Vermont judicial system doesn’t protect the victims

Editor of the Reformer:

I have done social work in Windham County for 25 years and two issues that continue to plague the county, state and country are domestic violence and heroin.

Early on in my career I sat in on a large domestic violence meeting attended by law enforcement and social service providers. The presenter was from Massachusetts, where there had been a big push to get tough on domestic violence perpetrators. The usual dismal statistics regarding the nation wide prevalence of domestic violence were trotted out and there was talk of "not in our community anymore."

Two-and-a-half decades later the untiring, courageous work of the Women’s Freedom Center has enabled many victims to escape the daily terror their lives had become, and there is much greater public awareness regarding domestic violence. However, tragically, many women and children are still routinely battered, humiliated and terrorized in a county and state that take pride in community and caring.

In my opinion, the judicial system is in no small part responsible for this continuing state of affairs by abrogating its primary responsibility to protect the innocent. Time and again violent, and often repeat perpetrators who have committed horrible acts of domestic violence, at times in front of children, are "released on conditions," which are frequently simply ignored, leading to the obvious conclusion that they are meaningless.

It’s unfathomable to me how judges who are aware of the horrifying details of some domestic violence incidents, and have knowledge of the perpetrator’s criminal history, can turn them loose and thus enable them to re-offend.

Vermont has a reputation for being very lenient when it comes to sentencing and on crime in general, and in the world of domestic violence innocent women and children suffer as a result. If we really want to slow down this epidemic, more perpetrators need to be incarcerated so they no longer have access to victims.

In the realm of changing harmful human behavior, it’s hard to argue the efficacy of consequences. With the possible exception of sociopaths, we all routinely consider the possible consequences of our actions. If people who batter and degrade women and children receive meaningful consequences for their behavior, they may consider their future actions, and some potential perpetrators will take note.

The Reformer has reported that in two separate, recent sexual assault cases that involved adult male offenses against minors, court officials, including the sentencing judges, have commended the perpetrators for their cooperation. Commending someone who has committed a sexual assault against a minor for cooperation that is probably self-serving strikes me as naive and inappropriate.

As for the heroin epidemic, a multi-faceted approach that includes treatment is obviously needed, however, just as with domestic violence, the judicial system needs to dole out some meaningful consequences to people who sell life destroying drugs and commit crimes, especially violent ones, in pursuit of drug money.

Richard Moore,

Brattleboro, March 21

Show some respect

Editor of the Reformer:

As I sit here watching Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting, I feel a sense of disgust. I have watched one representative repeatedly stand up and babble on in incessantly in regards to issues not relevant to the article in question.

What really irks me is the amount of disrespect that he has for his fellow representatives, the members of our towns government, and all others present at the meeting. How were you brought up where you stand in front of your peers in such a setting wearing a hat (beret, or whatever you wish to call it)? Especially indoors?

Differences of opinion aside, show a little respect.

Rusty E. Sage,

Brattleboro, March 24

Hadley Field hearing didn’t consider enough

Editor of the Reformer:

I find it hard to believe that the Act 250 hearing for the lights at Hadley Field did not bring up the safety factor regarding the proposed lighting at Bellows Falls Union High school, specifically the footings for the lighting structures and the light bulbs when they expire and glass fragments rain down on players

Christian Blake,

Westminster, March 24