In a bid to save money from being forced to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence, the city of Topeka has voted 7 to 3 to repeal the law making domestic violence a crime, and release the abusers from jail. Topeka’s mayor believed that the move would force the perpetrators to be tried by the County District Attorney instead, since it would still be a crime under state law, but the DA was reluctant to agree with that assessment.
The victims of abuse are being used as collateral damage between a DA who is refusing to absorb requested budget cuts and a city that believes it is being passed the buck when it comes to prosecution costs. No one expected that the DA’s threats to prioritize prosecution would actually come to fruition. Shelly Buhler, chairwoman of the Shawnee County Commission, told the New York Times, “We had hoped that he would not put that group of victims at risk, that he would find some other way to absorb the cuts.
So far, 18-30 abusers have been released and are back on the streets, with more likely to follow.
As a result of the action, and the resulting pressure from Domestic Assault Victims advocates and a firestorm of media attention, DA Chad Taylor has agreed to begin prosecuting at the county level once more. “My office now retains sole authority to prosecute domestic battery misdemeanors and will take on this responsibility so as to better protect and serve our community,” Taylor said in a statement. “We will do so with less staff, less resources, and severe constraints on our ability to effectively seek justice.”
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