Jerri Sparks is a native of North Carolina, having spent her childhood in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is the mother of four, the oldest of whom has autism. She received her B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and after college spent 11 years as a stay-at-home mom caring for her children before working as a Press Secretary in the United States Congress. Today she works in the pharmaceutical research industry helping ensure that new medicines are safe for the public. Like many people, Jerri's life has been personally touched by domestic violence and she hopes to leverage her research and legislative backgrounds into better awareness and policies. She spends her spare time advocating for her son with autism, baking for her kids, neighbors and friends, and designing stained glass art.
Last week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a tougher domestic violence bill into law that offers more protections for the targets of domestic violence and makes it more difficult for offenders to repeat their behaviors and harm their intended subjects. The new law makes repeatedly harming a family member a felony and adds special consideration for bail in addition to removing the ability of an abuser to control the remains of victim(s). Overall, the law adds the following to the domestic violence prevention arsenal:
- New Felony Crime and Expanded Definition of Aggravated Harassment
- Allows Judges to Consider Additional Risk Factors in Determining Bail to Better Protect Victims from Further Harm
- Establishes Statewide Fatality Review Team to Find New Ways to Reduce Intimate Partner Homicides
- NYC Domestic Violence Court for Parolees
- High-Risk Team
- Online Training for Law Enforcement
See the link to the Governor’s press release here.
This passage in the press release speaks volumes: “Currently, courts are not required to consider any special factors when determining recognizance or bail in a domestic violence case, allowing offenders in some cases to go free on low bail and thereby be allowed to stalk, harm and sometimes kill their specifically targeted victims. Under the legislation that was signed today, judges will be required to consider well-established risk factors, such as an offender’s prior violation of an order of protection and the accused’s access to guns.”
While I wish that the law went further in its parameters for considering bail, this is a big improvement. In the future I’d like to see bail considerations for the violent nature of the attack regardless of whether or not the accused has a prior arrest record, and special consideration if there are children in the home.