Not every domestic violence crime can be resolved by using the “first time” offender program. For instance, when the criminal charges involve serious felonies, or if the client is a “second time” or greater offender, the client will not be eligible to participate in the program.
Our court system imposes progressive discipline for domestic violence crimes. In severe cases, courts will impose greater sanctions against the client. There are two other court-supervised programs that can also be used, in part, to resolve domestic violence cases. However, unlike the Pretrial Family Violence Education Program, these programs require the entry of conditional guilty pleas and engaging in lengthy group counseling and treatment sessions for a prolonged time period.
Conditional guilty pleas are agreements entered into by a criminal defendant with the court and prosecutor. They are frequently used to resolve complex domestic violence cases. The client will plead guilty to criminal charges, usually felonies, but the court will refrain from imposing a sentence pending the client’s completion of specific conditions. If the client successfully completes these conditions, a lesser non-jail sentence is imposed. On the other hand, if the client fails to successfully complete their release conditions, a lengthy jail sentence is normally imposed. When conditional pleas are entered for a domestic violence case, the usual release condition is to successfully participate in either the Explore Program or the Evolve Program in Connecticut.
The Explore Program
The Explore Program is a group-based treatment program for male offenders convicted of domestic violence crimes against their female intimate partners. Explore is managed by local community providers, and participation in the program is overseen by prosecutors and other court representatives. Explore is available on a state-wide basis. Explore requires participation in 26 weekly classes addressing domestic violence against women. Each class is 1.5 hours long. Explore is designed to educate and address clients on more complex and recurring issues of domestic violence. The court monitors the client’s participation in the program on a monthly basis. The court will receive monthly written reports from the treatment provider regarding the client’s attendance, participation, and progress. If the client has two or more unexcused absences, they will be removed from the program.
The Evolve Program
The Evolve Program is an extreme behavior modification group-based treatment program for the most-severe and highest risk male domestic violence offenders. It is the most-demanding of the court’s domestic violence programs. It is often the “last resort” before a jail sentence for a domestic violence crime. Evolve is managed by certain credentialed treatment providers, and participation in the program is overseen by prosecutors and other court representatives. Evolve is available at the Bridgeport, New Haven, New London, and Waterbury courthouses. Evolve requires participation in two classes per week for a 26-week period (52 classes in total). Each class is two hours long. The court monitors the client’s participation on a monthly basis. The court will receive monthly written reports from the treatment provider regarding a client’s attendance, participation, and progress. If the client has four or more unexcused absences, they will be removed from the program.
If the client is removed from either program, or is otherwise unsuccessful in completing either program, the court will sentence the client to the more severe sentence option under the conditional guilty plea agreement. This usually involves jail time, a lengthy suspended sentence, and probation with special conditions.
However, if the client successfully completes these programs, it is likely that they will not have to serve jail time, the most serious charges against them will be vacated, and they will be placed on probation for continued monitoring.