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Durant Franzen, Texas A&M University-San Antonio – Using Risk Assessment to Assess Lethality of Domestic Violence Offenders

How do we help domestic violence survivors?

Durant Frantzen, department chair and professor of criminology and criminal justice at Texas A&M San Antonio, has some suggestions.

Durant Frantzen is a professor of criminology and criminal justice in the Department of Criminology and Political Science at Texas A&M-San Antonio. He studies issues related to domestic violence, offender treatment and recidivism.

Dr. Frantzen earned his BS and MS degrees in criminal justice from Texas State University and his Ph.D. from Sam Houston State University. He has published articles in numerous criminal justice journals and books on topics such as the death penalty and ethics in the criminal justice system. He has worked as a consultant for county-level treatment courts to develop rehabilitation programs that reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for offenders.

Using Risk Assessment to Assess Lethality of Domestic Violence Offenders

Nonfatal strangulation, or NFS, is a highly lethal form of violence that involves the intent to deprive a victim of oxygen through external force applied to the neck. NFS affects between 3-10% of female victims across the globe. Several negative psychological outcomes, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, memory impairment, and depression have been associated with NFS. Further, a significant percentage of domestic violence (or DV) offenders who have contact with the justice system are released on community supervision either in place of or after periods of incarceration. In terms of official crime statistics, most DV offenders are arrested and convicted of misdemeanor offenses as opposed to aggravated offenses involving a weapon or strangulation. My recent study draws on assessment data from one community corrections agency to compare the risk and needs profiles of 884 DV offenders who engage in NFS as part of domestic violence to those who commit less lethal forms violence classified as simple assault.

Specifically, my study showed that NFS offenders were 33% more likely to have severe alcohol problems compared to those on probation for offenses classified as simple assault. The study also showed that NFS offenders were more likely to have unstable family and social relationships and have more severe cognitive-behavioral impairments compared to simple assault DV offenders. With respect to supervision variables, the findings showed NFS offenders were more likely to have previously served a sentence involving probation or parole; however, they were less likely to have had their probation revoked. This research highlights the role of alcohol in near lethal incidents of domestic violence. It further expands on prior research that has explored typologies of domestic violence offenders by focusing on acts involving nonfatal strangulation, and it reveals insights on the effect of offense severity on supervision outcomes for domestic violence offenders.

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