Save money, don't prosecute domestic violence cases

October 10, 2011
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Officials in Topeka, Kan., are considering decriminalizing domestic violence in their city code. It’s not because they don’t think the crime is worth prosecuting, it’s because they need to save money. The reason they are considering this stems from the county government’s decision to transfer domestic violence crime enforcement to the city level.

In September, the Shawnee County district attorney office said it would no longer prosecute misdemeanors that happen within city limits, including domestic violence cases. The district attorney came to this decision after his office faced budget cuts. Apparently the city attorney’s office has far fewer resources than the district attorney’s office, and only one prosecutor has ever worked on domestic violence cases, with the last being 10 years ago.  

Now faced with a growing caseload due to the misdemeanor case transfer, the city officials debated whether to decriminalized domestic violence in order to save money. Repealing the code would force the DA’s office to start prosecuting that crime again. The offices of the district attorney and city are disputing who should prosecute these cases. The Topeka City Council meets Tuesday to discuss the measure.

This is terrible news for the victims of domestic violence in this area. No government entity wants to take their case. If the district attorney’s office refuses to file charges and the city attorney’s office doesn’t have the resources to do so, then the victims of domestic violence are not only physical victims at the hands of their partner or family member, but victims of inefficient and inadequate government. Those who have been arrested since the DA’s office made the decision have been released from jail after charges weren’t filed.

Did I mention that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month? It seems as though Kansas is doing its part – and not it a good way – to bring attention to this issue.

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