​Does a prison sentence affect future domestic violence reoffending?

Full report - Does a prison sentence affect future domestic violence reoffending? (pdf, 497Kb)

Release date: 10.30am Tuesday 14 June, 2016


New research by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) shows that prison is no more effective in deterring domestic violence (DV) offenders than a suspended sentence.

BOCSAR compared 1,612 matched pairs of DV offenders, one of whom received a prison sentence of 12 months or less and the other of whom received a suspended sentence of two years or less.

The offenders were carefully matched on a wide range of factors, including age, Indigenous status, offence type(s), whether in custody in the last five years, level of socioeconomic disadvantage, legal representation, results of risk assessment instruments (LSI-R), past breaches of apprehended violence orders and the number and type of prior convictions.

The number of ‘free’ days before the first new proven DV-related offence was then compared across the two matched groups. No significant difference was observed in DV-related reoffending between those who were given a prison sentence and those who were given a suspended sentence.

After one year in the community, 20.3% of people given a suspended sentence and 20.3% of people given a prison sentence had at least one new DV-related offence. After three years in the community, the proportions were 34.2% and 32.3% respectively. These were not significantly different.

Commenting on the research, the Director of BOCSAR, Dr Don Weatherburn, said the results showed the difficulties involved in dealing with domestic violence.

“Locking up offenders may incapacitate them but it doesn’t seem to deter them. We need to find programs that address the underlying causes of violence, whether those causes involve alcohol, attitudes toward women or attitudes toward violence.”

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 8346 1100.

Copies of the report: www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au