Thursday, January 11, 2007


Here are two names I never thought I'd see together. Our former Lt. Governor and Senator Jarret Barrios decided to write an opinion piece in the Boston Globe about "Technology Against Violence." Skipping any snarkiness about that pairing, I'm going to go right to the meat of their argument.

Here's the gist of what they see as the problem:

In answering domesic violence calls, police departments routinely supply information on battered women's shelters, along with advice on how women can seek protective orders. But why tell a woman how to leave if you are helping her obtain a restraining order that is supposed to protect her? Expecting the victim to leave instead of asking why the justice system cannot restrain the batterer from reassaulting illustrates how ingrained it has become to expect danger as a matter of course when victims seek to end abusive relationships.

Currently, many battered partners leave -- their homes, families, or jobs. Battered women's shelters must turn away thousands of women every year. Twenty-three percent of women and children in homeless shelters report that they are directly fleeing domestic violence. Instead of asking why a woman doesn't leave the violent relationship, we need to be asking how can we help these families stay -- to stay housed, in their jobs, with their kids.

Here's their remedy:

With the help of Diane Rosenfeld of Harvard Law School, we looked at how to improve the criminal justice system's response to domestic violence. On the last day of the 2005-2006 legislative session, a bill we filed was signed into law that will help remedy the loss of a victim's safety.

Under the new law, an offender who violates a domestic violence order of protection can be required by a judge to wear a device that provides Global Positioning System monitoring. The GPS helps enforce the restraining order by preventing the batterer from entering "liberty zones," such as the battered partner's domicile and place of work, their children's schools, and the residences of extended family members. Probation agents will monitor offenders to ensure that they do not breach these zones. If they do, a record of a restraining order violation will be made, thus making stalking and further violent attacks more difficult. Further, police and the victim are automatically phoned if the offender breaches the battered partner's liberty zone, thus minimizing the victim's fears of an unexpected confrontation with the batterer.
Seems like a great idea to me, at least in cases where there has been either breaches of agreements in the past or violent history. Hopefully enough law enforcement officers and others will know about it so people who need this protection can make good use of it.


Peter Porcupine said...

I'm moe surprised by Barrios than Healey.

Healey chaired - ACTIVELY chaired, not just took the title - the monthly Gov. Commission on Domestic Violence against Women for 5 years. She opened a center with Boston Police Commr. Kathleen O'Toole for abused and traumatized children, victims of domestic violence. It's her training, and her former profession.

I agree, the idea sounds good.

Anonymous said...

That they got together surprises you? I don't know why. Both of them like to file legislation that has no purpose except to gather headlines. One of the worst candidates for governor we've had in a while teams up with one of the worst senators we currently have? I'm not surprised at all.

They are both all fluff and no peanut butter.

Tony said...

Here's the big problem with this idea:
"Probation agents will monitor offenders to ensure that they do not breach these zones. If they do, a record of a restraining order violation will be made, thus making stalking and further violent attacks more difficult."

Only one violation of restraining order is too many. One violation can be an assault, a rape, a murder. What good does it do to make a further attack more difficult? The damage has already been done.

The idea sounds good, but is just as ineffectual as what we already have.

Who is going to monitor all these GPD's so that if a batterer or abuser gets too close to their victim, help can be sent to intervene? Because by the time a phone call is made and received, an assault or murder can already have happened.

It sounds goods, but it also sounds like it needs more work.

Anonymous said...


Exactly right. Throw in Peter Porcupine as Minister of Propaganda and you've got the perfect "all spin, no action" package.

Ryan Adams said...

Well, the thing is, if we just toss everyone who violates it into jail after one violation... thousands and thousands of people are going to go into jail. Cases need to be looked at individually. Sometimes these devices could even be necessary before any violation, based on what happened before the restraining order was made.

However, if a first violation was a violent or very dangerous attack, then the full extent of the law should be laid. But not all people are necessarily violent, even if they broke their order. For many of those people, a simple band would be more than enough to keep them away - and could be best for everyone. Heck, it may even be best for the battered woman - for example, if it were a divorced father, he could be paying child support that the battered ex-spouse very much needed.

So I wouldn't be as willing to instantly toss someone in jail, when we can't really afford to do that to everyone (and I don't think it would be the best situation all the time either) if there are cheaper and potentialy even more effective ways of protecting the people who need it.

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