The city council of Topeka, Kan., has repealed laws in the city of Topeka against domestic violence. The city asserts that the crime will still be prosecuted, but responsibility for prosecution will now fall to the district attorney and the county.
Budget showdown results in repeal of statute
The state of Kansas, like many other states, is currently grappling with budget issues that have led to budget cuts, some of which aren’t popular. One in particular has led to an extremely controversial decision being made by the city of Topeka, which revised a piece of the legal code in a manner that many feel is unacceptable.
According to ABC, the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office had its 2012 budget reduced by 10 percent. Chad Taylor, the Shawnee County District Attorney, is having to lay off 11 of his staff of 63 as a result of the cuts, according to the Daily Mail. Due to the budget cuts, Taylor informed the city of Topeka that any misdemeanors occurring within Topeka city limits would not be prosecuted by him or his office, including domestic violence offenses. Topeka responded by repealing its law against domestic violence.
Repeal releases 18 offenders
After the city repealed its law against domestic assault, 18 people who had been arrested on domestic violence charges were freed from jail. At least one has since been re-arrested for assaulting his wife. The city of Topeka, according to CBS, doesn’t have the resources the county has for domestic violence victims, such as support staff, and lacks available jail space.
The cuts were part of a 10 percent reduction across the board for Shawnee County, enacted by the three-member Shawnee County Commission. The city of Topeka and the district attorney are trying to reach an agreement concerning domestic violence cases, as “the city isn’t suggesting we don’t prosecute misdemeanor crimes where there is spousal or child abuse,” according to Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten. The city insists it lacks the resources to handle spousal and child abuse cases. According to the Daily Mail, it costs $74 per day to jail a domestic abuse suspect. The city of Topeka has to rent jail space from the county.
‘Game of chicken’
As a University of Kansas student told the New York Times, “what’s upsetting is this game of chicken between the city and the county.” Many are accusing both sides of using domestic violence victims as pawns in a budget showdown.
According to WebMD, one in four women will be victims of domestic abuse, be it emotional abuse or physical violence, in their lifetimes. According to the Vancouver Sun, a Canadian study found that the economic effects of domestic violence, such as health care and other costs, cost the Canadian economy $6.9 billion per year (about $6.79 billion U.S.).
Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2048189/Domestic-violence-legal-Kansas-repeals-law–save-police-time.html
New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/us/topeka-moves-to-decriminalize-domestic-violence.html
Vancouver Sun: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Domestic+violence+costs+Canadians+billion+year+Study/5534656/story.html
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