The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act 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.
The Coalition for Women Prisoners, coordinated by the Correctional Association of New York’s Women in Prison Project, is a state-wide alliance of more than 1,600 people and 100 organizations. Members include people with criminal justice histories, social service providers, community-based organizations, lawyers, teachers, students, faith leaders, and concerned individuals.
The Coalition’s goals are to:
- ensure that criminal justice policy is fair, addresses women’s specific needs and protects their rights;
- end the criminal justice system’s unjust response to domestic violence survivors convicted of crimes directly related to abuse;
- protect incarcerated mothers’ ability to maintain bonds with and rights to their children;
- eliminate barriers to reentry and allow women make a safe and productive return to their communities after prison;
- educate the public and policymakers about key criminal justice issues affecting women and families; and
- facilitate formerly incarcerated women’s leadership in efforts to change policies that directly affect their lives.
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.
The DVSJA is legislation currently pending in the NYS legislature sponsored by Assemblymember Jeffrion L. Aubry and Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson. 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 and, in some cases, to community-based alternatives to incarceration instead of prison, and (2) permit currently incarcerated survivors 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.
You Can Help!
We are currently working to build broad legislative and public support for the bill and the campaign.
Whether you are writing on behalf of an organization or as an individual, you can show your support for this critical legislation! Write directly to your legislators by submitting a DSVJA letter of support.
Tell your friends and family about the website, e-mail news articles posted on the site, follow the campaign by reading our blog, read survivor-defendants’ stories, share your thoughts, or join the Coalition for Women Prisoners.
Thank you for visiting the DVSJA Campaign website. 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.