Intervention programs often allow domestic violence suspects to - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL


Intervention programs often allow domestic violence suspects to avoid jail time

Source: WBRC video Source: WBRC video
Tina Thompson (Source: WBRC video) Tina Thompson (Source: WBRC video)

Did you know it's common for suspects charged with domestic violence to never serve any jail time?

Birmingham Police say suspects are often referred through the courts to complete an intervention program.

Birmingham Police Department's Social Services Division runs an intervention program called Project SAFE - Stopping Abuse in the Family Environment.

"What batterers intervention does is to challenge people's belief system and hopefully from changing your belief system and coming up with other alternatives on how to handle conflict," said Carolyn Adams, director of Project SAFE.

Adams has been with Project SAFE for seven years.

She says on average they see about 300 offenders a year. They go through a 24 week course learning about domestic violence and how to communicate without resorting to violence.

Ralph Sims in a contracted facilitator who leads one of the classes at Project SAFE.

"The driving force behind domestic violence is power and control, but in reality the man himself is really insecure when it comes to loving someone," said Sims.

Sims says they give the offenders a chance to share their side of the story. Then they look at the person's history, asking questions like "what's causing their anger? Who are they blaming?"

For some, talking about change is difficult.

"Some of them don't want to be told what to do," said Sims, "And they'll sort of skate through the program."

But others are serious about change.

"We share with them we hope we don't see them back because if you get the information and the application then the likelihood of them coming back if they're sincere about the change that means the change doesn't stop when the groups are over," Carolyn Adams said.

Adams says once the offender completes the program and other requirements issued by the judge, the offender typically can avoid jail time.

Tina Thornton, a domestic violence survivor, has mixed emotions about that.

"Him [her ex-husband] serving time would've given me a sense of satisfaction to some degree but more importantly we talk about correction. What would it have corrected?, Thornton asks, "I think the classes are good. How effective are they are based on the person and how they apply the principles they are given."

On top of avoiding jail time the offender can also apply for expungement, meaning the charges would be wiped off his or her record.

"If you've done the deed someone needs to be aware of your past behaviors so they can be noted. Not that it should be used to prevent you from getting certain jobs, but I think it should be noted you have a behavior that caused someone some harm in the past," said Thornton.

But Adams feels it's important to give the offender an opportunity to change behaviors for the victim's sake.

"I believe it's important for any person to develop health lifestyles," said Adams, "Many times the victims just want the abuse to stop so if you get intervention for the person doing the violence then that helps the family system."

If you or someone you know if a victim of domestic violence, you can contact project safe here for help or call (205) 254-6542

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