AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage has signed into law a bill aimed at ensuring that courts can require that offenders convicted of domestic violence complete batterers’ intervention programs as part of their sentence.
The bill, LD 1237, lets the Department of Corrections implement emergency rules that make the certification requirements for batterers’ intervention programs gender-neutral. Currently, the certification requirements for such programs apply only to male offenders.
“Batterers’ Intervention holds abusers accountable for their actions and shows real signs of success in helping to change perpetrators of domestic violence,” LePage, who has made domestic violence prevention a cornerstone of his agenda, said in a statement. “This bill will ensure that offenders can be sentenced to these programs. That is important for the safety of families across Maine.”
The legislation received unanimous support in House and Senate roll-call votes Wednesday. LePage signed the bill into law on Thursday, according to his office. LePage proposed the bill, and it was sponsored in the Legislature by Sen. Emily Cain, D-Orono.
The bill is an outgrowth of a court case in which a convicted male domestic violence offender, Christopher Mosher, 42, of Litchfield, challenged his sentence, which included completion of a batterers’ intervention program. If he had been a woman, he argued, he would not have received the sentence because Maine does not have certified batterers’ intervention programs for women.
A judge ultimately struck the batterers’ intervention requirement from Mosher ’s sentence, writing that requiring a male offender to participate in a program that isn’t available for a female offender “ clearly punishes the male more severely than the female for the same offense.”
The bill will allow the Department of Corrections to immediately implement gender-neutral certification standards for intervention programs and follow that up with the state’s conventional rulemaking process.
In 2012, 1,316 men were placed on probation for domestic violence offenses, and nearly a third of them — 374 — were required to participate in an intervention program, according to documents shared in the court case. Meanwhile, 201 women — about 13 percent of offenders — were placed on probation for committing domestic violence.