Search Appropriateness Statement Package
Restraining Orders – The evidence is inconclusive
Summary of the Evidence
- The evidence on restraining orders on recidivism is inconclusive.
- Often restraining orders are issued in response to an abusive intimate relationship but can be issued for other domestic relationships as well (e.g., family members).
- The empirical evidence refers to the use of restraining orders used in domestic abuse circumstances. Less is known about no-contact orders used in supervision.
What Are Restraining Orders?
- Restraining orders are a form of legal protection that prohibits abusers from having contact (physical or communication) with victims. They can come in the form of temporary restraining orders (TROs) or permanent restraining orders (PROs).
- TROs are protective orders that last for short periods (weeks/months).
- PROs are protective orders that last for more extended periods (years).
- The total length of time a restraining order can last depends on local and state laws.
- Victims of domestic abuse can file for restraining orders against their abusers without having to wait for the traditional criminal justice processes to occur.
- No-contact orders have the same effect as a restraining order, but they are issued by the courts or by supervision departments rather than being requested by victims.
How Are They Used?
- A no-contact order with victims is often issued as a standard supervision condition.
- Officers often have no say in this process.
- Restraining orders, which are processed more quickly and with lower standards of proof than criminal prosecutions, are cost-effective legal actions available to victims.
- The purpose of restraining orders is to provide immediate relief and protection for abuse victims.
- Restraining orders may include the following restrictions:
- physical contact
- telephone contact
- distance maintained from victim’s residence or place of employment
- the type, frequency, and duration of any contact that is allowed
- Restraining orders may also include conditions of mental health counseling or substance abuse assessment/treatment.
How Can They Be Used to Monitor Compliance?
- Restraining orders are surveillance tools by nature.
- Officers can use GPS technology (See electronic monitoring and phone-based monitoring statements) to ensure compliance with the conditions of the restraining order.
- If GPS technology is not used, the officer can use collateral contacts and relationships with the client to ensure compliance with the restraining order.
How Can They Be Used as a Supervision Tool?
- Restraining orders are not treatment tools.
- The use of restraining orders does little to enhance the treatment goals of supervision.
- Restraining orders can limit contact with an unhealthy relationship, helping create an environment conducive to success.
What Are the Costs of Restraining Orders?
- There are no costs associated with restraining orders.
What Do Supervision Staff Think?
- Supervision staff report that restraining orders are
- sometimes appropriate for all low-risk clients and
- sometimes appropriate for all medium- to high-risk clients except for those in an intimate partner violence special population, for whom it is always appropriate.
- Supervision staff report that physical sanctions like restraining orders are
- sometimes appropriate for low-risk clients that are in low or moderate compliance with their supervision conditions,
- never appropriate for low-risk clients that are in high compliance with their supervision conditions,
- always appropriate for medium- to high-risk clients that are in low compliance with their supervision conditions, and
- sometimes appropriate for medium- to high-risk clients that are in medium or high compliance with their supervision conditions.
What Should You Expect When Using Restraining Orders?
- There is mixed support for the effect of restraining orders on recidivism.
- Most of the evaluations of restraining orders focus on women who obtain orders against abusive domestic partners.
- Assessment of the effectiveness of restraining orders depends on the follow-up period used in evaluation.
- Studies with shorter follow-up periods (under six months) report stronger effects.
- There is some evidence that PROs are more effective than TROs in reducing abuse.
- Other evidence shows differing results for TROs and PROs.
- TROs are more effective at preventing psychological abuse.
- PROs are more effective at preventing physical abuse.
Are Restraining Orders Evidence-Based Practices?
- No, restraining orders are not evidence-based practices.
What Do People Formerly Involved in the Criminal Legal System Think About Restraining Orders?
- People with lived experience in the criminal legal system (the “criminal justice” or “legal” system is referred to as the criminal legal system in this document) report that restraining orders are
- never appropriate for all low-risk clients and
- sometimes appropriate for all medium- to high-risk clients.
Communication That Strengthens the Officer-Client Relationship (Messaging)
- Officers should make sure that clients fully understand the conditions of any restraining or no-contact orders.
- Officers should walk through troublesome scenarios (e.g., victim contacting client) and options for handling the situation.
- Officers should communicate the consequences of breaking a restraining order.
- Officers should communicate their obligation to protect victims so that they do not jeopardize their position as a change agent for the client.
- This can be done by avoiding overly authoritarian communication and reassuring client that the officer is working to help them.
Special Considerations When Using Restraining Orders With Subpopulations
Intimate Partner Violence
Restraining orders can potentially illicit negative responses from clients. Clients may be angered by the order and seek revenge or break the order in an attempt to reconcile with the victim. Victims can also seek contact with the client despite the order being in place.
Serious Mental Illness
Substance Use Disorder