Current Research Projects

I am always working on numerous projects at one time, but currently I am working on the following:

An Examination of Domestic Violence Offender Treatment Content in Colorado and the Relationship between Treatment Content and Offender Outcomes

  • Project Summary
    • Almost nothing is known about what DV treatment in Colorado actually entails or whether treatment is consistent across providers. At the same time, in Colorado many DV treatment programs are not retaining offenders, especially the highest-risk/most dangerous offenders, in treatment (Gover, Richards, & Tomsich, 2015) and/or reducing recidivism (Richards & Gover, 2015). The Colorado criminal justice system is reaching a crisis point in regard to the absence of “best-practices” in DV treatment that must be corrected. The current project will conduct evidence based practice research consisting of an in-depth examination of domestic violence offender treatment content used across treatment providers in Colorado; an evaluation of the linkages between DV treatment content and offender competencies outlined in the state Standards; and an investigation of the relationship between DV treatment content and offender outcomes to identify best practices for DV treatment in Colorado.
  • Problem Statement
    • DV is a major public health and safety issue in Colorado. In 2013, there were 15,522 victims of DV; they endured 13,070 simple or aggravated assaults, 940 cases of intimidation, 75 robberies, and 971 cases of kidnapping (Crime in Colorado, 2013). Additionally in 2013, according to the Denver Metro Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee, there were 42 DV related deaths across 16 Colorado counties. Given the prevalence of DV in Colorado and the far-reaching impact on both individual victims and the community, evidenced based practice research for the development of best practices regarding DV offender treatment is paramount. Programs shown to be effective through rigorous research are known as evidence- based practices (EBPs). EBP research in correctional settings has identified “Principles of Effective Intervention” (PEIs) including (1) risk, (2) need, (3) responsivity, (4) treatment, and (5) fidelity, such that programs/treatment models adhering to these principles result in the greatest reductions in recidivism (Radtz & Wright, 2015). While such EBP/PEI research has proliferated in many areas of correctional programming, DV treatment has not generally been a target or beneficiary of EBP research. Colorado is the ideal location to conduct EBP research on DV treatment because the DVOMB has already integrated many of the elements of PEIs into the Standards for DV treatment in Colorado. Colorado has already integrated the principle of “risk” into its approach to DV treatment by using a differentiated, non-time-driven approach to offender treatment that distinguishes between higher and lower risk offenders using a novel risk assessment: the Domestic Violence Risk and Needs Assessment (DVRNA) (Gover, 2011). The Standards mandate that specific levels of treatment (i.e., individual versus group sessions, number of treatment plan reviews) are determined and assigned to Colorado offenders based on their DVRNA score. Secondly, Colorado has integrated the “need” principle into treatment by outlining 19 competencies that offenders should achieve upon successful treatment completion. In addition, Colorado DV offender treatment attends to the principle of “responsivity” in that treatment plans identify treatment goals based on each offender’s criminogenic needs (factors related to criminality such as substance abuse, antisocial attitudes, etc.), competencies, and identified risk factors. Offenders are required to comply with the conditions of their individualized treatment plans as stipulated in their written offender contract. The principles that have not been fully integrated into DV treatment in Colorado include the principles of “treatment” and “fidelity“. In regard to the “treatment” principle, DV offender treatment in Colorado is currently a “black box” such that treatment content is virtually unknown by those outside of the specific provider and the offenders in attendance. Prior research has identified that DV treatment should be based in social learning and cognitive behavioral treatment (Radtz & Wright, 2015) and in Colorado, should be linked to the 19 competencies outlined in the Standards. Further, the principle of “fidelity” demands “regular evaluations to assess implementation and adherence to PEIs, process evaluations, and outcome evaluations” (Radtz & Wright, p.4). A recent review by Radtz and Wright (2015) hypothesize that significant financial barriers by treatment providers and philosophical barriers between treatment providers and state agencies make it nearly impossible for EBP research on DV treatment to take place and resulting best practices to be identified. The research proposed here is uniquely poised to overcome both of these hurdles. First, the commission of funding on a statewide scale eliminates the significant financial burden that individual providers/jurisdictions would usually shoulder. Secondly, the use of outside researchers who are not directly employed by the state agency that approves treatment providers’ employment (through approval and referrals) promotes higher buy-in among treatment providers and encourages providers to more freely engage in the research. In addition, PI, Dr. Angela Gover, and Co-PI, Dr. Tara Richards have already established rapport with treatment providers in the state and are committed to engaging with a treatment provider advisory council to continue to build this collaboration. At the same time, the PI and Co-PI have strong collaborative ties with both the Division of Criminal Justice and the DVOMB, the state agencies who have the power to both integrate the results into the Standards for maximum dissemination of best practices as well as to enforce adherence to best practices (e.g., through the DVOMB re-approval processes).



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