Monthly Archives: June 2013

Adolescent Diversion Program in NY: Researchers Discuss First-Year Impacts

Co-authors Michael Rempel and Suvi Hynynen Lambson discuss the findings of their study, The Adolescent Diversion Program: A First Year Evaluation of Alternatives to Conventional
Case Processing for Defendants Ages 16 and 17 in New York
. The study examines the Adolescent Diversion Program, finding that diverting youth to services does
not increase recidivism rates and, in fact, reduces recidivism for high-risk participants.


MIKE REMPEL: When you give intensive treatments to high-risk individuals, they tend to
be effective. When you give intensive treatments to low-risk individuals, you actually increase the chances that
they will re-offend.

WOLF:  Hi, I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center
for Court Innovation, and this is another New Thinking podcast. Today I’m with Mike Rempel, who is the director of
research here at the Center for Court Innovation, and Suvi Hynynen Lambson, who is a senior research associate at
the Center for Court Innovation, and they are both co-authors of a new study that looks at the Adolescent Diversion
Program, which is a response to a unique situation we have here in New York.

New York and, I understand,
North Carolina are the only two states that do what?

REMPEL: They’re the only two states that
treat 16- and 17-year-olds as criminally responsible adults. All other states in the country treat them as juveniles.

WOLF:  And so the Adolescent Diversion Program, which was implemented at the behest of the chief
judge of the state of New York, Jonathan Lipmann, in January 2012, is an attempt to bring New York in line with the
other 48 states.

SUVI HYNYNEN LAMBSON: Yeah, it’s a first step in that direction.

So your study looks at the first six months of the implementation of this program. So before we talk about the results,
how does the Adolescent Diversion Program work and how is it implemented?

LAMBSON: The Adolescent
Diversion Program is a pilot program that was implemented in nine different sites throughout the state. There’s a
general program model that each of them applied, such as they have a specialized track or court part. The judges
are trained in adolescent development. The third thing that all of the programs have are expanded sentencing options.
This would include treatment or social services options or community service that’s especially geared for the 16-
and 17-year-olds. The interventions vary in length: two to five days compared to three to six months more common
in Queens, Nassau, Westchester, and up to 12 months, which you sometimes find in Erie [County]. Upon completion of
the program, the case would be dismissed or the charge would be reduced. And participation is, of course, voluntary.

WOLF:  What kinds of cases were these nine pilot sites seeing?

So most of the pilot sites were seeing exclusively misdemeanor cases. Two of the sites do accept some felonies, but
I don’t believe any of them accept violent felonies, and some of them do include violation cases as well.

ROB WOLF: Meaning lower than misdemeanor?

LAMBSON: Meaning lower than misdemeanor. So
there actually wouldn’t be a criminal conviction attached to that; a violation conviction isn’t reflected on a criminal

WOLF:  When you looked at these first six months of the program, what are the
characteristics or the outcomes you were looking at?

LAMBSON:  Well that’s a great question,
Rob. We actually have nine different research questions. I won’t go over each of them in detail, but generally speaking
we were looking at how many 16- and 17-year-olds were there in these nine sites?  How many of those were
actually eligible for the program?  Did they comply with their assigned court mandate?  The impact
on criminal convictions, the impact on case outcomes, and, of course, the impact on recidivism.

So let’s try to move through some of these results quickly.  

are about almost 14,000 16- and 17-year olds who went through courts in these nine sites. Sixty percent of them were
eligible to participate in the program, but actually only 15 percent of them did end up being in the ADP pilot intervention.
And the volume varied greatly from site to site. The Bronx and Queens had 4 percent and 6 percent, respectively,
of the eligible cases, while Nassau and Erie had 62 percent and 69 percent.

there something to be learned from that?  Why there was such a broad difference?

I think so. I mean at least if we look at the case of Nassau, we know that they really tried to implement this to
the broadest extent possible, probably the way we had envisioned it being implemented throughout the state if possible.
Nearly everyone was eligible except for violent felony offenders, and they had a universal screening assessment that
they used with everyone.

WOLF:  And what did you learn about compliance?

We were able to look at four sites on their compliance and found out that on average they had an 80 percent compliance
rate, which is really good.

WOLF:  So now let’s talk about case outcomes. What did you
find there?

REMPEL:  First of all, we were interested in whether the ADP initiative reduced
the collateral consequences of conviction by reducing the percentage of 16- and 17-year-olds that received a criminal
conviction. What we actually found was that because the program was largely focused on a misdemeanor population,
they did not have that affect. That population is not in large numbers in the first place ending up getting a felony
or misdemeanor conviction.

Now a lot of the 16- and 17-year-olds who don’t receive a criminal
conviction, receive something called a youthful offender filing, which is a form of conviction, but it doesn’t create
a criminal record, or they get convicted for a violation offense, which you mentioned earlier—it s a conviction,
but it’s not a “crime” and again the case is sealed so it doesn’t create a criminal record.

you take all of these categories together, we found there is not any change in one direction or another, although
we found some interesting variations from site to site. We found that Nassau actually reduced any of these outcomes
that involved some sort of guilty plea by about 30 percentage points—from about 45 percent to about 15 percent. And
then we found in some of the other counties it fluctuated more closely to what it had been. Use in jail is something
that is often discussed. We found that the net across all of the sites we looked at, there was not an effect, but
we found a few places where jail was reduced. Nassau was one of those places, which actually reduced jail to zero
from 4 percent.

WOLF:  So if I understand correctly, you’re saying overall, statewide,
although a goal ostensibly of the Adolescent Diversion Program was to reduce some of these punitive outcomes like
a criminal record or jail among the 16- and17-year-olds, overall statewide it didn’t really do that, although it
did in some particular jurisdictions, such as Nassau County.

REMPEL:  That’s correct.
And going into this research we had two sets of expectations. Those who planned the ADP pilot desired a reduction
in the collateral consequence of conviction. Those who were leery of the pilot were concerned about the problem of
net-widening, where these new pilots might take 16- and 17-year-olds who, in the old system, would have had their
cases dismissed, and end up leading them to now plead guilty. So we found that none of those expectations or concerns
were ultimately the case. Things stayed about where they were and with that in mind we then go forth and look at
other outcomes.

WOLF: Other outcomes such as, for instance recidivism. What did you see there?

MIKE REMPEL:  Okay, so let me say when we look at—our measurement was re-arrest. When we look at
any type of re-arrest, with some differences looking at the sites combined. We also looked at felony-level re-arrest.
When we looked at more serious criminal behavior, we actually did find that overall the sites reduced felony recidivism.
We also found that they significantly reduced violent felony recidivism. We also found some interesting variations
by site. In a nutshell, two of the sites—the Bronx and Queens—tended to reduce re-arrest. And Queens particularly
reduced felony-level re-arrests. I believe it went from 19 percent to three percent. We saw that Erie County increased

WOLF: So why don’t you tell me why these results varied from site to site.

LAMBSON:  Well, I think that the main conclusion that we found was that it’s really related to
risk level, that the people who were at the highest risk of re-offense actually ended up with the best outcomes when
they received these targeted services, and those people who had the lowest risk, if they got services, they actually
performed more poorly.

REMPEL:  And Rob, this is actually something that is often surprising
to practitioners, but it reflects a consistent finding across the years of research across multiple kinds of interventions,
that when you give intensive treatments to high-risk individuals, they tend to be effective. When you give intensive
treatments to low-risk individuals who, in the absence of an intervention would likely not have re-offended, you
actually increase the chances that they will re-offend. Why? Because the intervention will probably involve things
like putting them into groups where they are spending a lot of time right next to high-risk peers who can then have
contaminating influences.

So when we go back to those site-specific findings that we mentioned
earlier with respect to Erie seeming to increase re-arrest rates, and the Bronx and Queens seeming to decrease re-arrest
rates, once we adjust for the fact that Erie tends primarily to serve a low-risk population, and the Bronx and Queens
tend primarily to serve a high-risk population, we actually fully explain that finding. It’s not so much that it’s
something about the services in Bronx and Queens that are more effective than the services in Erie, it’s that the
Bronx and Queens are doing a better job serving the kind of target population that research says they should serve:
a high-risk population that will benefit from an intensive intervention.

WOLF:  Well
thanks so much. It’s really been great talking to you and learning about the results of your study, which listeners
can download from our website at The study is called the Adolescent Diversion
Program: A First Year Evaluation of Alternatives to Conventional Case Processing for defendants ages 16 and 17 in
New York.
I’m speaking with two of the report’s four authors, Mike Rempel, who is the director of research,
and Suvi Hynynen Lambson, senior research associate here at the Center for Court Innovation.

Thanks Rob.

[Closing music]

WOLF:  I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications
at the Center for Court Innovation. You can listen to more of our podcasts on our website or on iTunes. Thanks for

Domestic Violence and Child Custody: A 4-Part Model for Helping Judges Make More Informed Decisions

Family Court judges should consider the impact of violence on families when making decisions about child custody
and visitation, according to Kristine Lizdas, a managing attorney at the Battered Women’s Justice Project. In this podcast, Lizdas discusses the
Justice Project’s four-part model for helping judges make more informed decisions.

Kristine Lizdas, left, of the Battered Women's Justice Project and Robyn Mazur of the Center for
        Court Innovation confer after Lizdas' presentation at the Center's Domestic Violence Court Open
        House for Office on Violence Against Women Court Training and Improvements Project grantees.Kristine
Lizdas, left, of the Battered Women’s Justice Project and Robyn Mazur of the Center for Court Innovation confer
after Lizdas’ presentation at the Center’s Domestic Violence Court Open House for Office on Violence Against
Women Court Training and Improvements Project grantees.

[While introductory theme music plays] This person, the person they’re abusing, could be bringing a great deal,
could be wonderful caretakers for their kids, and could be providing so much for their kids, if it were not for the

ROBERT V. WOLF:  [As introductory theme music ends] Hi, I’m Rob Wolf,
director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation.  Welcome to another New Thinking podcast.
Today I’m speaking with attorney Kristine Lizdas about domestic violence cases and their impact on child custody
and visitation. Christine serves as managing attorney for the Legal Policy Program of the Battered Women’s Justice
Project, which is a national resource center on domestic violence legal policy issues. Welcome to New York and the
Center for Court Innovation.

LIZDAS:  Thank you very much.

You’re based in Minnesota, but you’re here today at our open house. The Center for Court Innovation serves
as the Office on Violence Against Women’s comprehensive technical assistance provider for its courts program, and
today and tomorrow, recipients of grants have come here with their multi-disciplinary teams to observe model domestic
violence courts in New York, and hear from experts like you on topics related to planning and implementation of domestic
violence courts. So I know you’re here today speaking to the group this afternoon about custody and visitation,
and I thought a good way to start our conversation was just to ask what makes custody and visitation cases that involve
domestic violence a challenge, or more complicated than the average case?

have, in the battered women’s movement, done a lot of work in terms of reforming the criminal justice system
so it handles the crime of domestic violence better, as a crime, as a wrongdoing of the violation of a right. Talking
about domestic violence in the context of family court is more complicated.

The way family court
is structured and set up is not conducive, does not allow for an assessment of how domestic violence operates—meaning
how is it used in the family, and to what effect? And what impact does it have on the parenting capacities of both
parents? What impact is it having on the kids?  Family court is designed to kind of divvy things up. 
Family court is not designed to say, “This is our situation. How do we kind of move forward from here, given who’s
involved in this family and what the family’s history is?”

WOLF:  Maybe you can
just offer an example of how that can impact a particular family.

LIZDAS: In families where domestic
violence exists, or domestic violence is alleged, there can be violence that has been very isolated, that the children
have been very sheltered from it, but there are going to be other situations in battering violence and coercive and
controlling violence where the kids are brought in more deliberately, either because they’re being exposed to
the continuum of violence going on in that family, or because they are being used to either participate in the abuse
of their spouse, or the same sort of demeaning or controlling, or crazy-making behaviors that a batterer might perpetrate
in a domestic violence situation, is being perpetrated against the family as a whole. 

kids are going to have a variety of reactions—everything from no reaction at all, to feeling very aggressive toward
the abused parent, feeling very protective of the abused parent.  It’s going to manifest in problems,
you know cognitive and behavioral issues that come up for the kids, and until we really have a handle or understanding
on really what’s happening to the kids, we don’t know what kind of separation agreements, what kind of
parenting schedule, what type of supervision, or what types of programming or services are appropriate for that family.

WOLF:  How are you recommending that family courts address that issue, because it does sound like
it’s very complicated?

LIZDAS:  We engaged in this project several years ago to
develop a framework for family court practitioners so that they can better identify, they can better understand,
and then account for the context and the implications of domestic violence in child custody cases, and in parenting
time and visitation determinations. 

At this stage of our project, we are recommending
a four-part analysis, which is very simply that we need to institute tools into various parts of our family court
systems that help us to better identify the existence of domestic violence, whether alleged or not, that we have
implemented protocols within the family court system and help us better understand the nature and the context of
the violence. Who’s using the violence to what end? What impact is it having on the family? 

then the hardest part, the third step of this four part framework. is then to determine the implications of abuse
and research is emerging on how to recognize that, how to screen for it, how to identify it. If kids are having trouble
with sleeplessness or trouble with school, or are showing strong attachments to either parent, to understand which
of those behaviors, which of those responses are a response of the coercive and controlling violence, what might
be the response of other things going on with that family. 

And finally, the fourth step
in our framework is then, indeed, to account for the abuse in our decisions in court and in what we do in the parenting
plans going forward.  It would be our proposition that if you have identified actual coercive and controlling
violence or battering violence in a family, it’s very likely that some of that coercive and controlling violence
is going to continue post-separation, that the dissolution and the parenting plan doesn’t put a stop to it. 

Some judges, some court practitioners do see that perpetrators will be motivated by their kids, and access
to their kids. So family court judges and family courts have this opportunity, and the proper motivation, to get
perpetrators into services and into programs, to keep an eye on that perpetrator—to be like a mentor, to be a coach,
to be a motivator to keep that perpetrator from using coercive and controlling violence, and they can order graduated
visitation, graduated parenting time.

WOLF:  So the judges can use this leverage—access
to the children, basically: “You can get thus and such visitation under these conditions if you receive these services,
if you engage in this particular program?”

LIZDAS:  Yes, and it’s not only that it is
an effective motivator for change, but its also completely logically tied to what is best for the children. We do
want children to be able to have healthy relationships with both parents and it’s in the children’s best interest
if we are able to figure out how to work with the perpetrator over time and help them develop their parenting capacity. 
I think it’s been the observation of a lot of people who work with parent batterers that they really aren’t aware
of how their battering and coercive and controlling violence affects their kids. And in the current court system,
we provide motivations for parents to attack each other. We put them in this sort of adversarial system that encourages
them to sort of undermine each other’s parenting capacity, and we don’t have enough of a mindset or framework in
family court to say that what we need to be doing, really, is supporting each other’s parenting capacity and if you’re
violent toward your partner, if you’re committing coercive and controlling violence, you know, you’re taking
something away from your kids and we need to be drawing that connection, obviously.

That point you just made, that was a much broader point about any family court case involving custody or visitation.

LIZDAS:  It is, that’s true, and it would apply in cases that we technically, or traditionally
call high-conflict cases, which is jargon in the family court system, which is applied very broadly to any parties
that don’t seem to be able to settle on their own, or fail in alternative-dispute resolution.  So that is
a message for high-conflict parents that you need to understand better how your conflict is impacting your kids. 

In battering situations, or course, or controlling situations, where we really want to focus is on the person
perpetrating the violence—make sure they understand how this person, the person they’re abusing could be bringing
a great deal, could be wonderful caretakers for their kids, could be providing so much for their kids if it were
not for the battering.  What’s concerning is the family court system that doesn’t have a sophisticated analysis
is going to look at battering cases and they are going to call it high conflict—and then they’re targeting and directing
their messaging to both parties, and their messaging’s not really the appropriate messaging either. It’s “Get along.” 
It’s “Get along or you’re going to hurt your kids.” That’s not the message that’s appropriate if one person is using
coercive and controlling violence against the other.

WOLF:  So if people want to find
out more about these issues or some of the skills that you’re developing, what should they do? 

LIZDAS:  They should contact our office, the Battered Women’s Justice Project.  Our website
is, and our toll-free telephone number is 1-800-903-0111,
enter prompt 1 to get to our office where the custody project is based.

WOLF:  I’ve
been talking with Kristine Lizdas about domestic violence cases and their impact on child custody and visitation. 
Kristine is the managing attorney for the Legal Policy Program of the Battered Women’s Justice Project. Good luck
with your presentation this afternoon.

LIZDAS:  Thank you very much.

[While theme music plays] I’m Rob Wolf, director for communications at the Center for Court Innovation. 
To listen to this podcast or others, you can visit our website at
 or subscribe to our podcast on iTunes. Thanks for listening.

June 2013