"Crime of Violence" bill domestic advocates call "life saving" sitting on LA Governor's desk

After unanimously passing both the State House of Representatives and Senate, a bill designed to keep some domestic abusers from qualifying for early release from prison, is now on LA Gov. John Bel Edward's desk to be signed into law.

House Bill 896 by Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, and Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport expands on the state "crimes of violence" list, now including domestic abuse batteries that results in serious bodily injury to a spouse, household member or dating partner. 

Like many domestic violence advocates across Louisiana, Valencia Jones is praising the bill’s passage.
“Unless you've lived it, or unless you've looked in someone's eyes and seen the fear, the you wouldn't understand just how much this new law mean to us,” said Jones, a domestic abuse survivor herself.
“It was two years ago I ended my domestic abuse situation,” said Jones. “It started with emotional and verbal, then it went to physical."
Jones now works as a therapist with the domestic violence group at the Samaritan Counseling Center in Shreveport. 
She says the new law is important, because people convicted of beating their wives, dating partners or loved ones, causing serious bodily injury, will now face stiffer penalties.
“With tougher laws women will feel safe,” said Jones, “They wouldn't need to leave the state, or go homeless or go in hiding,"
“It's very, very important that we do everything that we can to protect our children and our families from domestic abuse,” said Rep. Patricia Smith, who along with Rep. Cedric Glover, orchestrated the passage of HB-896 at the state capitol.
It was a long process that Glover says started last fall.
“I heard the issue being raised by you guys at KSLA," said Glover. “It caused me some alarm, and I was simply determined to come down here and do something about it."
Starting in October, in a series of reports, KLSA Investigates exposed a legal loophole, allowing some serial domestic abusers to get out of prison early, because domestic abuse battery did not fall on the state's crimes of violence list.
“It was not only absurd, it was actually dangerous,” said Jones.
Jones says many people convicted of domestic abuse battery, were getting out jai before the abuse survivors could find the safety and support needed to escape the cycle of violence.
“We have women who come to us and say ‘I’ve been dealing with this for thirty years, but I don't have time to leave because by the time I gather my resources or secure a place for me and my kids, he's home.’”
That crimes of violence list enumerates 43-offenses, including rape, murder and aggravated assault, but domestic abuse battery, despite the word “violence” being used in the definition of that crime, is not on the list.
Under Louisiana law, anyone convicted of a crime of violence must serve sixty-five percent of their sentence, their conviction cannot be expunged, and they face stricter probation requirements upon release.
Jones says when domestic abuse battery causing serious bodily injury is finally added to that list, countless women’s lives.  Because now women will have the time find new living arrangements, enroll their kids in new schools, and get counseling before their abuser gets out of prison.
 “One meeting at a time, one woman at a time, one news story at a time, it all helps."

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