Room for Improvement on Domestic Violence

No one “makes” you batter an intimate partner.

But while domestic violence is more a function of culture than policy, government plays a proper role in the crime, especially in New Mexico, where the offense is committed at a rate above the national standard.

Unfortunately, according to a new report from the Legislative Finance Committee, New Mexico’s public sector can be doing a much better job serving both victims and offenders.

“Domestic Violence Programs for Victims and Batterers” found that the state’s response to the crime is “fragmented and uncoordinated.” One obstacle is the number of “entities involved in responding to domestic violence,” a list that includes law enforcement agencies at all levels, the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, the Crime Victims Reparation Commission, welfare programs, the Judicial Education Center, and government schools. As the pictograph above shows, the bureaucracies are many, and streamlining is necessary.

Another disturbing revelation was the small number of “clients” who complete batterer intervention programs. Usually ordered to participate by a judge, offenders must complete 78 hours over the course of 52 weeks. But on average, only 20 hours “of any type of counseling” were received in fiscal year 2016. Worse still, the mandate for yearlong participation in a BIP “is unsupported by evidence.” LFC staffers found “no consensus on the optimal length a program should be to be effective.”

The “Domestic Violence Leadership Commission” offers an egregious example of dropping the ball. Formerly founded on an executive order, the 26-member body was “enacted into statute by the Legislature in 2010.” Yet “there is no evidence the Commission has met since that time.” Not impressive “leadership,” that.

Finally, keeping police and judiciary employees up-to-date on best practices in combating domestic violence doesn’t appear to be enough of a priority. The New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy requires “just one hour of refresher training” on the subject “for officers as part of the biennial in-service cycle.” There has been “no statewide domestic violence-specific training for judges and court personnel in New Mexico since 2006,” and the Judicial Education Center’s statute “makes no provision for requiring training” on the crime.

There is a limit to what government can do to address the carnage created by people who choose to abuse an intimate partner. But the LFC’s report shows that New Mexico’s bureaucrats and elected officials need to take the problem of domestic violence more seriously, and implement a number of necessary — and affordable — reforms.

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