2018 #Catalyst4Change Finalist
Dallas County Community Supervision & Corrections Department, Adult Probation
Dr. Jill Johansson-Love is not someone easily summed up with a job title. As a forensic psychologist, probation officer, and area manager of Assessment, Treatment, and Research Services she brings a wealth of expertise and a unique perspective to her work at Dallas County’s Community Supervision and Corrections Adult Probation department. An avid supporter of collaboration across disciplines and ongoing training to support the development of officer and clinician skills, she conducts trainings within her department as well as on the county, state, and national level in the areas of offender mental health, assessment, and domestic violence.
What began as a shared vision with others in the County in 2011, has become a labor of love for Dr. Johansson-Love and resulted in the development of the Felony Domestic Violence Court (FDVC) program — a post-adjudication accountability court specializing in offenders identified as high risk of engaging in lethal violence toward the victim. The focus on the program is two-fold: to instill accountability within offenders, and, safeguard the primary victim and community.
As the driving force behind the program Dr. Johansson-Love secured funding for the program. Additionally, she and Judge Magnis gathered input from community stakeholders including victim advocates and police. The stakeholders proposed the program’s focus include attempting to prevent domestic violence homicides, rather than solely the prevention of re-assaults. This solidified the need for better tools to assess offenders and monitor the program’s effectiveness.
Not one to be daunted by a challenge, and knowing research warn against using assessment tools not specifically validated for the targeted population as the Dr. Johansson-Love began on her quest for specialized assessments that would provide quantifiable measurements to accurately evaluate the targeted offender group.
She hypothesized that the general criminal recidivism measurements available in existing assessments would not be able to fully identify the high lethality risk of domestically violent offenders. The Danger Assessment was incorporated in to the protocol to identify the high lethality offenders. Based on the premises that offenders considered “high-risk” would benefit from the most intensive supervision and interventions, and, victims who were categorized as “extreme danger” were 17 times more likely than those in the “variable danger” category to be a victim of potentially lethal assault, it was determined the FDVC program would serve offenders in the “extreme danger” category who were placed on probation and referred by their respective courts. Through examination and use of a variety of leading industry assessments and extensive research, Dr. Love-Johansson found the best results are achieved when a variety of information is used in tandem with traditional assessment tools. To accurately pinpoint an offender’s danger category, valuable insight is gleaned from a variety of collateral information including offender interviews, police incident reports, victim interviews (as available) and criminogenic needs assessments. Today, Dr. Love-Johansson tracks over 300 pieces of offender information and has used her expertise to develop specialized assessment protocols to identify the best candidates for the program.
As with many specialized courts, the FDVC has limited resources to accommodate the offenders in the program. Participants receive two levels of screening before being accepted into the program. Initially offenders are screened to determine their initial lethality risk and need for a specialized forensic domestic violence assessment. Offenders screened in receive the full assessment and the others a regular forensic psychological assessment.
Once in the program, offenders receive intensive supervision and interventions including an extended Batterers Intervention and Prevention Program with phases, substance abuse treatment at the assessed need ranging from none to 6 months locked residential treatment. When a victim is involved in the court process the offender is placed on GPS for at least the initial 90-days (the highest risk period). Any other needs (GED, literacy, job search, life skills, parenting, etc.) are also recommended and incorporated as needed. All of this is in addition to meeting with their officer, UAs, home visits, and coming to court once per week. The actual court program also have phases where the offender has to request to phase up and submit work to be reviewed by the court team for additional accountability and review of progress. The program was designed to range from 12 to 18 months but can last longer if the individual completes residential treatment. There is also a follow up component to the program where the offender comes to one court session, one BIPP group, and one individual BIPP meeting once per quarter for a year after graduating the FDVC program currently presided over by Judge of the 292nd JDC Brandon Birmingham.
The results of the program can be tracked in a variety of ways. There have been many offenders graduate the program who used the experience to change their lives, and now serve as mentors to others. One early but encouraging statistic that speaks to the overall success of the program compares the recidivism rate of offenders scoring the extreme danger level. Of those that participate in the program and were revoked for new arrests/offenses 30-percent have new assaultive offenses, compared to 60-percent from those who have not gone through the court program.
- Since the program launched in 2014, 56 offenders have graduated and 177 total have been served (including still in the FDVC program).
- About 300 assessments are conducted annually.
- About 50-percent of participants have graduated the program.
- The average period an offender is in the program is about 18 months.
- The Court has one dedicated judge, who oversees all related processes and procedures required.
- Two officers are assigned to the FDVC program. Their caseloads contain between 40 and 50 clients.
- The program is highly supported by community stakeholders (BIPP, victim, monitoring and substance abuse providers), including weekly visits from a detective providing domestic violence reports.
- The assessment and court processes were developed utilizing evidence-based practices.
- Program statistics are tracked and compared to a control group of offenders scoring the extreme danger level but not referred to the FDVC program.