Two pieces of legislation that strengthen Maine’s programming for people who commit domestic abuse are now law:
People who perpetrate domestic abuse and violence live and work in our communities, and so our responses must also be community-based. Last week, LD 1491: An Act to Ensure Access to and Availability of Violence Intervention Services to Reduce Domestic Violence in Maine was signed into law by Governor Mills. This legislation continues funding to ensure our courts can order a person to participate in one of Maine’s community-based Certified Domestic Violence Intervention Programs, regardless of a defendant’s income.
Says MCEDV Executive Director, Francine Garland Stark, “These programs, together with probation and swift and certain action by the criminal justice system, are the best practice nationally for convincing those who have used abuse and violence to change their thinking and behavior.” This funding is critical to ensuring equitable access to intervention programs and enhancing the quality of their services, building on the momentum begun in 2019 with the first funding allocated for this purpose.
This bill, signed into law on June 11th, makes important advances to Maine’s Certified Domestic Violence Intervention Programming, including better information sharing to ensure victims have timely access to critical information about participant compliance.
In April, Karen Wyman, who has been leading MCEDV’s work around violence intervention programming for the last two years, explained to the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety: “[T]his legislation supports both the desire of victims that we focus on ending the abusive actions that compromise their safety and autonomy as well as the reality that victims feel safer and more satisfied with the criminal justice response when information is shared in timely and safe ways.”
The new law facilitates better information sharing to make sure victims have timelier access to the information they need about the participation of the person who has abused them and gives timelier information to the program providers about the nature of the abuse. It also changes the name of Certified Batterer Intervention Program in Maine statutes to Certified Domestic Violence Intervention Program, a shift that better reflects the nature of the programming and focuses on naming the problematic behavior instead of the the person.
Continued Focus on Intervention Programs a Priority for MCEDV
These pieces of legislation are the latest in a steady set of policy initiatives to strengthen violence intervention programming in Maine that started in 2015 and has included significant legislative changes around how intervention programs operate. For more information, see the 2016 report, Pretrial and Post-Conviction Use of Batterer Intervention Programs, and the 2020 report, Initial Findings on the Effectiveness of Maine’s Certified Batterer Intervention Programs.
We are grateful to our legislative partners who sponsored and shepherded these bills, to the Maine Senate Democrats who prioritized the funding amidst a difficult appropriations process, to the Maine Department of Corrections for their collaborative partnership on this programming, and to Governor Mills for her continued support of survivors of domestic violence in Maine. And most of all, we are grateful to the survivors who shared their experiences with us to inform this legislation: Your input has been essential in guiding these efforts.