A randomized controlled trial of restorative justice-informed treatment for domestic violence crimes

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Recent innovation in domestic violence (DV) treatment suggests that when a batterer intervention programme (BIP) is combined with clinical elements, including motivational or readiness to change strategies, subsequent incidents of violence can be reduced. Prompted by previous research on restorative justice in reducing recidivism in crimes other than DV, a randomized controlled trial in Utah, USA, compared a typical BIP with one that included restorative justice-informed treatment, called circles of peace (CP). The findings reveal that the ‘hybrid’ BIP-plus-CP resulted in statistically significant reductions in both new arrests (53%) and crime severity scores (52%) for all offences, including DV, over a 24-month period. We conclude that a hybrid BIP-plus-CP programme should be considered as a viable treatment option for DV offenders. Implications for DV victims are discussed, as are the study’s limitations, including the fact that some elements typical of restorative justice programmes could not be attained in this DV context.

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Fig. 1: CONSORT flowchart.
Fig. 2: Estimated marginal means and 95% Wald CI for difference in new arrests and severity.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon request.

Change history

  • 01 October 2019

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.


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This research was funded by the National Science Foundation (award no. 0964821). The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. We would like to express our gratitude to the study participants for allowing us to gain greater insight into DV treatment programmes. This study involved several invaluable partnerships with key constituent groups, including the judiciary, a community-based agency and universities. More specifically, we would like to thank the Salt Lake City Justice Court, including J. Baxter, L. G. Cutler, J. Robison, S. Magid, C. Roberts, V. Ward and C. Preece. Additionally, we would like to thank the local treatment provider (and all the clinicians) that partnered with us for this study. We are grateful to all the members of the research team who worked on this project from New York University, including L. Al Neyadi, J. Borgeson, J. Cipollina, D. Emery, M. Takele Kassa, Y. Lee, M. Mangafas, R. Mehta, F. Mohmad, M. Radler, R. Shimizu, Y. Shy, Y. Shyrokonis and T. Taylor, and from the University of Utah, including A. Earp, E. Grundvig, A. O’Neill, K. Prince, K. Riley, L. Taholo and E. Becker Worwood.

Author information

L.G.M. and B.B. conceived the study. L.G.M., B.B., R.P.B. and B.A. designed the study. B.B. and R.P.B. managed the data collection. B.B. developed the codebook and coding procedures and oversaw the coding of the data. B.A. analysed the data with input from L.G.M., B.B. and R.P.B. B.B. led the drafting of the manuscript. L.G.M. and B.B. led the revising of the manuscript with contributions from the other authors. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the findings and writing the final manuscript.

Correspondence to Linda G. Mills or Briana Barocas.

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Mills, L.G., Barocas, B., Butters, R.P. et al. A randomized controlled trial of restorative justice-informed treatment for domestic violence crimes. Nat Hum Behav (2019) doi:10.1038/s41562-019-0724-1

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