When cities face a budget crunch, city government often has to make tough decisions — say, laying off municipal employees, reducing the amount of funding that can go to after school programs, increasing property taxes, cutting the amount of money that they spend on their own personal security detail. Sacrifices are made and belts are tightened and everyone battens down the hatches and waits for whatever's causing everyone trouble to pass. One county in Kansas has decided to go a different route and close budgetary hole by opening a legal loophole that would pass domestic battery prosecution off to another municipality. In doing so, they've initiated a budgetary standoff that may lead to the city of Topeka completely decriminalizing domestic violence.
Feministing's Maya Dusenbery describes the horrifying clusterfuck thusly,
Last month, the Shawnee County District Attorney's office, facing a 10% budget cut, announced that the county would no longer be prosecuting misdemeanors, including domestic violence cases, at the county level. Finding those cases suddenly dumped on the city and lacking resources of their own, the Topeka City Council is now considering repealing the part of the city code that bans domestic battery. The thinking here is that the county won't let domestic violence go unpunished in Topeka and so will be forced to step in and start prosecuting it again if the city won't.
Government officials in Topeka insist that they don't take domestic violence lightly, that it's a very serious issue that must be prosecuted with gusto, but! When it comes to domestic violence offenders, they're sure not going to take other towns' sloppy seconds. They have problems of their own and can't afford to shoulder the extra caseload.
Meanwhile, in the world that does not exist inside of an Excel spreadsheet, thirty domestic violence cases have been turned back in Shawnee County since they stopped prosecuting this sort of crime almost a month ago. Sixteen domestic abusers have been released back into the world, free to frolic right on back to the person upon whom they inflicted the violence that got them locked up in the first place. Some domestic abuse victims currently living in Shawnee County shelters report that their feeling of unease and lack of safety increases by the day.
The City of Topeka plans to make a decision on whether or not to decriminalize domestic violence some time next week.
Image via Katherine Welles/Shutterstock