The NWDA Domestic Violence Unit's “Sentencing, Probation and Batterer’s Intervention Safety and Accountability Audit” is the culmination of a 10-year process of examining the institutionalized response to domestic violence cases and finding ways to improve it.
Among the findings presented at a Sept. 8 conference at the Clarion Hotel in Northampton are that 1) the more coordination the better among police, probation, ADAs, judges, victim advocates and batterer’s intervention groups etc. and that 2) greater safeguards to ensure victims’ safety and batterers’ accountability are needed.
ADA Susan Loehn called for changing the practice called “accord and satisfaction” by which all parties involved in misdemeanor assault and battery cases can agree to dismiss the case.
Massachusetts is the only state in the country which allows these agreements, which often work to the defendant’s advantage and are sometimes granted over the objections of the prosecutor.
“Why do we have this wide-open door – allowing (batterers) to walk through it?” Loehn asked. “We need to close that door.”
James Henderson, a longtime probation officer and director of the Battered Women’s Justice Project in Michigan, was the main speaker. His presentation, which was equal parts powerful and entertaining, was on practices he has developed to remove the roadblocks to successful completion of probation and make the system more accountable.
“Men can quit battering,” Henderson said. “They don’t, because we let them.”