Lawmakers can strike back against domestic violence
Sunday, December 15, 2013 12:00 AM
Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo won his post largely on a promise of coming down particularly hard on criminal domestic violence offenders.
It appears he has a friend in the Statehouse in state Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Denmark, who has pre-filed a piece of legislation that looks promising. Among the prongs in Sellers' legislation: increase the maximum penalty for a first-time offense from 30 days to 180 days in the slammer. That is reasonable enough as the 30-day penalty seems to point to a possible reason South Carolina is No. 1 among states in statistics dealing with the number of women killed by men. The punishment surely does not fit the crime in such cases.
But just as the possibility of receiving the death penalty does not sufficiently deter murders, merely increasing jail time for CDV offenders is not enough. It is certainly a start, but this is where prosecutors and judges can perform a strong role in reducing the incidences of criminal domestic violence by ensuring the harshest of penalties is applied, just as Stumbo said during his campaign for election. This is not one of those crimes that belongs in the courtroom version of "Let's Make a Deal."
We find it encouraging Sellers included prevention or, perhaps more accurately, remediation in his legislation. Criminal domestic violence is not going to come to a halt simply because there is a law against it and penalties for offenders are stronger. As such, Sellers wants the convicted offenders to go through an intervention program. The premise: break the cycle and break the crime. At least break it at one point.
There is yet another common-sense element to the legislation in that it would make possession of guns and ammunition more difficult for convicted offenders and even those out on bond on CDV charges.
We have seen story after story right here in the Lakelands involving criminal domestic violence. Sheriff Tony Davis, Meg's House executive director Alice Hodges, Stumbo and others recently got together to begin talking about the issue and how they and the community might address the situation.
One way would be for there to be a wave of support for Sellers' proposed legislation. We would certainly hope there would not be much — any, really — resistance to this logical and sensible approach to a crime that pervades in the Palmetto State, but our lawmakers must hear and they must know criminal domestic violence needs a strong one-two punch delivered, and they can be in the ring to do just that by moving Sellers' legislation into the law books next year.