Programming Responses for Intimate Partner Violence

YUKON

Context

IPV Legislation: Family Violence Prevention Act, 2005

Domestic Violence Court: Domestic Violence Treatment Option is available.
Yukon Therapeutic Courts (DVTO and CWC)

Territorial Action Plan: Victims of Crime Strategy (2009 – 2014)

The Victims of Crime Strategy was designed to formalize and strengthen the government’s service infrastructure, explore new initiatives and establish mechanisms to work collaboratively to support victims of crime. The development of this strategy resulted from a commitment made by the Department of Justice as part of the Correctional Redevelopment Strategic Plan. Core collaborators included the Women’s Directorate and many organizations that provide services to victims of crime.
The guiding principles of the strategy include:

  • Acknowledgement of diverse and complex needs of victims
  • A commitment to preserve the dignity of victims and to value their voices and autonomy
  • A commitment to collaboration
  • Acknowledgement of the long lasting, profound complex and intergenerational impact of residential schools and a commitment to providing culturally sensitive services which are grounded in basic human rights and freedoms.
  • Services and programs will be guided by best practices and research.

The Strategy focuses on five themes: strengthening the focus on the needs of victims; focusing on addressing violence against women, which specifically refers to domestic and sexual violence; exploring legislative options; mentorship and capacity building in communities; and integrating response for victims, offenders, families and communities. The possibility of a victim/offender reconciliation program, collaborative case planning and integrated supervision for high-risk offenders are discussed.

Collaboration is promoted by the Framework Committee of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, a working group comprised of representatives from Justice, First Nations, violence against women agencies, police, and health professionals. This committee was tasked with the development of Victims of Crime Strategy.

The Yukon currently has two therapeutic court processes that are available to offenders involved in the criminal justice system.

Domestic Violence Court

The Yukon uses a Domestic Violence Treatment Option Court (DVTO) model was developed in 2000 to address the ongoing concern of the high collapse rate of domestic violence cases. To enter the DVTO court process the accused must accept responsibility for their violent behaviour and agree to participate in programming. In all domestic violence cases, the RCMP refer cases to the court within two weeks of the offence. After appearing before a DVTO court judge the accused, if interested in the DVTO court process, requests a suitability assessment. If the accused is found suitable he\she enters a guilty plea and enters into the DVTO court process. This process usually happens within the first few court appearances.

If accepted into the DVTO court, offenders check in regularly with their bail supervisor, appear before the DVTO court judge every two weeks and begin programing as recommended by their bail supervisor. An accused may be ineligible if he or she is not motivated to take treatment and programing or not willing to enter a guilty plea.

Community Wellness Court

The Yukon Community Wellness Court (CWC) is a judicially supervised court aimed at providing treatment and support for offenders living with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, mental health problems and or an intellectual disability including but not limited to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. The CWC court was developed in 2005 with its first sitting in April 2007.

The CWC court combines intensive offender monitoring with a comprehensive approach to addressing the psycho-social needs of participating offenders in order to reduce recidivism.

Offenders charged with domestic violence who have an underlying issue of addictions, mental health or cognitive issues can be referred to the Community Wellness Court for assessment and programing.

Risk Assessment

The Yukon has worked with the RCMP to develop enhanced police investigation, management and reporting procedures for domestic violence. The expanded protocol includes a summary checklist form Violent Incident Relationship Checklist. Risk indicators are used to help determine whether to detain or release the accused, set release conditions and facilitate early contact with Family and Children’s Services in cases involving children.

Funding

Programing is offered by the Department of Justice and administered through Offender Supervision and Services.

Structure

The Probation officer assumes the role of case manager and reports back to the court every 2 weeks on the accused progress. It generally takes 4-12 months to complete all required programming for the Domestic Violence Court. It generally takes 12-24 months to complete all of the required programing for the Community Wellness Court.

In both courts, once programing is completed the offender is brought back to court for sentencing on the substantive offence. Typically the disposition can include a variety of sentences and often can includes a probation sentence to ensure ongoing support and follow up.

Treatment

Programming for men is tailored to address the individual offender’s specific criminogenic risk factors. Programming for clients in DVTO includes the 10 session Respectful Relationships and the 17-session Violence in Relationships program, and is facilitated by Offender Supervision and Services staff. Programming for women includes the Emotional Management program and the 12 session Relationship Skills for Women program.

Programming for clients in the Community Wellness Court focuses on criminogenic risk factors and also incorporates other services and programing that can assist the client on their wellness journey. Other programming within the department that is offered includes substance abuse management, sex offender programming and violence prevention programming.

Impact on child witnesses

Information regarding the impact on children witnessing IPV is incorporated into the treatment group. In Yukon, Project Lynx provides victim services and a multi-agency coordinated approach to supporting child and youth victims/witnesses in accordance with National Best Practice for Child and Youth Advocacy Centers.

Accountability to Victims

The DVTO court and Community Wellness Court processes includes Victim Services at the project management and case conference levels. Victim Services staff provide voluntary supports and information for victims.

Victims Services and the Crown Witness Coordinator (PPSC) provide the staff in Offender Supervision and Services with victim information that assists with completing risk assessments. Victim Services may also support the victim by identifying needs and making appropriate referrals in addition to providing them information about the offender’s progress through the therapeutic court process.

Evaluation

The Yukon DVTO court was evaluated by the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family, University of Calgary. Overall, the evaluation was quite positive, concluding that this model, which combines a comprehensive justice system approach with a treatment program for offenders, provided an excellent model for dealing with spousal assault and abuse.

The Yukon Community Wellness Court was also evaluated in 2014 by Dr Joseph Hornick. Overall the evaluation was very positive concluding that the CWC court is meeting the goals of reducing recidivism, enhancing the safety of Yukon communities and utilizing alternative justice approaches to address crime in Yukon.

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