(The Center Square) – A national advocacy group released a report Tuesday that relates to a bill regarding justice for domestic violence survivors.
The Sentencing Project and the Survivors Justice Project’s report guides states on how to create a more trauma-informed approach to sentencing practices to consider the welfare of survivors of intimate partner violence, family abuse and trafficking. The report reviews the impact of New York’s 2019 Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act and offers model legislation for other states to follow. New York’s law created opportunities for survivors to receive a shorter sentence at their original sentencing hearing and, for those already incarcerated, provided an opportunity for resentencing. So far, 40 people have received retroactive sentencing relief under the law, according to the report.
Minnesota legislators are currently considering a domestic violence survivorship justice-related bill that would create opportunities for survivors to receive a shorter sentence at their original sentencing hearing and, for those already incarcerated, provided an opportunity for resentencing.
The report recommends legislators across the country create broad, trauma-informed eligibility criteria; make it as simple as possible for survivors to navigate legal processes after domestic violence; create clear, trauma-informed and realistic legal standards for relief; and maximize sentence reductions. It also includes a model for domestic violence and human trafficking survivor justice sentencing law.
Sentencing Reform Counsel at The Sentencing Project, and a co-author of the Sentencing Reform for Criminalized Survivors report Liz Komar said in a news release that survivors of domestic violence and trafficking are often arrested and imprisoned.
“Confronting the many drivers of criminalization is essential for justice,” Komar said. “A fair and proportional criminal legal system should account for the multitude of factors that led to an offense, including abuse.”
Domestic abuse and human trafficking survivors may lose housing, income and savings, pushing them into committing crimes to meet basic survival needs, according to the report. Survivors might also face legal consequences for defending themselves or others, or be coerced into crime, and coping with trauma can lead to substance abuse.
Project Director for the Survivors Justice Project and report co-author Kate Mogulescu said in the release that sentencing reform for survivors is urgent and it’s part of a broader decarceration movement.
“While most women in prison report a history of abuse, survivor sentencing reform, like that being modeled here in New York, would benefit incarcerated abuse survivors of all genders across the country who are serving or facing extreme felony sentences,” she said in the release.