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Program Profile: Cautioning and Relationship Abuse (CARA) [Southampton, England]

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on October 09, 2018

Program Summary

This was a policing strategy designed to reduce the severity of intimate partner violence and the rearrests of males who had been previously arrested for, or had admitted to, a first domestic violence offense and received a conditional caution. The program is rated Promising. Results indicated a statistically significant reduction in frequency and prevalence of rearrests of offenders assigned to the treatment group compared with offenders assigned to the control group.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals
Cautioning and Relationship Abuse (CARA) was a policing strategy implemented in Southampton, England to reduce the harm caused by potential repeat offenders. The program added a conditional caution to the policy of mandatory arrest whenever police had forensic evidence of domestic violence sufficient to justify an arrest. A conditional caution, introduced by the Criminal Justice Act for England and Wales of 2003, is a mechanism that allows an offender to avoid prosecution in court—and thus reduce the potential for a prison sentence, lengthy community service, or a large fine.

Target Population
CARA targeted individuals who 1) were over the age of 18; 2) were male offenders of female victims; 3) had no previous convictions or cautions for violence in the preceding 2 years; 4) were not classified as high-risk offenders; 5) had admitted to the offense or for which there was overwhelming evidence of their guilt; 6) who had been given a conditional caution by the Crown Prosecution Service; 7) were not currently subject to a community-based court order; 8) were not on court or police bail for other offenses; 9) were classified with one of the following: common assault/battery, criminal damage, harassment, threatening behavior, and domestic theft; 10) had an offense that had involved abuse against a past or present (intimate) partner or spouse; 11) had victims who had indicated that their offenders’ conditional caution would not place them at significant risk; and 12) had a sufficient level of English comprehension to take part in the workshops.

Program Components
To meet the conditions for CARA, participants had to 1) sign a statement making a full admission of guilt for the offense; 2) sign an agreement to complete the condition imposed, whatever it may be; and 3) not be arrested for any new crimes or breach of the conditions within a period of time after receiving the caution, usually 4 months. Police would then find a service provider (typically Hampton Trust) to whom they could hand over the offender who had just signed a conditional caution and wait until the provider reported back on whether the offender had completed the conditions (to close the case). If the offenders failed to meet the agreed upon conditions, they would be prosecuted for the breach of the conditional caution as well as for the initial domestic offense to which they had signed a confession.

As a component of the CARA conditions, Hampton Trust (a charity involved in the provision of services for domestic abuse victims and offenders) developed a 2-day offender workshop, in which they focused on raising awareness of abusive behaviors. The objective was to move offenders from denial and minimization toward acceptance of responsibility for harm and provide strategies for conflict resolution within the relationship. Participants attended two 5-hour workshops, on separate Saturdays, 4 weeks apart. The workshop facilitators used motivational interviewing to strengthen the program participants’ commitment to change.

Program Theory
The 2-day offender workshops were based on the notion that helping offenders understand the consequences of their behavior and take responsibility for the harms they caused, as well as providing them with strategies for resolving conflict within the relationship, would reduce likelihood of reoffending. A key aspect of the approach was treating offenders respectfully while condemning their abusive behavior. This aspect of the intervention was therefore consistent with the criminological theory of reintegrative shaming (Braithwaite 1989). This theory suggests that societies can reduce crime by adopting policies that convey the shamefulness of criminal behavior in a way that does not stigmatize the offender. Thus, offenders are viewed as good people who have done bad deeds but can be encouraged to desist from crime through a combination of shaming and forgiveness.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Crime Harm Index (CHI) Severity for Domestic Violence
Strang and colleagues (2017) found that over the 365 days after random assignment, participants in the Cautioning and Relationship Abuse (CARA) treatment group had CHI scores that were 27 percent lower than scores for participants in the control group. The CHI measures the estimated number of days an offender would be imprisoned based on the offense for which they were arrested. There was a statistically significant difference between the days of recommended imprisonment across all treatment group participants (1,299 days), compared with all control group members (1,616 days).

CHI Severity for All Crime Types
With regard to all crime types, there was a statistically significant difference between the days of recommended imprisonment across all CARA treatment group participants (1,341 days), compared with control group members (1,645 days).

Recidivism for Domestic Violence
There was a statistically significant reduction in the likelihood of rearrests for domestic violence for CARA treatment group participants, compared with control group members. The frequency of rearrests for a domestic abuse case was 21 percent lower for CARA participants.

Recidivism for All Crime Types
There was also a statistically significant reduction in the likelihood of rearrests for all crime types for CARA treatment group participants, compared with control group members. The frequency of rearrests for all crime charges was 35 percent lower for CARA participants.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Strang and colleagues (2017) conducted a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the effectiveness of the Cautioning and Relationship Abuse (CARA) policing strategy on future harm caused by individuals with a previous domestic violence offense. The study assessed the 4,768 domestic abuse arrests in the CARA catchment area of Hampshire, England (Western Hampshire, including Southampton), between September 2012 and November 2015. During this time, Southampton police officers brought all individuals arrested for domestic abuse to the “custody suite” of a brand-new Southampton police station, designated for the RCT. Upon offender arrival for processing of an arrest, a custody officer would perform an eligibility check and refer the potentially eligible case to the Custody Investigation Team (CIT) in a nearby office. According to trial protocol, after screening all the domestic abuse arrests, CIT was required to 1) obtain victim consent for the inclusion of their case in the RCT, 2) confirm Crown Prosecution Service approval of a conditional caution, and 3) acquire arrestee consent to participate in the study. Using 12 distinct eligibility criteria (see the Target Population section under Program Description), 4,475 cases were excluded due to high- or medium-risk assessments or other reasons (e.g., victim or offender declined to participate, arresting officer did not seek to establish eligibility); the remaining 293 cases were found to be eligible for inclusion in the RCT.

The study authors used a computerized random assignment algorithm called the Cambridge Randomizer to randomly assign 154 offenders to the treatment group and 139 to the control group. Twenty-seven participants were later removed from the study because the Crown Prosecution Service overrode the police decision to include them in the trial or the cases had been accepted in error by the police but randomly assigned anyway. Thus, the final RCT sample included 141 offenders in the treatment group and 125 in the control group. Though 22 treatment group members and 9 control group members breached the conditions of the trial, all were included in the analysis. No demographic information or data on statistical differences between groups at baseline was provided.

The offenders in the treatment group signed confessions and agreed to the CARA conditional caution and attendance at the two workshop sessions held by Hampton Trust. The control group signed similar confessions and agreements; however, they only received a simple caution, which required that an offender not have any repeat offense in the next 4 months. If they failed to satisfy that requirement, the offenders were told they would be prosecuted in court for both the current offense and a new offense. The control group had no other conditions to meet.

All analysis was guided by the intention-to-treat concept. This means that all people who were randomly assigned to treatment and control conditions were included in the analysis, even if they breached these conditions somehow. The primary outcome measure was coded according to the Cambridge Crime Harm Index (CHI), which determined any new arrests or convictions in the first 365 days after random assignment and summed, across all new offenses, the total days of recommended imprisonment for each offense. Additional outcomes included the prevalence and frequency of repeat offending or recidivism. All measures were examined both for domestic abuse only and for all offense types. In addition, a sensitivity analysis to determine the difference in outcomes between two periods of enrollment of cases was also conducted. No subgroup analysis was conducted.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Strang, Heather, Lawrence Sherman, Barak Ariel, Scott Chilton, Robert Braddock, Tony Rowlinson, Nicky Cornelius, Robin Jarman, and Cristobal Weinborn. 2017. "Reducing the Harm of Intimate Partner Violence: Randomized Controlled Trial of the Hampshire Constabulary CARA Experiment." Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing 1(2–3):160–73.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Braithwaite, John. 1989. Crime, Shame and Reintegration. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
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Program Snapshot

Age: 18+

Gender: Male

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

Program Type: Alternatives to Incarceration, Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Motivational Interviewing, Violence Prevention

Targeted Population: First Time Offenders

Current Program Status: Not Active