Family-Based Justice in the Sentencing of Domestic Violence

Posted: 19 Jun 2008

See all articles by Ronit Dinovitzer

Ronit Dinovitzer

University of Toronto; American Bar Foundation

Myrna Dawson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: July 2007


While historical research has noted the importance of the family in criminal justice, recent empirical work has tended to neglect the emphasis placed on the family in the criminal process. Drawing on Daly s work on familial justice, this paper investigates the role of the family in the sentencing of offenders in a specialized domestic violence court. We examine both the likelihood of incarceration and the determinants of sentence length, and find that conceptions of the family continue to have an important influence on these criminal process outcomes. In cases in which the victim has suffered serious injuries, offenders in intact relationships are more likely to be sentenced to jail, yet, at the same time, when incarcerated, these offenders receive shorter sentences. Thus, even as researchers are documenting broader shifts away from the promotion of substantive values through the criminal process, the current study suggests the continued relevance of family-based justice in the sanctioning of offenders, so that moral imperatives continue to intersect with the actuarial logic of modern penal practices.

Suggested Citation

Dinovitzer, Ronit and Dawson, Myrna, Family-Based Justice in the Sentencing of Domestic Violence (July 2007). The British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 47, Issue 4, pp. 655-670, 2007, Available at SSRN: or

Ronit Dinovitzer (Contact Author)

University of Toronto ( email )

Department of Sociology
Toronto, Ontario

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Myrna Dawson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

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