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Published: Saturday, 10/23/2004

Study cites deterrents to domestic violence

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It's not exactly a shocker, but a study by the University of Toledo Urban Affairs Center has found that jail time or probation tends to discourage repeat domestic violence offenses.

Two researchers yesterday announced their analysis of 500 sample domestic violence cases from Toledo Municipal Court.

The study is part of a comprehensive effort involving Mayor Jack Ford, Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak, the courts, police, and others to curb domestic violence.

Lois Ventura, assistant professor of criminal justice, and Gabrielle Davis, law instructor, said their study showed that most domestic violence perpetrators were repeat offenders.

Of those studied, 59 percent were arrested previously for domestic violence.

The study tracked 204 cases that ended in a conviction for domestic violence. Fifteen received a suspended jail sentence with no probation or merely a fine. Of those, 10 were arrested for the same offense again within 12 months.

Of the 189 who received jail time, probation, work release, or at-home monitoring, only 23 percent were rearrested in 12 months.

"The deterrent impact of prosecution can be negated if you just get a slap on the wrist," Ms. Ventura said.

Domestic violence is a first-degree misdemeanor if the offender knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical injury to another member of the family or the household. The potential penalty is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Domestic violence is a fourth-degree misdemeanor meanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine if the offender knowingly causes a member of the family or household to fear imminent physical harm.

Sharon Gaich, the city's domestic violence prosecutor, said her office is focusing on the worst first-time offenders, followed by repeat offenders.

Jerome Phillips, a Toledo defense lawyer, said very few convicted offenders avoid at least being put on probation, and he agreed that probation or jail is a deterrent.

"They don't want to go back to jail," he said. "The fact they have been arrested and are on probation is a significant deterrent."

The study authors also said the city should keep training police and prosecutors in "evidence-based" prosecution.

Police started training last year in collecting evidence that can be used in case the victim refuses to testify, descriptions of the damage, medical records, initial statements the victim makes to police, and photographs of injuries and damage.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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