To help victims of domestic violence who have been imprisoned solely for crimes against their abuser, Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Gabriela Mosquera and Valerie Vainieri Huttle sponsor a bill that would establish a community integration program for these individuals. The legislation was advanced by the Assembly Women and Children Committee on Monday.
“When a victim of domestic violence harms their abuser, it is in direct response to violence that has been committed against them and is unlike many other violent crimes,” said Assemblyman Johnson (D-Bergen). “Generally speaking, it was a one-time situation highly unlikely to repeat itself. This warrants compassion and understanding from our criminal justice system.”
Under the bill (A-720/S-381), a supervised community reintegration program would be established within the Department of Corrections to help foster the reintegration of inmates convicted of a crime against their abuser, who present a low risk of re-offense and have documented evidence of pre-existing abuse.
Inmates approved for the program would receive rehabilitative services and then gradually transition to supervision within the community – such as participating in a work release program.
“Often when a victim uses force against their abuser, they were trying to defend themselves, escape the abuse or reclaim their sense of self, which are all understandable motives,” said Assemblywoman Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Once victims are removed from that dangerous situation, they have no reason to harm anyone else. They deserve the opportunity to move on from their experiences and return to society with careful guidance.”
Inmates who wish to participate in this program would apply to the Department of Corrections. The department would review information about the applicant, including a psychological evaluation, objective risk assessment, evidence of abuse and summary of the crime in order to determine eligibility.
“Keeping victims behind bars for trying to protect themselves is not the answer to dealing with these situations,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “It’s important to focus on rehabilitation rather than punitive measures that may not fit the crime committed. This program offers an alternative to extended prison sentences and will help victims of domestic violence safely and effectively rejoin their communities.”
The legislation now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.