The Quincy Model to the Quincy Solution

By Barry Goldstein


Bill Delahunt served as a Congressman from Massachusetts for 14 years.  I can easily imagine some people who are frustrated with our political system and debate would think of him as just a typical politician.  But Bill Delahunt is a hero who saved many lives and the benefits of his work will increase exponentially when the Quincy Solution is adopted.

Bill served as the District Attorney in Norfolk County from the late-1970s until the mid-1990s.  In reviewing the personal records of inmates at a nearby high security prison, he noticed that virtually every prisoner had a childhood history that included domestic violence and often sexual abuse.  He recognized that if he could prevent domestic violence all crimes would be reduced.  In other words Mr. Delahunt was seeking to serve his constituents like we would want all leaders to do.  At about this time the wife of a tugboat captain came to the Quincy police one Friday seeking protection from her abusive husband.  The police told her to come back on Monday, but he killed her over the weekend.  This was the motivation for what became known as the Quincy Model.

In Quincy, a group of leaders separately decided to change the response to domestic violence.  Eventually they started meeting together and working collaboratively to implement a program that would change the world.  These leaders included Judge Albert Kramer, Andrew Klein the head of the probation department, Sarah Buel who led the first domestic violence section in a district attorney’s office, David Adams who initially worked with in the District Attorney’s Office and later started the nation’s first batterer program, and Bill Delahunt.

The Key Components of the Quincy Model

Every aspect of the Quincy Model involved taking domestic violence seriously.  Even today our response to domestic violence is routinely minimized and denied so it is truly remarkable that the leaders in Quincy got this so right at the very start of the modern movement to end domestic violence.

The district attorney, law enforcement, probation, domestic violence advocates and the criminal court worked together to strictly enforce criminal laws, restraining orders and probation requirements.  The police implemented a pro-arrest policy and aggressively gathered evidence so they could win a conviction even if the victim was unavailable to testify.  Prosecutors refused to drop charges or cut abusers slack unless the evidence was weak.  The judges made batterer programs mandatory which was unusual at the time.  When men on probation committed a new offense against their partner, probation would quickly file a violation.  This allowed them to jail the offenders more quickly and required less proof than a criminal case.  This protected potential victims when they most needed the help.

I remember watching a video about the Quincy Model in which they interviewed a prisoner serving a six month sentence for sending his wife flowers.  This initially seemed unfair until we learned that he violated a protective order that required he have no contact with his victim.  Many people, including professionals fail to understand that doing “nice” things are part of domestic violence tactics that help abusers maintain control over their partners.  Research demonstrates that abusers who violate court orders are especially dangerous.

One of the most important but overlooked parts of the successful approach were practices that made it easier for victims to leave their abusers.  Police would accompany women to court when there was a safety risk.  Clerks and volunteers would help them fill out the legal forms and explain the court process.  Special days and times were reserved for domestic violence cases so the complaining witnesses would not have to waste most of their day in court.  This was important because it could jeopardize jobs and interfere with child care.  Bill Delahunt also encouraged funding for housing and helped start the local domestic violence shelter.  I believe it is important that custody courts have created practices that make it harder for victims to leave which undermines what successful practices try to do.

The Quincy Model did not start with a coordinated response, but over time the professionals started having weekly meetings to coordinate their work and discuss problems as they developed.  The district attorney included other professionals in the meetings such as defense attorneys because they wanted the community to understand what they were trying to accomplish.  The idea for a coordinated community response originated with the Duluth Model in Minnesota and has become an important component of successful responses to domestic violence.

Although the media was not a formal part of the coordinated community response, they played a very positive role in making the Quincy Model successful.  The local newspaper, The Patriot Ledgerwrote numerous stories and published pictures of offenders with outstanding warrants.  This encouraged the police to make it a priority to arrest them.  The Boston Globe wrote numerous stories covering the effective practices in Quincy.  The Quincy Model became nationally known when 60 Minutes included a segment about it in one of their programs.  This coverage was important because it helped to inform men that there would be consequences to them if they committed their crimes in Quincy.  This is important because it means these best practices will not result in a huge increase in the prison population but rather discourage potential abusers from ever committing their crimes.  Over time these good practices should reduce the prison population.

Results of the Quincy Model

The reason we are confident that the Quincy Solution will dramatically reduce domestic violence crime is because this was the result from these best practices in Quincy and other communities like San Diego and Nashville.  Quincy enjoyed a huge reduction in domestic violence and other crimes.  A county that had averaged 5 to 6 domestic violence murders every year went several years without any homicides then one and back to none.

Bill Delahunt proved prescient about what future research would reveal.  Only accountability and monitoring have been shown to change abusive men’s behavior and this is exactly what the Quincy Model created.  As abusers learned that they could no longer avoid or minimize the consequences for their actions they stopped committing their crimes.  The community had sent a clear message that men’s abuse of women would no longer be tolerated.

Of course the abuser groups disliked the effective strategies.  “Fathers’ rights” groups staged protests in front of the courthouse wearing kangaroo costumes to complain about being held accountable.  The leaders in Quincy refused to be manipulated by men who believed they were entitled to maintain control over their partners.  This is a lesson court professionals and legislators can learn from.  Quincy did it because they wanted to keep the women and children in their community safe and healthy.  They didn’t know that these best practices could also save the United States $500 billion every year.