1 in 3 women has experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. According to a study by the US Department of Justice, the most dangerous time for a battered woman is when she leaves. In Michigan, 75% of the women who are killed by their intimate partners are murdered after the relationship is over or as it ends.
Women are forced to defend themselves and their children against violent assaults in these ‘kill or be killed situations’. In the present day, and even more so in past decades, police, courts, and laws fail to protect women in cases where domestic abuse is present. This systemic injustice on gender and abuse creates a court system that fails women and children. “Research has shown that prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, court investigators, and juries all routinely bring gender-biased myths and stereotypes to bear on the processing of battered women defendants with the result that women’s experiences are not given the weight of truth by the criminal-legal system.” says Carol Jacobson, Director, Michigan Women’s Justice & Clemency Project, and Professor, University of Michigan. In addition, Michigan law strictly limits testimony by expert witnesses on domestic abuse. Sadly, in a majority of these cases, in which the women are given no choice but to defend their lives, they are almost always sentenced to mandatory life.
In January the University of Michigan Law School’s Federal Appellate Litigation Clinic and the Michigan Women’s Justice & Clemency Project at the University of Michigan submitted clemency petitions to Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Parole Board on behalf of female prisoners who are survivors of domestic violence and abuse. These seven women are survivors of domestic abuse, they are daughters, mothers and grandmothers. Three of these women Delores Kapuscinski, Melissa Swiney, and my mother LuAnne Szenay have served almost 95 years combined.
“An estimated 175 battered women are currently serving life or long sentences for murder in Michigan who were defending themselves against or because of batterers” says Jacobsen. She goes on to say, “Michigan law is both too limited and too vague to provide due process or equal protection for women who were forced to commit crimes under duress or defend themselves against their abusers and then face criminal charges in court.” Read more here.
As of Feb 22, 2021 the Michigan Parole Board has voted on my mother LuAnne’s commutation application. LuAnne’s last opportunity to speak with the parole board was in 2007. Since then she’s submitted a handful of commutations without relief. She’s reasonably apprehensive about this application because again she was not called in for a meeting. She said, “If they’re interested, they’ll meet with you before they vote, I’ve watched for 30 years, that’s the way it goes.” As her daughter, friend, and advocate – I’ve never felt so much frustration! For more on her story and ways you can support, please visit here.
I really need your support now more than ever to bring my mother home!!
When We Fight, We Win!
Prison Radio Staff