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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: October 7, 2019 11:08 AM
From: Representative Bridget M. Kosierowski
To: All House members
Subject: Domestic Violence – Survivors’ Alternative Sentences
A number of domestic violence survivors are coerced into criminal activity by their abusers, who threaten their family, friends, loved ones, and even family pets, while some survivors fight back against their abuser to defend their lives and the lives of their children. This can lead to domestic violence survivors becoming trapped between the dangers of sometimes life-threatening violence and the trauma of long prison sentences. With more than 12 million men and women experiencing rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, and with nearly 60 percent of women in prison having had a history of physical or sexual abuse before incarceration, something must be done to stop the cycle of continued victimization.

My legislation would make Pennsylvania the third state, in addition to New York and Illinois, to require that individuals who were survivors of domestic violence at the time of an offense have their history of domestic violence taken into account during sentencing and be provided with shorter sentences or alternative sentences. Individuals would need to show that the violence was a significant contributing factor to their participation in the offense and individuals convicted of first degree or aggravated murder, sex offenses, or acts of terrorism would be excluded. Individuals who are currently incarcerated and were sentenced before the enactment of this legislation would be eligible for resentencing, so long as they meet the same criteria as described above.

There is no reason to lock up domestic violence survivors who have already suffered so much at the hands of their abusers. Incarcerating individuals who have committed crimes without taking their victimization into account is unethical, inhumane, and perpetuates victim blaming. As representatives, it is our job to show that we understand and support our constituents who face the unimaginable – pain and cruelty at the hands of someone they love. Please join me in backing this legislation to continue to help domestic violence survivors across Pennsylvania.

Introduced as HB2047