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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (S.1077/ A.3974) Tuesday, a bill that codifies more meaningful sentence reductions for domestic abuse survivors in the criminal justice system and a key initiative in the Governor's 2019 Women's Justice Agenda. Current law allows judges to administer indeterminate sentences for domestic violence survivors who have committed a crime only in relation to their abuser under certain circumstances. The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act will build upon this law by adding offenses committed due to coercion by an abuser, as well as offenses committed against or at the behest of an abuser who does not share a household or family with the survivor—preventing further victimization of individuals who have endured domestic and sexual violence at the hands of their abusers.

"The vast majority of incarcerated women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and too often these women wind up in prison in the first place because they're protecting themselves from an abuser," Cuomo said. "By signing this critical piece of our 2019 women's justice agenda, we can help ensure the criminal justice system takes into account that reality and empowers vulnerable New Yorkers rather than just putting them behind bars."

This bill will allow judges to reduce prison sentences and redirect sentencing from incarceration to community-based programs, which has proven far more effective in rehabilitating survivors. The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act would also permit a small population of currently incarcerated survivors to apply for re-sentencing and earlier release due to their prior victimization.

"My mother dedicated her life to helping survivors of domestic violence, and her work has inspired me during my time in public service," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "This new law is a significant reform to our criminal justice system and will ensure survivors are not subjected to harsh punishment for defending themselves from abuse. With the enactment of another essential component of our Women's Justice Agenda, New York continues to lead the way to protect the most vulnerable and strengthen our society."

Domestic violence and incarceration rates are highly linked, as over 90 percent of incarcerated women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. With the understanding that many women have gone to prison for defending themselves against their batterer or were coerced into illegal activity by their abuser, the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act takes another step toward ending this cycle of violence and incarceration, and places the burden on the batterer rather than the victim.

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