Specialization in Criminal Courts: Decision Making, Recidivism, and Re-victimization in Domestic Violence Courts in Tennessee
60 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2021 Last revised: 23 Mar 2022
Date Written: September 14, 2021
Local governments increasingly rely on “specialized” or “problem solving” courts as a way to improve the provision of criminal justice. Using administrative data on misdemeanor DV cases between 2000 and 2006, we exploit the arbitrary courtroom assignment of low-income defendants to evaluate the social impact of specialized domestic violence courts in the General Sessions Court of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. We find that, compared to traditional court, defendants assigned to specialized court are less likely to be convicted, but no more likely to be charged with a future crime 1 to 3 years later. This offenderfocused measure of recidivism masks a potentially important increase in safety. Police records suggest that victims in cases assigned to specialized court are less likely to be involved in a future domestic incident. Conditional on future police involvement, these same victims appear to be more willing to cooperate with police and prosecutors.
Keywords: domestic violence, judicial specialization
JEL Classification: K4
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation