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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 14, 2022 10:37 AM
From: Senator Amanda M. Cappelletti
To: All Senate members
Subject: Alternative Sentences for Domestic Violence Survivors
In the near future I will reintroduce a companion bill to Representative Kosierowski’s HB 181 of the 2021-22 session, which creates alternative sentences for domestic violence survivors. Last session, I introduced this bill as SB 1323; cosponsors included Senators Fontana, Street, Kane, Hughes, Santarsiero, Kearney, Schwank, Costa, and Browne.

Every year, 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. Some survivors fight back against their abuser to defend their lives and the lives of their children. This can lead to them 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 create more just outcomes for those affected by domestic violence and abuse. 

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

For too long victims of domestic violence have not found justice in the courts of Pennsylvania. Incarcerating individuals who have committed crimes without taking their victimization into account is unethical, inhumane, and perpetuates victim blaming. I ask that you join me in sponsoring this legislation which will help more Pennsylvanians find the justice they deserve in our court system. 

Introduced as SB385