The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) Campaign is part of the Coalition for Women Prisoners’ multi-year advocacy campaign to change the criminal justice system’s response to DV survivors who act to protect themselves from an abuser’s violence.
The campaign seeks not only to change policy, but also to raise public awareness about the devastating connection between abuse and women’s pathways to prison.
Why Support the DVSJA?
Domestic violence and women’s incarceration are inextricably linked: nine of ten incarcerated women have experienced severe physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes, eight of ten experienced serious physical or sexual violence during childhood; 75% suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner during adulthood; and 37% were raped before their incarceration. Ninety-three percent of women convicted of killing an intimate partner were abused by an intimate partner in the past.
Over the past 30 years, domestic violence has been increasingly recognized as a national epidemic. Unfortunately, the significant advances made by the anti-violence movement have stopped short of reforming the unjust ways in which the criminal justice system responds to and punishes DV survivors charged with crimes directly related to the abuse they suffer.
State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud re-introduced the DVSJA as lead sponsor in the NY Senate on March 8, 2017. The legislation, supported by Assemblymember Jeffrion L. Aubry, passed the Assembly on May 8, 2018.
If enacted, the DVSJA would: (1) give judges discretion to sentence survivors whose abuse was a “significant contributing factor” in their crime to lower sentences if the usual sentence would be unduly harsh. In some cases, it will allow sentencing to community-based alternatives to incarceration instead of prison. (2) It would permit currently incarcerated survivors, in some cases, to apply to the courts for re-sentencing and earlier release.
In so doing, the Act would allow New York to take critical steps toward addressing the years of injustice faced by survivors whose lives have been shattered by abuse and make it less likely that survivors will be re-victimized by the very system that should help protect them.
Read the latest press about the need for a Domestic Survivors Justice Act in New York and similar laws in other states.
Watch these two videos of moving and powerful testimonies by LadyKathryn Williams-Julien and Kim Dadou as they share their experiences and urge elected officials to pass the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act!
Tamar Kraft Stolar’s powerful testimony before New York State lawmakers as the former director of the Women in Prison Project outlines the problems with the current sentencing process and how passing the DVSJA is wise public policy.
You Can Help!
We are currently working to build broad legislative and public support for the bill and the campaign.
Donate Now to help us continue our work on this issue.
Tell your friends and family about the campaign, email news articles about the DVSJA, watch our video “Why we need the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act,” or join the Coalition for Women Prisoners. Your participation is a critical part of creating a criminal justice system that addresses women’s specific needs, protects women’s rights, and ensures fairness and justice for all people and their families.
“Strength of a Woman” is a 20-minute documentary created by the Violence Against Women Committee of the Coalition For Women Prisoners and filmmaker Allison Caviness about the experiences, resilience, and strength of formerly incarcerated domestic violence survivors and the devastating impact that the criminal justice system can have on women’s lives. “Strength of a Woman” is a unique and powerful advocacy tool, which can be used to educate policymakers and the public about these critical issues.