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Legal Response To Domestic Violence Offenders

Despite recent reforms to the legal response to domestic violence, available data on the effectiveness of domestic violence protection orders is limited (Young, Byles & Dobson, 2000). In addition to this, the personal characteristics, such as age, marital status, education and mental health of domestic violence offenders is also limited with no available data on the reasons why domestic violence offenders breach domestic violence orders and why these offenders are not deterred by the legal ramifications of breaching a domestic violence protection order.

This research design will seek to gain a deeper understanding of the characteristics of offenders who breach domestic violence protection orders and why the legal ramifications are not a deterrent. The staggering figures show that during 2014/2015 there were 22,628 breaches of domestic violence protection orders in Queensland alone (Queensland Police Crime Statistics, 2015). These figures serve to highlight the severity of what can be considered both a social and a crime problem not only in Queensland, but Australia wide.

As the current literature on domestic violence offenders who breach domestic violence protection orders is limited, the questions to be answered are exploratory in nature. To answer these questions, a qualitative research design will be employed using semi-structured interviews to gain a deeper understanding and insight into domestic violence offenders and their offending. Qualitative research is an inductive method where theory is generated from the research (Bryman, 2016).

The interview will consist of a series of closed questions to gather demographic data on the offenders, and five open questions to encourage the respondent to share any other information relative to their domestic violence offending. Although the closed questions will form a quantitative aspect to the research, the proposed project will be exploratory in nature with the closed questions only serving to determine demographic information relating to the offenders. As these questions will not be serving the purpose of answering the research question, no expectations or hypothesis can be made.

The target group will be recruited using both purposive and criterion sampling. Purposive sampling relates to participants being selected in a strategic manner to ensure the respondents are suitable to provide information relating to the particular research question (Bryman, 2016). Criterion sampling requires respondents to meet certain criteria before participating in the proposed research. Both of the these sampling methods will be employed by sampling prison inmates who are serving sentences for domestic violence related offences.

Due to time and financial considerations of this proposed research, the semi structured interview will allow for the half of the interview to be coded easily with five closed questions, leaving five open questions to be transcribed and analysed. Research using closed questions is easier for both the interviewer and the respondent, however disadvantages of this method include a lack of spontaneity in answers and the risk that a respondent’s response is unable to be allocated to one of the fixed options available (Bryman, 2016).

The additional open questions will allow for the respondent to have the opportunity to divulge any further information they felt was not allowed for in the closed questions. Open questions are more involved and require more time to transcribe and analyse (Bryman, 2016), however given that there are only five open questions, time will allow for this process. Transcribing responses to open questions can be subject to interviewer variability, however as only one interviewer will be conducting this research, no issues with variability will be present.

Responses to the open questions will be coded to allow analysis of any patterns in offending. Research involving prison inmates can be a source of vital information regarding criminal behaviour (Roberts & Indermaur, 2008), however research involving any vulnerable group is not without ethical considerations. Potential harm to participants, informed consent, invasion of privacy and deception are the four primary areas of consideration pertaining to ethics in research (Bryman, 2016). It is imperative that the interview respondents are fully aware of the rationale for the research they are participating in (Bryman, 2016).

Potential participants will be made aware of the basis of the research, their potential participation and the expected outcome by conducting an group information session in person, as well as distributing written information sheets, which will also be available in common areas of the prison for inmates who do not attend the information session (Appendix 2). All participants will be required to sign a consent form (Appendix 3) which will outline details of the research and their participation.

This will serve to ensure that each participant has a satisfactory understanding of the information provided. To gain access to interview prison inmates, firstly approval must be granted by the Griffith University Ethics Committee, followed by an application to conduct research, which must be submitted and approved by the Queensland Corrective Services Research Committee (Queensland Corrective Services, 2016). Research Site and Sampling Strategy Due to the nature of the research and sample population required, a sample of 30 – 50 male prison inmates who fit the criteria will be interviewed.

The proposed site for the sampling will be Woodford Correctional Centre in Queensland. Woodford Correctional Centre is a maximum security facility housing over 1000 male inmates (Queensland Corrective Services, 2015). At present, Woodford Correctional Centre is the largest facility in Queensland housing male prisoners, it is for this reason this site was selected to maximise participants within the one site. This keeps costs down and also ensures time is maximised as limited travelling is required to carry out the research.

The sampling strategy to be employed for this research is a combination of purposive and criterion sampling. The inmates need to meet the offending criteria, which includes being charged with either domestic violence related offences including breaching a domestic violence protection order. The participants are purposely chosen to answer the research question, and therefore need to meet the criteria to be eligible to participate. Priori purposive sampling establishes the criteria prior to the research and it does not evolve during the research (Bryman, 2016).

As Woodford Correctional Centre houses male inmates over the age of 18 years old, prisoners who are deemed to fully understand the nature of the research and provide informed consent will be interviewed. Due to the sensitive nature of the research, more than 50 participants is not expected, however if the response is overwhelming then 30 – 50 respondents will be chosen randomly from the available sample with the intention of making generalisations about the broader population of domestic violence offenders.

The random selection of participants who meet the criteria will serve to eliminate any potential bias in the research. Reaching a targeted group of participants quickly is an advantage of purposive sampling, which saves time, money and effort required by the researcher. This method of recruiting participants results in reduced numbers of irrelevant participants and ensures a more thorough representation of the target population is covered in the research (Bryman, 2016).

The subjectivity and non-probability nature of purposive sampling can be a disadvantage, as the target population can at times be chosen based on the researcher’s judgement. In this case, the criteria chosen to select relevant participants has been designed to ensure that the participants are able to answer questions that pertain to domestic violence offending including breached domestic violence protection orders. The selection for this research is solely based on offending history and not from researcher judgement.

A limitation to the proposed study is the respondents interviewed are located in only one correctional facility in Queensland, however it is fair to assume that this sample of domestic violence offenders and offences can be used to make generalisations about domestic violence offenders across Australia. Data Collection Methods A semi structured interview has been chosen as the most effective manner to collect data relating to the research question.

An advantage of conducting face to face interviews is that any issues surrounding illiteracy will be avoided, this is particularly relevant in a prison setting where inmates have a higher than average level of illiteracy. A series of five closed questions will be used, followed by five open questions at the end of the interview. The closed questions will cover offender characteristics such as age, marital status, children, education, and whether or not the offender witnessed parental violence as a child.

The open questions will be asking about prior criminal convictions, diagnosed mental health conditions, if the offender has any remorse for their actions, if the offender felt in control of their actions at the time of the offence and whether or not the offender considered the legal ramifications of their actions at the time of the offence. The closed questions will be a combination of yes/no answers and multiple choice options.

The options for each multiple choice answer aim to cover all possibilities of response. The list of questions can be seen in Appendix 1. The closed questions will be asked first, followed by the open questions to give the offender the opportunity to expand or divulge any additional information relating to their offence. The responses from the open questions will be analysed and coded by any reoccurring themes in the responses, this is also commonly referred to as thematic analysis.

This will identify if any patterns exist or if there are any notable similarities in the characteristics of domestic violence offenders and their offences. An advantage of semi structured interviews is that the researcher can prepare the questions ahead of time and be organised and prepared to produce reliable, comparable data (Bryman, 2016). The participants also have the capacity and the freedom to respond to the questions on their own terms.

Disadvantages relating to the open questions is the process is undoubtedly more time consuming in all aspects of the research, the interviews take longer to complete and the transcribing and analysis is a lengthy process. Each interview is expected to be completed within a forty-five-minute time frame. The five closed questions will be completed initially, allowing the remainder of time to discuss the five open questions. Depending on the respondent, some interviews may be concluded in less time.

Each interview will be recorded to enable a more efficient interview and comprehensive transcribing afterwards. This research is proposed to be completed within the nine-month time frame, allowing eight weeks for applications to the Griffith University Ethics Committee and an application to conduct research in a Queensland correctional facility to be approved, four weeks to conduct information sessions and interviews within the correctional facility, followed by ten weeks to transcribe and analyse the data and four weeks to write the research paper with findings.

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