What is it?

The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) was enacted in New York State in 2019 to provide judges with more discretion on sentencing a domestic violence survivor who is convicted of a crime related to their abuse. The law allows for alternative sentencing, and retroactively gives those sentenced prior to the law’s enactment the chance to apply for re-sentencing.

Why is it important?

Gender-based violence is the primary driver of women’s incarceration. An estimated 77 percent of women in jail nationally are survivors of domestic violence.[1] In addition, women’s criminal involvement is more likely to flow from their relationships with family or intimate partners than is men’s. Violence against women defines women’s experience within the criminal legal system.

The History

Why is it Groundbreaking?

  • Includes relief for survivors convicted of felonies categorized as violent under NY law 
  • Offers retroactive relief.
  • Takes broader view of domestic abuse beyond just adult intimate partner violence (including other family relationships).
  • Victim of offense does not need to be the individual who perpetrated abuse  
  • Expands judicial discretion and ability to depart from mandatory minimum sentencing
  • Can influence broader sentencing reform, parole reform, and clemency
  • Holds the potential to usher in a paradigm shift surrounding: Understanding the impact of DV and trauma; False victim/perpetrator dichotomy; Importance of restorative justice frame.

[1] A New Path to Justice: Getting Women Off Rikers Island Vera Institute of Justice, November, 2018

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