January 8, 2008

Accused batterers in Indiana may face "cool off" period

As reported in the Indianapolis Star (byline Associated Press) on December 26th, 2007, accused batterers may face "cool off" period. People accused of abuse in domestic violence cases would have to spend at least eight hours in jail to "cool off" under a bill sponsored by an Indiana lawmaker.

Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, said his bill would give victims time to find help or go to shelters while their alleged abusers are in jail. "We're calling it a cooling off period," said Arnold, a former two-term sheriff. "Right now, we have too many officers going back to these situations on a repetitive basis. So we're trying to look at this in a different light."

Arnold introduced his legislation after meeting with the LaPorte County Domestic Violence Task Force, whose members were concerned that accused abusers were leaving jail too quickly. His bill as been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Jean Russell, vice president of programs at the Center for Women and Families, which serves Southern Indiana and Louisville, KY, called the Indiana proposal encouraging. She said Kentucky does not mandate a cooling off period. "It's a beginning first step that is helpful," she said. "But it's not necessarily by itself going to be the solution."

Although there's no statewide requirement for a cooling off period for accused batterers, some Indiana judges already impose similar restrictions. "There's county-by-county discretion," said Barb Miller, executive director of the Albion Fellows Bacon Center, an Evansville-based organization that serves domestic violence victims in eleven counties. "You can be arrested and be bonded out in a manner of a couple hours" in Vanderburgh County, Miller said. She said that's often not enough time for victims to locate help, pack their belongings and get their children to a safe location, adding that "time is so critical" for victims.

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