Friday, October 7, 2011

In Topeka, nobody wants to prosecute domestic violence

Back in my home state of Kansas, the Shawnee County District Attorney has decided to stop prosecuting domestic violence misdemeanors including domestic violence (see comments below) because of budget cuts. The city of Topeka—the county seat, and state capital—has responded with an ordinance to repeal its own domestic violence law so it doesn't get stuck with all the domestic violence cases.


I outsource my commentary to my friend Notorious PhD:
Of the many things that counties and states have shoved off on municipalities (just as the federal governement offloads its responsibilities onto the states), why is it women* whose bodies are being put on the line?

That was a rhetorical question.

Poverty and frustration with long-term unemployment increases the incidence of domestic violence (especially male-on-female domestic violence). There are complex cultural reasons for it tied up with American notions of masculinity. But the point is that the same thing that is causing violence to rise is also behind this move to decriminalize this type of violence. There are very likely outcomes here, none of them good.
Read the whole thing.

In my household, we've sometimes discussed whether we'd ever want to move back to Kansas given its recent political turn to extreme rightwingism. The state has always been conservative, but it's often been a kind of moderate conservatism. No more. The debate in Topeka is one more sign that my home state—which I have great fondness for, still—is becoming unlivable.


Notorious Ph.D. said...

Thanks for the h/t, Joel. In the interests of complete accuracy (and perhaps to introduce another good discussion point), we should note that Topeka isn't singling out domestic violence; they're refusing to prosecute any misdemeanors. But if I've read it correctly, domestic violence is the only one that the D.A. wasn't taking on.

Anyway, given that, there seems to be a simple (though far from ideal) way to move this forward without throwing women under the proverbial bus: go ahead and say "no misdemeanor" prosecutions, but reclassify domestic violence as a felony, where it belongs.

Monkey RobbL said...

This really is just crazy to think about. Even from a strongly libertarian point-of-view, protecting life is one of the few LEGITIMATE purposes of government, and if ANYONE should be prosecuting crimes against life, it's the LOCAL government. You can bet they're prosecuting zoning violations and drug crimes.

Also agreed with N.Ph.D. - why domestic violence isn't already a felony is mystifying.