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Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: January 23, 2023 11:48 AM
From: Representative Bridget M. Kosierowski
To: All House members
Subject: Domestic Violence – Survivors’ Alternative Sentences

Some domestic violence survivors are coerced into criminal activity by their abusers with threats against their family, friends, loved ones, and even family pets. Other survivors fight back against their abuser to defend their lives and the lives of their children. Each of these scenarios force domestic violence survivors into the criminal justice system and, often, long prison sentences. With more than 12 million Americans 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.
For this reason, I am introducing legislation to provide 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 so the court may consider shorter sentences or alternative sentences. To benefit from this legislation, individuals will 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. Similar policies are helping victims of domestic violence in New York and Illinois.

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 unimaginable pain and cruelty at the hands of someone they love. Please join me in helping domestic violence survivors escape victimization by backing this legislation.