The DVSJA improves upon a previous effort in NYS to address the criminalization of intimate partner violence. In 1998, the State Legislature passed “Jenna’s Law” which ended parole for most people convicted of first-time violent felony offenses.
The law made an exception, however, for domestic violence victims convicted of crimes against their abusers. The Jenna’s Law domestic violence exception, Penal Law §60.12, permits judges to grant indeterminate sentences to domestic violence survivors convicted of crimes against abusers.
At the time the Legislature thought that retaining indeterminate sentencing – which offers individuals the possibility of being paroled at the end of their minimum term – would lead to less punitive sentencing for survivors. Unfortunately, it did not. In 2009, the Commission found that no individuals were incarcerated under the exception.