Bill SB 206, being proposed in Utah, would serve to make changes to the release procedure of prisoners convicted of domestic violence, including forcing them to sign away rights to contact the victim upon release from prison. The bill seems to have good chances of passing, however one small change could make a huge difference in how domestic violence cases are prosecuted, and many domestic violence advocates feel it would be a step in the wrong direction.
Currently, the law in Utah states that a judge “shall” order a perpetrator of domestic violence to receive therapy and treatment, while the proposed bill states that a judge “may” require such treatment. This simple word change would effectively allow perpetrators to go free without therapy.
As we have covered in our complete Intimate Partner Violence resource, there are multiple factors which contribute to domestic violence perpetration, and some of them can be improved with proper treatment. Perpetrators of Domestic Violence tend to have a higher instance of personality disorders, most commonly Antisocial Personality Disorder, and proper treatment could significantly reduce the risk of continued perpetration. Additionally, perpetrators themselves often experience further adverse mental effects after committing violence against a partner, such as depression and PTSD which in turn could increase the likelihood of further violence, and therefore therapy could be crucial to their own well-being as well as preventing further offenses.
Many feel that the law as it stands is already too lax on therapy requirements, claiming that in some instances even yoga classes can be allowed as a means to meet the therapy requirements, something many feel does not address the root problem or prevent further violence.
Those advocating for the word change maintain that there is no definitive proof that therapy aids in preventing further violence and that sometimes therapy does not make sense for the perpetrator of domestic violence. Others feel that even if this is true, it is best to err on the side of caution.