“The time has come for change,” said Karen Jarmoc, chief executive officer, CCADV. “In Connecticut, when a victim of intimate partner violence seeks help from the police, twenty percent of the time she or he will also be arrested along with their abuser. Our state has struggled with this challenge for more than 30 years.”
Said Jarmoc, “the information we have gathered over the past seven months has demonstrated that Connecticut’s challenge with dual arrest is statewide, with 87 of 106 law enforcement entities demonstrating a dual arrest rate that is double or more than double the national average of 7%. This is unacceptable and I know Connecticut can do better.”
A dual arrest occurs when law enforcement arrests both parties at an intimate partner violence incident (note: intimate partner refers to spouses, former spouses, individuals who are dating, or individuals who have a child in common). Connecticut has a mandatory arrest law for all incidents of family violence for which law enforcement finds probable cause. Expected to provide the appropriate response when established in the late 1980s, the mandatory arrest law has seemingly resulted in the unintended consequence of a high dual arrest rate since its inception. There is no one system to blame for this situation. Various stakeholders, including law enforcement, are simply doing their jobs and adhering to the existing structure of Connecticut’s family violence arrest law.
“I cannot stress enough the devastating impact that a dual arrest can have on a victim of domestic violence,” said Barbara Damon, CCADV board member and executive director of Prudence Crandall Center, which provides shelter, court advocacy, counseling, prevention, transitional and permanent housing programs for domestic violence victims living in New Britain and the surrounding central Connecticut region. “Imagine what it would be like to finally summon up the courage to reach out for help or to call the police during an incident when you feel your life is in danger, only to end up being arrested yourself. What are the chances this victim will ever reach out for help again? Far too often, a dual arrest is putting victims in this situation and basically removing their safety net going forward.”
This project, which was guided by multiple criminal justice and advocacy stakeholders, confirmed that the impact of dual arrest is far-reaching. For victims, their journey just begins when they are arrested and entered into the criminal justice system as a defendant. The financial impact is immediate with long-term consequences for the stability of the family – they will likely need to hire an attorney, take time off of work to attend court, pay for childcare to attend court, and potentially be left with a criminal record.
Data gathered through the project also demonstrates that dual arrests create compression within the criminal justice system. Family violence cases account for one-third of all criminal court cases in Connecticut and over 20% the intimate partner arrest cases are dual arrest. Meanwhile, the majority of individuals arrested as part of an intimate partner dual arrest are screened by the court as being at a low to moderate risk for reoffending. There is an opportunity to understand what resources within the criminal justice system might be repurposed if Connecticut did not have such a high dual arrest rate.
No less than eight studies on Connecticut’s dual arrest rate have occurred over the past 30 years, all with similar results to this latest project. There are barriers, such as structural limitations within the law, liability concerns and the need for additional, specialized training, guidance and administrative support that must be addressed if Connecticut is going to bring its dual arrest rate in line with the rest of the country. To that end, CCADV outlines the following recommendations in its report:
Consider structural modifications to laws governing (a) family violence arrest policies and related police liability and (b) training across systems to reduce Connecticut’s dual arrest rate.
Develop a universal and standardized training curriculum for use across all of law enforcement and other relevant stakeholders to include court officers, prosecutors and advocates. The curriculum design should be comprehensive and establish sufficient attention to adequately cover the complex issue of domestic violence.
Establish a new approach to family violence data collection and reporting requirements across systems so that any policy change can be measured for its efficacy.
Strengthen all systems with training that speaks to the unique needs of domestic violence victims around trauma, children, substance use, mental health, and culture.
Leverage Connecticut’s Lethality Assessment Program to more affirmatively develop distinct approaches in dual arrest situations.
Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Inc. is a membership organization made up of the state’s 18 domestic violence agencies. Help is available to victims 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Each agency offers free services to victims including a toll-free hotline, safety through shelter, counseling and support groups, and by assisting in securing a restraining order. If you or someone you know needs support, call the statewide free and confidential hotlines at 888-774-2900 (English) or 844-831-9200 (Español) to be connected to your local domestic violence agency. For more information about CCADV visit us online at www.ctcadv.org.