As domestic homicides more than doubled in Massachusetts, judges across the state sent only about half as many batterers to abuse intervention programs last year as they did in 2003, reports the Boston Globe. The plunging numbers are raising concerns among victims’ advocates that judges are too readily accepting plea bargains that allow offenders to attend shorter anger management classes instead of more rigorous batterer-intervention programs.
Officials and advocates worry that fewer victims are taking their cases to court, for a variety of reasons. Among them: victims afraid of retaliation, illegal immigrants afraid to become involved in the criminal justice system, and a court ruling that puts more pressure on victims to provide often difficult testimony in their cases. “If there are fewer prosecutions and fewer people being ordered to batterer intervention, it all starts to look like a pattern of lack of accountability for perpetrators,” said Mary Lauby of Jane Doe Inc. “It should then be no surprise that there are more homicides.” Judges sent 1,192 people to intervention programs last year, compared with 2,231 referred to the programs in fiscal 2003. The number of domestic violence homicides has increased sharply over the past four years, from 19 in 2003 to 42 last year. The state does not specifically track the number of domestic violence crimes, because they are prosecuted as other offenses – aggravated assaults, for example. The number of restraining orders issued decreased from 30,952 in 2003 to 28,121 last year.