District Attorney Maeghan Malone is trying out a new policy in Maine – jailing alleged domestic violence victims. While this sounds extreme, she believes her motives are pure. By jailing the victim, she is ensuring that they will appear in court to testify against their alleged abuser.
Most recently, a woman named Jessica Ruiz spent 17 hours in jail because Malone believed there was a chance she may not show up in court. D.A. Malone believes in prosecuting all domestic violence cases that involve strangulation or some evidence of extreme threat. The problem is that in most cases the only evidence is the victim.
In some domestic violence cases, the victim may not want to testify or even wants the charges dropped. It is up to the D.A. to decide if the State wants to continue to pursue the offender.
While this may seem to some like a good policy to stop domestic violence no matter what but considering many convictions do not even result in jail time, it ends up with the victim serving more time in jail than the offender.
The district attorney’s office is usually willing to offer defendants 364 days in jail but suspend all of it, with two years probation and conditions mandating participation in batterer’s intervention programs and no contact with the victim.
The whole process seems entirely too traumatic for the victims involved and may actually lead to less domestic violence incidents being reported for fear of victims getting locked up themselves. The smarter idea would be to look at why victims are not showing up. If it is due to fear, the D.A. should work with local women’s shelters who can house alleged victims until they can testify. If it turns out that victims do not testify because they want the charges dropped, there is not much that can be done to change their minds.
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