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Pfft, why waste money on battered women?

Topeka, Kansas is considering decriminalizing domestic violence in order to save money. I don’t care how big your budget problems are – this shouldn’t even be up for debate. Even if you’re looking at this from cold, Machiavellian reasons, it costs the state more money in medical aid and lost work hours to let women (and more rarely but not negligibly, men) keep getting abused.

But legalizing marijuana? What a preposterous idea!

Comments

  1. fastlane says

    Wow, I’m glad I got the hell outta that state.

    If they really want to have more money in the coffers, start taxing churches that don’t meet the criteria of other non profit orgs.

  2. says

    The headline is misleading. The writer of the article at ThinkProgress appears to have misunderstood the issue completely; the original source article at Feministing offers more detail.

    The city of Topeka does not have the power to decriminalize domestic battery. Domestic battery remains a crime under state law, irrespective of what the city council does.

    Rather, as far as I can tell from the original article, the city wants to remove domestic battery from the city code, so that the city attorney (a lawyer appointed and paid by the city) will no longer be responsible for prosecuting domestic battery cases, and so that these cases will no longer have to be heard in the city’s municipal court (a court operated and funded by the city). Instead, they want domestic battery cases to be prosecuted by the county district attorney, and heard in the state district court; so that the cost of prosecution and trial comes out of the county’s budget, rather than the city’s.

    If they succeed, this does not mean that domestic battery will become legal. Nor does it mean that the city police will no longer respond to domestic violence calls; to the best of my knowledge, they are obliged to enforce all applicable state laws, not just the city code. Rather, the difference will be that it will be the county district attorney, rather than the city attorney, who prosecutes domestic violence cases, and it will be the district court rather than the municipal court which has jurisdiction.

    Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a shitty thing to do; the city council are playing games with a serious issue in the hope of saving money. But they are not proposing to legalize domestic battery – indeed, they have no power to do so even if they wanted to.

  3. nickmorgan says

    The article states that offenders were being released without charges because a trial would cost too much money.

    I’m sure the “War on Drugs” remains fully funded…

  4. Anubis Bloodsin III says

    # 1 fastlane

    ‘start taxing churches that don’t meet the criteria of other non profit orgs.’

    None of them meet the criterion..not a one!
    And they have no intention to meet secular criteria…because that way they end up with no advantage.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Look at this in context, people.

    The alternative would be to raise taxes on good patriotic Kansans like Charles & David Koch, and that would be just plain wrong!

  6. Johann says

    Walton @2:

    I think you may have missed the part where

    …the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office, facing a 10% budget cut, announced that the county would no longer be prosecuting misdemeanors, including domestic violence cases, at the county level.

  7. Carlie says

    Johann- it’s not a miss, it’s a big game of chicken. The county stated it would stop paying to prosecute them in order to force the city to do it, and the city is retaliating by saying they won’t either, to try and force the county to do it.
    (because, you know, the rights of battered spouses are ok to play chicken with)

  8. says

    15% of Topeka’s budget is debt service. That’s exorbitant.

    And their revenue structure is insane. The bulk of it is from utility taxes and sales tax, which are regressive (effectively charging the poor a much higher percentage of their income than the rich). Property taxes are somewhat regressive in effect despite superficial flatness, because, for the poor, the cost of housing represents a larger fraction of total income (and landlords pass property tax costs on to tenants). Likewise motor vehicle taxes, licenses, and court fees are completely regressive. Almost all of their income comes from regressive taxes, while they have no income tax. It’s fucking insane. I’d slash their current regressive taxes and raise a progressive income tax enough to have a surplus and pay down their huge debt.

    The poor, being unburdened from unfair taxation that discriminates against them, will buy goods and services locally, while the rich will have a little less money to invest in municipal bonds. No harm done to the economy.

  9. Shaun says

    Wow, I can’t believe that the city and county are going to play chicken with the victims of domestic violence like that. I’m sure that the budget problems they face are very real, but isn’t this an excellent example for why we need to be instituting more progressive tax policies? Hopefully the state, county and city can work out some kind of deal where the municipal and county courts are in some way compensated by the state for handling these cases, they’re just too important to not prosecute!

  10. says

    Pretty much par for the course, for the U.S. When it comes time to save/raise money, crack down on the victims! Cuz taxing the people who can actually afford it might violate capitalism, and that’d be like what those darn socialists and communists do!

  11. jose says

    You know you can actually learn what this particular ordinance entails and in which aspects it differs from other pieces of legislation, don’t you?

  12. Nepenthe says

    At least in Illinois, “regular” assault and battery are also misdemeanors. So if the Shawnee County DA sticks to his pledge not to prosecute any misdemeanors (and doesn’t selectively let DV slide), you’ll be able to punch anyone in Topeka!

  13. says

    Walton @2:

    I think you may have missed the part where

    …the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office, facing a 10% budget cut, announced that the county would no longer be prosecuting misdemeanors, including domestic violence cases, at the county level.

    No, I didn’t miss it. That’s the whole point. The county wanted to push responsibility for prosecuting domestic battery and other misdemeanours onto the city attorney and the city municipal court; the city wants to avoid that responsibility. Basically, it’s a turf war; neither agency wants the responsibility for dealing with domestic battery cases. (And, like I said, it’s a shitty thing to do; I’m not defending them in the slightest.)

    What they do not have the power to do is to repeal the provisions of the state criminal code which criminalize domestic battery. Neither the county nor the city has the authority to repeal statewide criminal statutes; only the state legislature would be able to do so. So it’s misleading to talk of this as “decriminalizing domestic violence”.

  14. ara says

    even if this isn’t legislated decriminalization, it’s still effective decriminalization

    decrim doesn’t require that the law making something illegal be repealed, it only requires that the criminal penalties be repealed (or otherwise effectively made moot)

  15. Lori says

    WTF, so glad I left Kansas and now I’m more positive than ever that I won’t go back. Even the thought of visiting family there makes me nervous.

    Have they refused to prosecute *all* misdemeanor battery charges, or just domestic battery?

  16. Jurjen S. says

    I have to more or less agree with ara on this one: “decriminalization” in practice usually means condoning a behavior as a matter of policy by refusing to arrest or prosecute offenders, even though the behavior in question remains de jure illegal. And that, in effect, is precisely what Topeka city council is doing.

  17. Jurjen S. says

    Somewhat disturbingly, one of the commenters to the Feministing post touches–perhaps inadvertently–on the assigned priorities. In response to someone suggesting Topeka cuts down on issuing parking tickets, the commenter points out that parking tickets generate revenue, and cutting those would thus make the city’s budget situation worse.

    Now, with drug busts, civil asset forfeitures have become a matter of routine, to the extent that many police departments rely on them as a “budget supplement” (see here and here. That could readily explain why cutting drugs enforcement isn’t even on the table: it’s a revenue-generating racket, whereas domestic violence isn’t.

  18. julian says

    You realize, DavidByron, that because both courts are playing chicken with battery cases, those men who are victims of abuse, are going to be even less likely to report and even less likely to see anything done by the government. So not only are you waving a giant middle finger at feminists, you’re also waving that giant finger at the men that were already in a system that laughed off their concerns and are now in an even crappier one.

    You’re kinda pathetic, mate.

  19. Elerena says

    I didn’t see anything in there that suggested they didn’t understand the difference between decriminalizing and legalizing- and you seem to have missed the major problem with it. They’re still responding to calls, and taking the abusers in… and then releasing them without filing any charges.

    Because taking control away from an abuser and then letting them go straight back to their victim without any real consequences is just exactly the way to prevent abuse from continuing to happen… or maybe it’s one of the best ones to ENSURE it will happen. One of those two.

  20. Midnight Rambler says

    Almost all of their income comes from regressive taxes, while they have no income tax.
    Almost no cities or counties have an income tax. I think NYC does, but I’ve never lived in a place that did. The administrative burden is huge. Also, property taxes are not really regressive.

    Plus, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m kind of guessing there aren’t a whole lot of rich people in Topeka.

  21. Blitzgal says

    So here’s the deal. A month ago, Shawnee County announced that it would no longer prosecute misdemeanors (due to budget cuts) including domestic battery. The county DA said that it had to be handled by the municipal courts instead. Topeka, who has budget problems of its own, says it can’t afford to do this, and they aren’t equipped to do this either because it’s always been handled at the county level. So in a disgusting game of chicken, the city council is poised to repeal the city law against domestic battery. In their minds, this will force the county to take over again.

    Shawnee County is the one that’s been releasing these guys for the past month. I can’t find anything about misdemeanor drug arrests and whether the county is continuing to prosecute them as well. That’s been shown to save money in other communities (non-violent drug offenses are settled with a fine rather than a trial).

    In the meantime, battered women are being used as pawns in this fight between county and city, which is vile and reprehensible.

  22. says

    They’re still responding to calls, and taking the abusers in… and then releasing them without filing any charges.

    Yes. And like I said, I entirely agree that the turf-war being waged between the city and the county is a shitty thing to do; it’s putting victims’ lives at risk while these cases are not handled. Believe me, I’m not trying to defend these people.

    Because taking control away from an abuser and then letting them go straight back to their victim without any real consequences is just exactly the way to prevent abuse from continuing to happen… or maybe it’s one of the best ones to ENSURE it will happen. One of those two.

    Obviously you’re right, yes. But as I understood it, this wasn’t the city’s objective; their aim was not to let domestic abusers get away with it, but to force the county district attorney to resume prosecuting domestic battery cases rather than leaving it to the city attorney (presumably on the ground that the county DA’s office is better-equipped than the city to deal with these cases). Again, this isn’t a defence of their actions; just an observation that they’re not actually aiming to make domestic violence legal. (Not that I’d be surprised if some of the idiot politicians in the US tried to do so, but that isn’t what’s happening in this case, thankfully.)

  23. elainethepirate says

    “it costs the state more money in medical aid and lost work hours..”

    Not if you don’t provide healthcare, either.

    Isn’t that the GOP ideal?

  24. elainethepirate says

    …except that Sharia is Islamic and these buffoons, I presume are “good christians”.

    Conflating extreme religious conservatism with Islam is just racist.

  25. Ys says

    I think you just won the internets.

    Do you mind if I keep using this little tiny piece over here?

    <———-

  26. hoverfrog says

    Kansas is a “mandatory arrest” state. That means that if a police officer believes that an assault has taken place they must arrest the suspect. That is the case even if the county or district refuses to prosecute. Anyone who is caught in an abusive relationship and wants to get away can use this arrest to leave the home and get into a shelter.

    The important thing is the protection of victims of abuse. They have the protection of the law and can still apply for a PFA order. That the county or district refuse to place criminal charges is secondary. While the politicking should certainly be campaigned against I think that it is important to let (mainly) women know that they still have the option to escape from abusive relationships. Here is a link for those who want further information or who want to pass it on.

  27. says

    I’m sure the “War on Drugs” remains fully funded…

    Screw that – what about speeding tickets and parking violations?

    If you’re going to decriminalize things “because they take a lot of work” starting with the meter-readers and speed traps would make sense.

    Maybe there’s just no money in wife-beaters.

  28. Gus Snarp says

    Great story on this on NPR yesterday that may clarify some of the arguments above. The county has always been the prosecutor of these cases, and they decided to save money by simply dumping it on the city. The city, I think reasonably, said we have never done this, we don’t have the appropriate resources in place, and we really can’t afford to put them in place, so we’re going to take it out of municipal law, since the state law is still there, and then it’s back in the County’s court (literally). By state law in Kansas arrest and detention for 48 hours is mandatory. The state also mandates prosecution. The county has said they will resume prosecutions because they have no choice under state law. So basically the city was right, their tactic worked, and domestic abuse cases will result in 48 hour minimum detention and prosecution by the county, as before.

    But the county prosecutor talked about applying “triage” to which other crimes are prosecuted, and he specifically mentioned rape. So basically the county is playing cynical games with people to try to make the city look like it’s allowing women to be victimized in the worst possible way. This is simply disgusting. And he didn’t mention drug crimes in his “triage” comments. Does federal law require them to prosecute drug crimes? How much could be saved by decriminalizing drug possession? I’m thinking a lot.

    All of this, BTW, is Ronald Reagan’s chickens coming home to roost. Ever since Reagan was elected federal aid to state, counties, and cities has dramatically declined. It’s been one of the most common budget cuts. Formerly federal responsibilities have been shifted to smaller jurisdictions. Meanwhile the drug war has meant those smaller jurisdictions must fill up their jails and prisons with drug offenders. State and municipal budgets have been straining ever since, and now with this economy, it’s getting much worse. Look to see these kinds of things play out across the country, for more cities to file for bankruptcy, services to be cut, maybe even for states to start defaulting on debt.

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