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Bill tries to help domestic violence victims unfairly imprisoned

The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act is a bill that was introduced in 2011 and is still being debated in the New York legislature. The Act recognizes that a major path to incarceration for many women is through the violence cycles of domestic abuse. Many women have ended up in prison after saying no to continuing acts of domestic violence by a spouse or domestic partner.

The Act would allow those individuals to go before the court for re-sentencing. At that time, they would be able to prove and explain the surrounding circumstances of the crime they committed. This would allow the court to consider the details of domestic violence that led to the so-called crime by the defendant.

Women's groups and others supporting the law say that it was born from the failed policy of over-incarceration in the United States. That system has put many women in prison for defending themselves from patterns of physical violence. Organizations lobbying for the bill point to the real-life experiences of numerous abused women who ended up in jail by saying no to abuse. Unfortunately, many of the women typically didn't report or forgave the assaults that they suffered at the hands of an abuser, usually a male partner.

They even learned to turn the other way or get trapped in cycles of paralysis when their children were also abused by the offender. The legislation intends to return some sense of perspective and to recognize a domestic abuse defense. The bill would give some teeth to the concept that a victim should be able to stand her ground when trying to free herself from a violent cycle.

The trend in New York and nationwide is to recognize the injustice of the current system. The chances favor eventual passage of the proposed legislation. A woman who faces a violent and entrapping lifestyle can benefit from a legal consultation with a criminal defense attorney, and by seeking the help of community-based organizations that are experienced and supportive with respect to domestic violence situations.

Source: aljazeera.com, "Domestic violence victims in NY prisons may get some relief", Victoria Law, Jan. 1, 2015

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