HARTFORD ——Domestic violence shelters should be staffed around the clock, teen dating violence should be addressed in schools, and authorities need to better enforce restraining and protective orders by using GPS technology, a legislative task force recommended Monday.
The Speaker's Task Force on Domestic Violence issued these and other recommendations in an attempt to improve Connecticut's response to incidents of domestic violence. The 20-member, bipartisan task force was created by House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D- Meriden, last November and has received input from domestic violence survivors, state agency staff, and others.
In its final report, released Monday, the task force makes recommendations for consideration by the legislature over the next three months and others for future consideration. Many of the recommendations mirror the agenda announced last month by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Task force Chairwoman Rep. Mae Flexer, D-Danielson, says members were mindful of the state's budget situation as they drafted their report, although a few proposals would require funding. For example, staffing domestic violence shelters 24 hours a day, seven days a week, would cost an estimated $3 million in additional funding. The price tag is less for the GPS technology that the task force wants to use to track people with restraining orders, because there would be a $25-a-day charge to the defendant, Flexer said.
Connecticut is facing a projected deficit of $500 million for this fiscal year, but Donovan said Monday that budget talks will be ongoing and domestic violence is a high-priority issue.
The task force recommendations for this session also include:
•Requiring the state Department of Social Services to transfer revenue from the $20 marriage license surcharge to domestic violence shelters annually.
•Loosening penalties for domestic violence victims who need to break their leases for safety reasons.
•Launching public service announcements that aim to prevent domestic violence.
•Allowing domestic violence victims to use sick time to deal with domestic violence-related responsibilities, including court appearances and relocation.
•Making the judicial process more user-friendly for victims by increasing the availability of service centers in clerks' offices.
•Encouraging the judicial branch to develop additional domestic violence dockets.
•Studying the effectiveness of penalties for criminal threatening.
• Permitting the sharing of information, on a limited basis, among law enforcement officials, the Department of Children and Families, and various offices of the judicial branch.
• Extending the look-back period for persistent offenders from five years to 10 years and including out-of-state offenses.
•Ensuring that the judicial branch has the resources it needs to provide victim services.
•Improving enforcement of protective orders.
•Allowing information in the protective order registry to be shared with judges.
In the years to come, the task force hopes that the state will be in a better financial position to consider a number of other recommendations such as strengthening violence-related trauma services offered to children, examining DCF protocols for treating victims and their families, and passing a law such as Rhode Island's Lindsay Ann Burke Act to increase professional development training for school faculty and require the adoption of dating violence policies in schools.
estimated family violence incidents in Connecticut year-to-date, based on 2007 data.