Despite an increasing family violence caseload in Connecticut, there remains a wide disparity in the way state courts handle these cases, from pushing defendants to go through intense programs under the threat of jail to going little beyond the standard prosecution, reports the Hartford Courant. A 1986 law made arrests mandatory in domestic violence cases, but the measure didn’t say how courts should handle the resulting cases. While strides have been made with special family violence dockets in nine of the 20 lower-level courthouses, there is little uniformity in approaches and outcomes.
The conviction rate ranges from a high of just over 30 percent in Bridgeport to about 10 percent in Bristol. The statewide average is about 20 percent. Eleven of the state’s 20 lower-level courthouses do not have a specific judge assigned to domestic violence cases. Judges who specialize in such cases point to higher conviction rates and higher levels of compliance with treatment programs as evidence that having the same judge follow cases all the way through makes an impression on defendants and helps reduce repeat offenses. Court officials say assigning more judges to family violence cases takes time, money, and resources that the strapped judicial branch doesn’t have. The branch just took a $12.8 million budget hit this year and is looking at having to close several courthouses.