New York State is poised to become the first state in the nation to effect justice for domestic violence survivors who, in defending themselves from abuse and violence, hurt or kill their abusers. The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (A.4409) would allow judges to factor in a survivor’s self-defense and domestic abuse in sentencing. Sponsored by NY Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry and Senator Roxanne Persaud, the bill has already passed in the Assembly. It now needs to be passed in the Senate in order to move forward. Community support can make this happen — can you help??
75% of women in NY’s prisons suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner during adulthood. The NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision found that 67% of women sent to prison in 2005 for killing someone close to them were abused by the victim of their crime.
And yet all too often, the criminal justice system’s response to DV survivors who act to protect themselves from an abuser’s violence is to send them to prison, often for many years. This represents a shameful miscarriage of justice. Instead of giving survivors who have suffered life-shattering abuse compassion and assistance, we give them harsh punishment and prison.
The DVSJA allows judges to sentence domestic violence survivors convicted of offenses caused by that violence to shorter sentences or to alternative-to-incarceration programs instead of prison at their discretion. It also gives survivors sentenced prior to the law’s enactment the opportunity to apply for resentencing.
What you can do:
1. As an Organization— Send a letter of organizational support by drafting a letter on your group’s letterhead and emailing it to GSmith@correctionalassociation.org. Please feel free to any of this language for your letter. For more information, please call Gail Smith at 646-539-5931 or Anisah Sabur at 212-254-5700 ext. 344 (both of the Correctional Association’s Women in Prison Project).
2. As an Individual–Call (use this talking points memo) and write (using this individual support letter) to let your elected officials know you support this bill! Look up your Senator here if you aren’t sure.
3. Invite other individuals and organizations in your networks to lend support to this bill.
4. Follow The Correctional Association on Facebook to keep informed of updates
5. Read and share this report by the Correctional Association’s Women in Prison Project &
Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law school: From Protection to Punishment: Post-Conviction Barriers to Justice for Domestic Violence Survivor-Defendants in New York State.
Members of the Correctional Association will be lobbying in January so taking action soon will make a difference, especially support from folks living in Upstate New York and on Long Island!
Thank you for your support of this legislation that, if passed, could provide an invaluable chance for survivors to return to or stay with their families and community support systems while they try to heal.