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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

Spouse Assault Replication Program: Studies of Effects of Arrest on Domestic Violence

NRCDV Publications
General Material
Published Date
November, 2001

Spouse Assault Replication Program:

  • Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice.
  • Attempts to replicate the Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment (Sherman and Berk, 1984).

Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment:

  • Employed randomization to compare the effectiveness of different police responses to domestic violence.
  • Findings: arrest was almost twice as effective as other police actions in reducing recidivism.

Replication studies:

  • Done in Omaha, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Metro-Dade (Florida), Colorado Springs, and Atlanta from 1985 to 1990.
  • All dealt with cases in which there was probable cause for a misdemeanor arrest.
  • Studies varied somewhat in police responses used and in consequences of arrest.


  • Some studies showed an initial deterrent effect of arrest, but it often faded by the end of one year.
  • Omaha, Charlotte, and Milwaukee: arrest was not more effective than other options in reducing recidivism by abusers.
  • Metro-Dade and Colorado Springs: arrest had deterrent effects according to victim data but not according to official recidivism data.
  • Omaha: issuing a warrant when the offender was absent was a deterrent.
  • Some of the studies indicate that arrest was a deterrent only for offenders who were employed.

Criticisms of the studies:

  • Some of the studies do not explicitly take into account the context in which arrest takes place.
  • Studies were clearly not focused on coordinated criminal justice responses to domestic violence.
  • Fail to consider moral issues and message that arrest gives to everyone involved, including children.

Overall summary:

  • No police intervention has consistently been shown to be more effective than arrest.