Matthew T. Mangino
September 12, 2014
A video released this week showing football star Ray Rice punching his fiancée, now his wife, in the face and leaving her apparently unconscious on the floor of a hotel elevator has ignited a contentious debate about the proper way to deal with domestic violence in this country.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Rice ended up in a diversion program based on more than a dozen factors, including the victim Jayne Palmer’s wishes and Rice’s criminal history.
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed the appalling video from inside the elevator before approving Rice for the diversion program.
The 12-month diversion program requires counseling, employment and remaining crime free. “We do try to look at the whole person,” Kathy Boyle, program administrator in Atlantic County, told the Inquirer. “Not just the nature of the offense.”
Domestic violence impacts many more women than even the data portrays. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report prepared by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly one in three women in the United States have been slapped, pushed, or shoved by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
Domestic violence accounted for 21 percent of all violent crime from 2003 to 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Violence against an intimate partner is a deplorable crime. An inordinate amount of domestic crime in never reported to police and not every act of domestic violence reported to authorities is prosecuted. There is research that indicates seeking alternatives to prosecution may not be entirely bad.
A recent study following up on a 1980s report about mandatory domestic violence arrest policies in Milwaukee — increased death rates of domestic violence victims from arresting vs. warning suspects in the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment — found increased death rates among victims when suspects were arrested, rather than merely warned, by police.
“The foundational question being begged by this research is an important and understudied one: Is the criminal justice system the best societal response to non-felonious domestic assault?” Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn asked when the report was released.
Rice’s attack on Palmer was a felonious act. He was charged with aggravated assault. However, the new research is worth a look. There are options available to law enforcement in domestic violence cases other than prosecution.
The new research was undertaken by the same primary researcher, Lawrence W. Sherman, a University of Maryland professor and director of Cambridge University’s Police Executive Program. Sherman suggested at a recent conference that “criminal penalties have enormous side effects. They do not always deter crime, and they may increase crime.” He went on to say, “We should get away from a one-size-fits-all policy.”
Researchers highlighted the findings that victims were 64 percent more likely to have died of all causes, such as heart disease, cancer or other illness, if their partner was arrested rather than warned, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Flynn said that more research is needed to provide law enforcement with better guidance on the effectiveness of arrests versus other tactics, such as referring alleged abusers to social services, reported The Crime Report. He noted that of 81 domestic violence homicides in Milwaukee in the last eight years, suspects in 61 of them had prior arrest records. Flynn refrained from concluding that the arrests somehow provoked the killings and therefore those arrests should not have been made.
“The impact of seeing a partner arrested could create a traumatic event for the victim, one that raises their risk of death,” concluded the report.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was recently released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.
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