Baker Releases Anti-Domestic Violence Agenda

Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito released their anti domestic violence agenda today.  Here is the release and the plan.

Brighton- Today, Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito proposed their ‘Domestic Violence Prevention and Victim Protection Plan,’ a series of reforms to protect victims and their children in abusive homes as well as efforts to get tough on offenders. The plan stiffens penalties for abusers, delivers more support for victims and empowers victims to prevent attacks.

“I care deeply about the families torn apart by violence and believe our plan will put abusers behind bars and families in healthier situations,” said Charlie Baker. “The current resources available and laws on the books are clearly not doing enough to address the complicated problem of domestic violence. As Governor, I will work day and night to implement these proposals to deliver the support victims need and stiffen penalties to make sure abusers don’t get the chance to hurt anyone a second time.”

Karyn Polito added, “I am proud of my work as a state representative, passing Jessica’s Law to increase penalties for those who hurt children, but the work of protecting families is never done. This comprehensive plan to stop domestic violence and protect victims is desperately needed now.”  

more after the jump

Charlie and Karyn’s Domestic Violence Prevention and Victim Protection Plan:

Stiffer Penalties for Abusers: The legislature should pass pending legislation which strengthens and enhances laws dealing with domestic abuse, giving prosecutors more tools to punish abusers.  The legislation sets penalties for a first offense of domestic assault and redefines a ‘second offense’ of domestic assault so that probation and ‘continuance without a finding’ are considered a first offense; adds a new crime of strangulation; adds an enhanced strangulation charge (including for strangling a pregnant woman); and mandates a batterer’s intervention program for any violation of these charges or any continuation without a finding on these charges.

Under current law, the penalties for a ‘second or subsequent offense’ of domestic assault are only triggered if the abuser was previously convicted for their assault.

Eliminate Personal Recognizance for Bail Jumpers:  The legislature should reform bail laws to abolish the presumption of release on personal recognizance for repeat bail defaulters, and replace it with the presumption of specified minimum bail requirements.

Current Massachusetts law imposes on judges a presumption that all defendants will be released on their personal recognizance. The bail law should be amended to create a presumption of minimum bail required depending on the type of crime and how many times a defendant has defaulted in the past.

More Support for Victims: The state should work with local police departments to implement victim advocate programs across the state to assist victims as they navigate the legal process, encouraging them to file charges and request restraining orders when appropriate.

Many victims don’t press charges or get restraining orders because they fear their abuser, believe he will change, are financially dependent on their abusers and/or have nowhere else to live and don’t want to take their kids to a shelter.   In addition, navigating the court system can be an overwhelming experience for a victim.  A comprehensive system of trained advocates not solely administered by District Attorneys offices would assist victims through all stages of legal proceedings, as well as providing additional support.  

Protecting Children:  DCF should establish a task force to monitor domestic abuse cases involving children to ensure all available resources are delivered.

Children in domestic violence situations are at high risk of becoming victims or abusers themselves.  A task force administered by the Department of Children and Families with specific guidelines for children in these situations will deliver full support for the victim and the family – ensuring the safety not just of the victims but of their children as well.  

Free Criminal Background Checks: The state should waive all fees for individuals seeking criminal background information for their own personal safety or the safety of their children via the iCORI system.  

Currently, criminal background checks cost $50.00. These checks should include all information regarding domestic and sexual abuse, violent crimes, and restraining orders.  Single mothers, families and individuals concerned about their safety with a current or potential partner should be able to access this information so they know who they are letting into their lives and the lives of their children.

Educate Judges:  Provide greater education on domestic abuse and require they have completed trainings in sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Strengthen Probation Guidelines for Abusers:  The Probation Department should develop guidelines for probation officers on how to supervise abusers on probation in order to help ensure the safety of victims and their families.

Make ‘Defensive Sprays’ Readily Available: The legislature should pass legislation allowing anyone over the age of 18 to purchase and possess ‘defensive sprays’ such as pepper spray.

Massachusetts law currently requires a firearm identification card in order to purchase defensive sprays, a process that takes months and treats defensive sprays the same as rifles and shotguns.

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