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Pennsylvania initiative strives for domestic violence prevention

A new initiative in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, may help reduce the number of domestic violence victims and offenders by providing an alternative treatment program. The new approach was launched in early February, and it permits certain defendants facing domestic violence charges to attend classes or receive treatment instead of going through criminal prosecution. The program does have some restrictions; for example, defendants must pay restitution to their victims, and they must avoid additional arrests for a period after the program’s conclusion. Authorities in the area say that the program is designed to help treat the underlying causes of domestic violence, which can include substance abuse and mental illness. Instead of focusing on punitive options, rehabilitation has been prioritized for those accused of family violence. Not only is the program likely to benefit offenders, but it is also projected to reduce the percentage of recidivists and lower taxpayer contributions to correctional facilities. Requirements will be different for various types of offenders, depending on current criminal charges and the existing criminal record. The program will not be open to those who have previously been charged with domestic violence, but it does not exclude everyone with a criminal record. Some defendants may be required to take specific classes related to battery of intimate partners, while others will attend anger-management treatment. This is just one of several recent initiatives in the area that are designed to provide mental health and social services to offenders charged with certain crimes. This problem-solving approach prioritizes the rights of defendants, striving to identify an appropriate legal response without excessively serious consequences. Pennsylvania attorneys may be able to provide their clients with additional information about their eligibility in this type of new program. Source:  NewsWorks, “Philly hopes domestic violence court will prevent instead of punish” 17 February 2014

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