Before the court

How the county deals with domestic violence cases

Domestic Violence Court in Butte County is modeled after its sister program, Drug Court. Both operate on a “collaborative” model, wherein prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers and treatment providers all try to work together for the well-being of the defendants (who are referred to as “participants”), as opposed to the more adversarial positions they adopt in traditional courtrooms.

Not all defendants are eligible for Domestic Violence Court, only ones who have been screened by the various agencies involved and who agree to the court’s stipulations, which include intensive classes on how to control anger and avoid situations and dynamics that could trigger an angry response. This “coerced treatment” is one of the most important components of Domestic Violence Court, but it also is what has generated so much of the recent controversy associated with the program, and especially with Karen Knight’s role in it.

Knight’s Family Violence Education Program operates classes for batterers, stalkers, sex offenders and victims of domestic abuse. The program currently has about 140 participants who attend classes under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. The county Probation Department oversees the program and audits its finances and operations at least every six months. According to probation Chief Bill Wardell, the program is well within compliance of the department’s guidelines.—Josh Indar