Dear Governor Cuomo and New York State Legislature,
As organizations that serve hundreds of thousands of survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence (IPV) in New York State, through counseling, support and legal services, and advocacy, we join the growing call of voices opposing rollbacks on bail reform. Contrary to the arguments of those who invoke intimate partner violence to push back against bail reform, rollbacks will not make survivors of violence safer. In fact, rollbacks will harm marginalized survivors of violence.
We are concerned that during this time of the COVID-19 crisis, some New York State elected officials are attempting to push through rollbacks when our communities really need support and resources. This is especially concerning as we know that during such crises, IPV incidents often increase. And yet, while the criminal legal system is often invoked as an ‘answer’ to dealing with IPV, for marginalized Black, latinx, immigrant, low-income and/or LGBTQ survivors, their status as survivors makes them more likely to become entangled in the criminal justice system.
This is because mandatory arrest laws and poor primary-aggressor assessments by law enforcement mean that survivors are often arrested instead of – or in addition to – the person engaging in abuse. A national study showed that a fourth of survivors are arrested or threatened with arrest during an IPV incident or report. In New York City, the majority (66%) of IPV survivors who were arrested alongside or instead of their abusive partner were Black or latinx.
Black, latinx, immigrant, low-income, and/or LGBTQ survivors of IPV are also more likely to have had encounters with the criminal legal system before, during, and after surviving violence. According to a study by the Department of Justice, 77 percent of those incarcerated in women’s jails were victims of IPV. As there are no “perfect survivors” of violence, low-income Black, latinx, immigrant, and/or LGBTQ survivors of IPV include people with prior arrests and records, people with unstable immigration status, people who work in illicit street economies for survival, including sex work and those who sell and/or use substances. These survivors deserve support and resources, not criminalization and incarceration, which rollbacks only exacerbate.
Bail rollbacks will harm marginalized IPV survivors. We ask that you reject rollbacks on bail reform, and work with us to find more ways to invest in measures that will actually help survivors of intimate partner violence live in safety and dignity. This includes increasing the State’s social safety net by investing in safety planning resources, emergency shelter, long-term housing and services for trans and gender non-conforming people, expanding protections and resources for non-citizens, passing laws like Good Cause Eviction and Home Stability Support, and repealing discriminatory policies like the ”Walking While Trans” loitering law. It means pushing to cancel rent and utilities and other financial burdens on low-income Black, latinx, immigrant, and/or LGBTQ people of color that exacerbate power dynamics in IPV situations.
These are the kinds of social safety net resources and services that survivors of IPV need, especially during a crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak. New York State Legislators, we urge you to stand alongside survivors of intimate partner violence and anti-IPV advocates and push against rollbacks to bail reform.
The New York City Anti-Violence Project
Women’s Community Justice Association
STEPS to End Family Violence – a Program of Rising Ground
Black Lives Matter Hudson Valley
New Hour for Women & Children —LI
Girls for Gender Equity, Inc. (GGE)