From Initial Deterrence to Longterm Escalation: Short-Custody Arrest for Poverty Ghetto Domestic Violence


Persons arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence are held in custody for widely varying lengths of time. To test the effects of this variance, we randomly assigned short (X̄= 2.8 hours), full (X̄= 11.1 hours), and no arrests (warning only) to a sample of 1,200 cases with predominantly unemployed suspects concentrated in black ghetto poverty neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Victim interviews and one official measure showed that short arrest had a substantial initial deterrent effect relative to the warning group. Longer term follow‐up and before‐after analysis, however, found neither arrest group reflected any deterrence. On the most comprehensive official measure, short arrest consistently showed significantly higher long‐term recidivism than no arrest. Its deterrent effect ended at 30 days, but its criminogenic effect was significant after one year. We conclude that short‐custody arrests for domestic violence in poverty ghetto areas may pose a dilemma between short‐ and long‐term crime control, but longer custody arrests have no clear long‐term effect in either direction.


Criminology and Criminal Justice

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This research was supported by grant 86IJCXK043 to the Crime Control Institute from the National Institute of Justice.



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