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Domestic Violence

From 2001 to 2008, I conducted program and policy analysis for the internationally known Domestic Abuse Interventions Programs (DAIP) in Duluth, Minn., serving an interagency network of regional criminal justice and victim advocacy representatives.

DAIP logo DAIP has pioneered a model of coordinated community response that engages law enforcement, probation, prosecutors, and advocacy. Since its formation in the 1980s, it has shaped domestic violence policy at the federal and state levels and internationally.

Thinking Big and Small: Managing Data for Institutional Change

At DAIP, I designed and managed databases and produced analyses that informed criminal justice system policies and practices and intervention programs.

This required thinking both at the minute level of database mechanics, and at a broader institutional level as we and our partners found a common language to forge common solutions.

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Helping Practitioners Formulate Researchable Questions

How can broad interagency discussions generate specific quantitative analyses?

During regular meetings of the interagency network, and in conversations in between, I helped criminal justice system and victim advocacy representatives sharpen and fulfill their data, reporting, and program evaluation needs. I translated discussion questions into database queries; conducted formative, process, and impact evaluations of policies, practices, and programs; and briefed criminal justice system and advocacy partners on data trends.

Questions are seldom as simple as they seem. For example, looking into offender recidivism rates required first agreeing on over what period of time to track re-offenses; which charges to include in re-offenses; and which court dispositions constituted re-offenses.

As I helped interagency partners hone their questions, my analyses achieved outcomes such as:

  • Improving conviction rates by identifying law enforcement policies that correlated with subsequent defendant court conviction;
  • Confirming racial and ethnic composition of perpetrator and victim populations, to improve programs; and
  • Identifying training needs for agency personnel, thus improving incident response.

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Training Responders to Use Data in Tracking and Monitoring

How to inculcate enthusiasm for data management and sharing among busy agency and advocacy professionals?

DAIP trains hundreds of law enforcement, court, and advocacy personnel each year on developing successful interagency collaborations to curb domestic violence. I presented on the importance of using data to track and monitor cases:

  • I described how data had helped us shift from anecdotal information to concrete reports on issues and trends.
  • I demonstrated the power of an ongoing, systematic tracking and monitoring process to document progress.
  • I maintained that sharing data among agencies helped us all do our jobs better when used constructively, in a collective self-assessment built on trust.

This focus on results and shared goals held audiences’ attention in a way that database mechanics could not. Separate break-out sessions provided those nuts and bolts for interested attendees.

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Databases: Logic Puzzles with Real-World Impact

Domestic violence is a critically important issue, and I am proud of work that had a positive impact.

I also simply loved managing databases. It was like doing logic puzzles.

Our databases used Microsoft Access. Our primary database included several thousand records and 30 interrelated tables. I established standard queries, forms, and reports; created custom reports as needed; and wrote code using MS Visual Basic. I oversaw major revisions to the front and back ends that incorporated colleagues’ suggestions, including making data entry forms more intuitive and user-friendly and adding and fine-tuning variables. I also created additional databases on request from colleagues to manage the administration of outreach and assistance programs.

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