This Guide uses the work of various researchers who have developed lethality and reoffense assessment tools. It contains a list of eleven questions focusing on risk factors, and questions include; "Does alleged perpetrator have access to a firearm?"

Developed by The Gender Fairness Implementation Committee of the Minnesota State Supreme Court, the Guide is a tool that may be helpful to those in practice. It has not been formally implemented statewide nor adopted by the Supreme Court.

The Guide also includes details on how to obtain information regarding the risk factors from various legal personnel and how to provide victims information on the risk factors. The bench guide is for use at all stages of family, Order for Protection, civil or criminal cases involving domestic violence.

At the end of December 2009, the Minnesota Supreme Court distributed the bench guide to all judges, referees and magistrates who work for the state court system. How each judge uses the bench guide is being left to the discretion of the individual judge and/or local jurisdiction.

The bench guide can be a valuable tool for the courts and in your work. Here are a few recommendations for promoting use of the Guide:

  1. Distribute the bench guide to other practitioners that are in your local court system. For example, prosecutors, probation officers, custody evaluators, private attorneys, GALs, etc. If the judge will be looking for practitioners to provide information about the various risk factors, the practitioners should know this and be prepared.
  2. Meet with local judges to discuss using the guide. Involve other practitioners in the meeting.
  3. Offer to bring in trainers for understanding risk assessment and how to use the guide. MCBW can connect you with trainers and let you know about upcoming assessment trainings.
  4. Promote discussion on the risk assessment at local multi-disciplinary task forces, criminal justice coordinating councils, etc.
  5. If there is discussion on new court approaches (e.g. Blueprint project) bring the bench guide to those discussions.
  6. Consider a media story on the bench guide and its potential for positive change.
  7. Record information on cases where judges are using the guide and/or on cases where use of the guide might have been helpful. Report that information back to MCBW to be compiled.

The risk assessment bench guide can be a good tool for the courts but advocacy programs should be involved in pushing for its appropriate use.

To download the Guide go to: http://www.bwjp.org/files/bwjp/articles/DV_Risk_Assessment_Bench_Guide.pdf

For more general information see, Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women http://www.mcbw.org