New report finds clear link between domestic violence and women’s incarceration

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A new report from the Correctional Association finds that domestic violence and women’s incarceration are inextricably linked.

  • Nine of ten women in New York’s prisons report being survivors of abuse
  • 75% have endured severe intimate partner violence during adulthood.
  • 93% of women incarcerated in NY for killing an intimate partner were abused by an intimate partner in the past.

From Protection to Punishment

The report, co-authored by the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice, finds that survivors who act to protect themselves face myriad barriers to justice, including:

  • overly restrictive mandatory sentencing statutes
  • limited access to alternative-to-incarceration programs (ATIs)
  • restrictions on merit time and work release programs in prison
  • obstacles to making parole and receiving clemency.

As a result, women who have survived years of life-shattering abuse are routinely sent to prison for acting to protect themselves and their children. They are often locked up for long periods of time, with very little chance for early release.

A central report recommendation is the enactment of the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, which would:

  1. establish an ameliorative, alternate sentencing statute for survivors convicted of crimes directly related to the abuse they suffered, and allow judges to send survivor-defendants to either significantly shorter prison terms than those allowed under current law or to probation and ATIs instead of prison, and
  2. allow survivors who are currently serving long sentences for crimes directly related to their abuse to apply to the courts for resentencing and earlier release.

This bill would be a significant step in continuing New York’s efforts to combat the epidemic of domestic violence and in addressing the long-standing injustices facing survivor-defendants across the state.

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