State Senator Herron Keyon Gaston (D-Bridgeport) joined in the bipartisan and unanimous support of a 2023 Senate Democrats’ public policy priority to increase protections for domestic violence victims by expanding GPS monitoring of violent offenders, increasing funding for victim services, and preventing people convicted of certain domestic violence crimes from ever collecting any alimony from their former spouse.
Senate Bill 5, “AN ACT STRENGTHENING THE PROTECTIONS AGAINST AND RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE,” passed the state Senate today on a 36-0 unanimous vote and now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration. Previously, the bill had received a 37-0 unanimous vote in the Judiciary Committee and a 55-0 unanimous vote in the Appropriations Committee.
“I am proud to support legislation that will bring a sense of security and safety to survivors that may unfortunately live in fear,” said Sen. Gaston. “Strengthening protections for survivors won’t take away the pain they endured, but will help to ease their mind with the knowledge they won’t be met with their abuser again.”
In 2010, the General Assembly passed Public Act 10-144, which established a GPS (Global Positioning System) monitoring pilot program to protect victims in extremely dangerous situations; the pilot program has operated in the Bridgeport, Danielson, and Hartford judicial districts. Senate Bill 5 now expands the GPS monitoring program to cover the entire state.
The GPS expansion is expected to cost $8 million over 2024 and 2025; Democrats have already included the funding in their proposed legislative budget.
Under the program, after a person violates a restraining order or a protective order, a judge will evaluate whether that offender is a high risk, and if so, the domestic violence survivor will have the option of having the offender monitored by GPS. Although Connecticut currently has GPS monitoring for certain domestic violence offenders, as well as for some on parole or on the sex offender registry, this program is different. It provides live monitoring and alert notification for domestic violence survivors.
At the survivor’s discretion, the survivor carries his or her own GPS device, and the offender’s location is constantly monitored to ensure a safe distance is kept from not only the survivor’s home and work, but wherever they go. If ever the offender encroaches near the survivor or a forbidden buffer zone, the monitoring service will notify the survivor and law enforcement.
Senate Bill 5 also provides more than $43 million for victim’s services in Connecticut. The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund relies on fines and fees arising from federal prosecutions, and it is very volatile, peaking at $6.5 billion in 2017 but not rising above $822 million ever since. The VOCA Fund provides a number of services for crime victims, such as domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, human trafficking, child abuse, and families impacted by homicide. In federal fiscal year 2021, VOCA helped 104,366 victims of crimes in Connecticut, and most of the services were provided by community-based nonprofits. To avoid a drop in funding, Senate Bill 5 provides $13.175 million for Fiscal Year 2023 (beginning July 1) and $20 million for Fiscal Year 2024.
Finally, Senate Bill 5 prohibits any alimony by a domestic violence survivor to their spouse or former spouse who is convicted of an attempted murder, class A or B felony sexual assault, or a class A or B felony family violence crime. Current state law leaves it to the discretion of the court (a judge) to determine any alimony award; Senate Bill 5 removes this option from a judge to prevent those convicted of certain crimes from continuing to abuse their victim through the legal system.
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