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Assault: Jail or Rehabilitation?

The recent arrest of Grammy-award winner Chris Brown for yet another outburst of violent behavior puts the controversy over what is the appropriate and most effective way of dealing with this kind of behavior squarely before the public. Mr. Brown is currently on probation from a conviction on a felony domestic violence charge in 2009. He violated his probation once already, when he got into a fender-bender and then went "ballistic" on the driver of the other car. Mr. Brown also got in trouble with the court when he failed to provide documentation that he actually did his community service hours, resulting in another 1,000 hours being ordered. With this recent charge of simple assault for breaking a man's nose who tried to get in a picture with the star, Chris Brown has again violated his probation whether he is convicted or not. The question for the court is: will putting Chris Brown in jail stop his violent behavior toward others?

Courts are grappling with this issue all over the country, because celebrities are not the only people with "anger management" issues. School bus beatings like the ones seen on the news, road rage incidents like the one that went viral last month between the biker group and a family in an SUV in New York, workplace violence, and many other examples of overly aggressive, uncontrolled anger make personal injuries from bullying, assault, battery, and domestic violence all too common.

Georgia Judges are choosing rehabilitation over jail for many criminal defendants charged with these types of crimes. If the defendants agree to attend anger management classes, they can avoid jail time. The preference for rehabilitation also addresses another controversial issue in Georgia: overcrowded jails. Each Georgia County has a different number of hours or weeks of required anger management classes for defendants that are eligible for rehabilitation in lieu of jail.

Traditional forms of counseling are not effective in addressing anger/violence issues, and usually do not provide successful coping strategies. That is why Courts that direct defendants toward rehabilitation order an Anger/Violence Assessment Evaluation. The Evaluation determines, among other things: family history of anger/violence; information on the incident that caused the arrest; communication style and attitude of participant; empathy quotient; amount of stress; and impulse control. After the Evaluation, the Court then orders enrollment of the defendant into an anger management program with a certified provider.

So when people with histories of violent behavior cause personal injury--even if the actions causing the injury constitute crimes--financial recovery for the injury and anger management rehabilitation may be the future of the justice system.

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