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Program Profile: EVOLVE: Court-Mandated Program for Serious Male Batterers

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 29, 2020

Program Summary

This is a court-mandated, post-conviction intervention for males at high-risk for perpetrating family violence. The program is designed to decrease family violence through cognitive–behavioral approaches. The program is rated Promising. There was a statistically significant lower likelihood of arrest for any offense for participants, compared with the control group. However, there were no statistically significant differences found between the groups in family violence arrests.

Program Description

Program Goals
EVOLVE is a court-mandated, post-conviction intensive batterer intervention for high-risk male family violence offenders. The primary goal of EVOLVE is to decrease family violence by focusing on the impact of violence for victims and children, interrelationship and communication skills, responsible parenting/fatherhood skills, and behavior change. Completion of EVOLVE is typically part of an individual’s sentence.

Program Components/Target Population
Under legislation enacted in 1986, Connecticut Judicial Branch is required to provide family violence interventions for batterers (Cox and Rivolta 2019). Three interventions are offered, and the most intensive is EVOLVE. The EVOLVE program, which operates in four separate Connecticut courts, includes participants that have already participated in Connecticut’s other two family violence program, and/or are the highest risk male batterers.

As a part of the program, participants are required to complete a 26-week program (comprised of two 2-hour long sessions per week), for a total of 52 sessions and 104 hours. Using cognitive behavioral therapy, EVOLVE is a classroom-based educational program broken into three components: orientation sessions, ongoing education sessions, and change group sessions.

The orientation sessions are designed to establish rules, allow participants to familiarize themselves with one another, promote accountability, and lay the groundwork for teaching the fundamentals of non-violent and non-abusive behaviors. The ongoing education modules provide the core curriculum, covering the following topics: 1) what kind of man do I want to be; 2) managing my feelings; 3) the effects of violence on victims; 4) communication and listening skills; 5) fatherhood and domestic violence; 6) sexuality, violence and aggression; 7) aggressiveness, passiveness, and assertiveness; 8) current topics and money; and 9) compromising about difficult issues. These sessions are delivered through a variety of formats, such as lessons, videos, exercises, discussions, and role-plays/scenarios. The goal of the ongoing education modules is to provide the foundation for men to establish non-violent and non-abusive behaviors in their intimate relationships. Each ongoing education session is paralleled with a change group session, which predominately focuses on practical application. In the change group sessions not only do men review homework that was assigned in the ongoing education sessions, they apply the topics that were learned in those sessions to real life situations; thus, reinforcing and promoting behavior change.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Any Arrest
Cox and Rivolta (2019) found that participants in the EVOLVE program were significantly less likely to be arrested compared with comparison group participants. At the one-year follow-up, participants in EVOLVE had an arrest rate of 35 percent, compared with 55 percent of the comparison group participants; this difference was statistically significant.

Family Violence Arrest
There were no statistically significant differences between EVOLVE program participants and control group participants on family violence arrests during the one-year follow-up.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
To assess the impact of the EVOLVE program on reducing recidivism, Cox and Rivolta (2019) used a quasi-experimental design with a matched comparison group. To create a matched comparison group, propensity score matching (PSM) was used. First, individuals eligible for, but not referred to, the program were identified (reasons for non-referral could include defendants entering a plea agreement that did not stipulate participation in EVOLVE and/or substituting EVOLVE for private counseling or therapy). The final sample included 185 EVOLVE participants and 1,442 no-program comparison cases.

Next, PSM was then employed to ensure that participants in the comparison and EVOLVE treatment group were similar on 14 covariates, including age at arrest, racial group membership, court location, family violence risk assessment total score, family violence risk assessment calculated risk level, family violence risk assessment calculated risk to victim, and others. Using the nearest neighbor matching algorithm, EVOLVE participants were matched to one individual in the comparison group whose propensity score was the closest. This was completed until all 185 program participants were matched with an individual in the comparison group. After the matching was complete, analysis revealed that the matching procedure improved the balance between the treatment and comparison groups (meaning there were no statistically significant differences between the two groups on demographic, criminal history, family violence risk factor variables). The final sample consisted of 370 male batters (185 treatment group; 185 comparison group), and was 37 percent African-American, 32 percent Hispanic, and 29 percent white. Across both groups, the average age was 31, the average family violence assessment risk score was 14, and the average number of prior arrests was 8.

To determine the impact of the EVOLVE program, two outcomes of interest were examined: 1) any new criminal arrest within 12 months of discharge from the program for the treatment group, or any new criminal arrest within 12-months from the initial arrest for comparison group; and 2) any new family violence arrest within 12 months of discharge from the program for the treatment group, or any new family violence arrest within 12-months from the initial arrest for comparison group. A multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to assess program effects while controlling for race/ethnicity, age, family violence risk score, and criminal history. The study did not conduct subgroup analyses.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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The EVOLVE program is run by a non-profit organization and is funded and operated by the Connecticut Judicial Branch, who awards funding to operate the EVOLVE program through a competitive bidding process. A member of the Connecticut Judicial Branch monitors the program by auditing the program’s financial and client records, examining programing attendance and completion, and conducting site visits (Cox and Rivolta 2019).
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Cox, Stephen M., and Pierre M. Rivolta. 2019. “Evaluative Outcomes of Connecticut’s Batterer Intervention for High Risk Offenders.” Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 1–19.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Cox, Stephen M., and Pierre M. Rivolta. 2014. Evaluation of Three Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions: FVEP, EXPLORE, and EVOLVE. New Britain, Conn.: Institute for the Study of Crime and Justice, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Central Connecticut State University.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Interventions for Domestic Violence Offenders: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The practice includes interventions that are designed to reduce partner violence by identifying and changing the thought processes leading to violent acts and teaching offenders new skills to control and change their behavior. These interventions use cognitive behavioral therapy as applied in a domestic violence setting. The practice is rated No Effects in recidivism outcomes for violent offenses and No Effects in reducing victimization.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
No Effects - More than one Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Victimization - Domestic/intimate partner/family violence
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Program Snapshot

Age: 21 - 40

Gender: Male

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic, White, Other

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting, Courts

Program Type: Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Violence Prevention

Current Program Status: Active

Program Director:
Joseph DiTunno
Judicial Branch Deputy Director, Court Support Services Division
State of Connecticut Judicial Branch
455 Winding Brook Drive
Glastonbury CT 06033
Phone: 860.368.3896

Stephen Cox
Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Central Connecticut State University
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain CT 06050
Phone: 860.832.3138