officers from Passaic County and probation officers from Passaic, Bergen, Morris and Hudson counties in New Jersey.
  • Provided training on domestic violence to staff at collaborating and other organizations, including the Passaic County Women's Center, the Probation and Family Division of the Passaic Vicinage of New Jersey Superior Court, Legal Aid, Passaic County Prosecutor's Office, the Passaic County faith community, Passaic County Board of Social Services and William Paterson University. This enabled those organizations to work effectively with the Domestic Violence Initiative, and with domestic violence probationers and their families.
  • Provided domestic violence training to Passaic County judges, representatives of police departments in the four largest municipalities in Passaic County and other high-level officials within the Passaic Vicinage Probation Division. As a result of the training, domestic violence became a focus of attention in Passaic County.
  • Provided domestic violence technical assistance and training to the Paterson Police Department and Bergen County Probation Division. In 2001, Bergen County implemented domestic violence educational classes for male probationers convicted of domestic violence offenses.
  • Was recommended as a Best Practice for the New Jersey State Judiciary. In 1999, the New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts' Best Practice Domestic Violence Commission recommended the Domestic Violence Initiative as a Best Practice model. As a Best Practice model, the Domestic Violence Initiative has been recommended for implementation statewide.

Assessment

The collaboration with William Paterson University led to an informal assessment of the Domestic Violence Initiative, focused on probation violations and repeat offenses by probationers. The informal assessment, conducted by a student intern under Flint's supervision, randomly sampled 56 probationers who completed the Domestic Violence Initiative classes. It found:

  • Nine of 56 probationers surveyed — 16 percent — repeated a domestic violence or other offense. Four probationers were rearrested for acts of domestic violence, four violated their probation and one had a new restraining order issued against him. The recidivism rate for standard domestic violence probationers is 35 percent.

Communications

Passaic County domestic violence probation officers presented information on the Domestic Violence Initiative to Superior Court of New Jersey judges assigned to the Family Division in Passaic County and representatives of the Paterson, Passaic, Clifton and Wayne police departments; the Passaic County Women's Center; the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office; Save Our Sisters; the Administrative Office of the Courts; and other county organizations. See the Bibliography for details. The Bergen County Record published an article about the project.

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LESSONS LEARNED

  1. A collaborative project requires a substantial amount of time to mesh the busy schedules of participants. Project staff of the Domestic Violence Initiative found that discussing the details of the project required many meetings. Coordinating the schedules of everyone involved was difficult and time-consuming. (Project Director)
  2. Providing training to key individuals and staff of agencies and organizations on a public health issue has the ripple effect of raising awareness of the issue within the community. The Domestic Violence Initiative provided training on domestic violence to Passaic County judges, probation officers, police departments, social service organizations and others. This raised awareness of domestic violence in Passaic County. (Project Director)

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AFTER THE GRANT

The Domestic Violence Initiative continues to provide classes and substance abuse referrals for domestic violence probationers, as well as support services and counseling to domestic violence victims and their children. The Passaic Vicinage Probation Division still provides domestic violence education training and technical assistance to other counties. The Probation Division continues to use the pre- and post-test questionnaires.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Program to Counsel and Treat Substance-Abusing Domestic Violence Offenders and Their Families

Grantee

Superior Court of New Jersey Passaic Vicinage Probation Division (Paterson,  NJ)

  • Amount: $ 24,872
    Dates: December 1998 to November 1999
    ID#:  035791

  • Amount: $ 289,400
    Dates: November 1999 to May 2003
    ID#:  037964

Contact

John Krieger
(973) 247-8632
john_krieger@judiciary.state.nj.us

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)

Sponsored Workshops

"Domestic Violence 101," February 24, 1999, Paterson, N.J. Attended by 45 individuals from numerous organizations, including the Passaic County Probation, Family and Municipal Divisions of New Jersey Superior Court, Passaic County Women's Center, Passaic County Prosecutor's Office, Legal Aid, Paterson Police Department, William Paterson University, the Passaic County faith community, Straight and Narrow, Passaic County Board of Social Services, Jewish Family Services and Concerned Citizens for Head Start.

"Education Groups for Men Who Batter," May 17–19, 1999, Paterson, NJ Attended by 40 individuals representing Passaic County Probation and Family Divisions of New Jersey Superior Court, Passaic County Women's Center, Passaic County Prosecutor's Office, Paterson Police Department, Straight and Narrow, New Jersey State Police, Passaic County Board of Social Services, Jewish Family Services and Concerned Citizens for Head Start.

"Domestic Violence Training," July 12, 1999, Paterson, N.J. Attended by 35 individuals, including judges of the Superior Court of New Jersey assigned to the Family Division in Passaic County and representatives of the Paterson Police Department, Passaic Police Department, Clifton Police Department, Wayne Police Department, Passaic County Women's Center, Passaic County Prosecutor's Office, Save Our Sisters and the Administrative Office of the Courts.

"Domestic Violence Initiative Educational Classes," from 1999 through 2003, Paterson, N.J. Five 26-week sessions were provided to domestic violence offenders in Passaic County. Attended by more than 700 domestic violence offenders.

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Report prepared by: Karin Gillespie
Reviewed by: Lori De Milto
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Pamela Dickson

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