Domestic violence wasn’t considered a public health issue by the American Medical Association until 1992, a year after Kim defended herself against her abuser. Today, women’s prison populations across the nation are teeming with domestic violence survivors. The Department of Justice found that over half of women in jails and prisons were abused before incarceration. The New York State Department of Correctional and Community Services reports that 67% of women who are sentenced to prison for killing someone close to them had been abused by that same person.
So why don’t these women just get out of the abuse before it escalates? When a victim attempts to leave a violent partner, they are 70 times more likely to get killed within two weeks of leaving than any other time in the relationship. A report by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) found that the average prison sentence for men who kill their female partners was 2 to 6 years. The average sentence for women who kill their male partners was 15 years. This, despite the fact that, as stated by NCADV’s findings, “most women who kill their partners do so to protect themselves from violence initiated by their partners.”
New York will reap significant savings every year if the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) bill passes. In New York, it costs up to $96,000 per year to send one adult to jail, but sentencing to an alternative-to-incarceration (ATI) program would cost $18,000, according to a report from NYC ATI/Reentry Coalition Services. Additionally, the two-year recidivism rate of ATI graduates is less than 20%, far lower than the 42% recidivism rate of those released from incarceration.