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Turner Introduces Bill To Help Combat Domestic Violence

Senator Hopes Counseling Requirement Will Curb Recidivism

TRENTON – Looking to address the root of the problem and curb recidivism rates, Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer) today introduced legislation that would require mandatory counseling for individuals convicted of or placed on probation for a domestic violence offense.

“Many people involved in domestic violence incidents come from an environment where the issues that prompt this behavior simply aren’t discussed,” said Sen. Turner (D-Mercer). “Experienced domestic violence counselors can help individuals understand what causes their behavior, the harm their actions have, and how they can work towards curbing these destructive impulses.“

Under current law, it is up to the court’s discretion to require a domestic violence defendant to receive professional counseling from either a private source or a source appointed by the court. Under Senator Turner’s bill, which is modeled after similar laws in California and North Carolina, the court would be required to order defendants to complete a program of professional counseling if they are found guilty of a domestic violence offense and the court suspends the sentence or places the defendant on probation. The bill stipulates that counseling would be mandatory as a condition for probation and the counseling must be provided by a professional with expertise in dealing with domestic violence matters.

“Numerous studies have documented the effectiveness of treatment programs in reducing domestic violence recidivism rates,” added Sen. Turner. “Conversely, many studies show that offenders who do not successfully complete a treatment program are nearly 50 percent more likely to commit another violent offense. Repeat offenders are also more likely to use severe tactics that result in serious injury.”

According to the most recent domestic violence report available from the New Jersey State Police, domestic violence-related murders statewide increased 50 percent from 38 in 2007 to 57 in 2008. Although total reported domestic violence offenses decreased by 2 percent in 2008, there were still 70,613 offenses reported by police statewide. Twenty-seven percent of all domestic violence cases in 2008 resulted in injury, including nearly 1,500 cases of serious injury, a four percent increase over 2007. Additionally, there were 2,966 arrests involving domestic violence restraining orders reported by police in New Jersey in 2008. There were also 13,872 domestic violence complaints in which the offender had prior court orders issued against him/her.

“Last year, alone, the City of Trenton had over 2,000 domestic violence related incidents, including eight deaths,” added Sen. Turner. “Despite the best efforts of our law enforcement, arresting someone or placing a restraining order on them is only a temporary solution. If we want to save lives and protect families, we need to address the root causes of the problem.”

If Sen. Turner’s bill is signed into law, the counseling requirement would go into effect immediately.

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