OP-ED: TASK FORCE NEEDED ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Excerpt from NJ Spotlight, Feb 12, 2019

OP-ED: TASK FORCE NEEDED ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Tiffany Wilson was killed on a Newark street by her former partner. An algorithm had concluded he did not pose a risk to the community

Just over one year ago, on the morning of February 6, 2018, Kareem Dawson shot and killed Tiffany Wilson, his former partner and the mother of their two children, as she ran for her life on a Newark street where she had recently relocated, looking for safety.

At the time of the murder, Dawson was facing criminal charges for assaulting Wilson and had violated three separate judicial orders to keep away from her. Under New Jersey’s relatively new Criminal Justice Reform Act, the presiding criminal judge could have sent Dawson to jail to await his trial but instead set him free after conducting two separate pretrial detention hearings. Why?

Ignoring clear warning signs of the real and escalating danger Dawson posed to Wilson and their children, the court instead relied on a mathematical algorithm, the state’s Public Safety Assessment (PSA), to conclude that he did not pose a risk to the community.

Wilson’s tragic — and seemingly preventable — death forced the state to rethink its approach to domestic violence risk in pretrial decision making. In the year since her murder, New Jersey has taken important steps to improve its approach to assessing pretrial risk. But compared to other states and municipalities around the country, New Jersey could do more to use risk information to promote victim safety and offender accountability.

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