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Group seeks clemency for women it says are abuse victims

Monday of this week marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The events, speeches and other activities on that day focused upon the acts of violence -- including domestic abuse -- that are committed against women across the globe serve as a reminder of this scourge and the need to eradicate it wherever it exists.

That is course far easier said than done. The causes of domestic violence can be myriad, complex and deep-seated, and many abusive acts are repeatedly played out in families with long histories of violence. It often takes a coalescing of many factors to stop or reduce violence within a family. Those include, obviously, the need for a victim to reach out and seek help; active and immediate assistance from police officials, legal authorities and victims’ advocacy groups; financial and emotional help; and therapy.

In tandem with this week’s annual commemorative day comes a story from Michigan that easily commands broad relevance for victims of abuse and interested readers in other states as well, including Florida.

A group called The Michigan Women’s Justice and Clemency Project recently announced that it was seeking clemency for a number of imprisoned female domestic violence victims in that state. The group is petitioning Gov. Rick Snyder for the release of 10 women who are currently incarcerated on first- or second-degree murder charges.

The Clemency Project states that abuse suffered by the women at the hands of their ex-partners played centrally into their retaliatory acts. The project’s director, Carol Jacobsen, says that, “The whole social understanding of battery and abuse has changed since the 1980s and 1990s, when many of these women were convicted.”

Reportedly, abuse was never broached at some of the trials researched by the project.

The topic is of course a sensitive subject. A written statement from the governor’s office in response to the petitions notes that, “The state looks at every application carefully.”

The Clemency Project is supported in its efforts by a former governor, Amnesty International USA, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.

Source: Lansing State Journal, "10 Michigan women deserve to be freed from prison, group says," L.L. Brasier, Nov. 11, 2013

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